Ben Brown – Contributing Writer
It’s official! Donald J. Trump has been elected the President of the United States of America.
But how did this happen? What happened in the US that resulted in the tools used to shape the nation being handed over to the Republicans, even after Barack Obama had such a strong approval rating? I believe the reasons lie somewhere between fear, disenfranchisement, “The Regressive Left”, and Hillary Clinton’s reputation.
With the rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East, the terrorist attacks in Europe and planned attacks being thwarted by police forces, it’s clear that we potentially live in dangerous times, not to mention the migrant crisis and debates surrounding the numbers of genuine refugees and economic migrants. During the debates, Hillary Clinton pledged to admit 65,000 refugees into the US, but her angle seemed to be focused on pulling on the heartstrings of the audience, as opposed to putting their fears to rest. Hillary has also caused frustration by making statements claiming there is no link between Islam and terrorism. Trump, in contrast, made bold attempts to comfort those who feared the risk of potential extremist insurgents. He even took the extreme angle of pledging to ban Muslim migration until the US could “figure out what the hell is going on”. I believe this is the key factor to consider when it comes to understanding the rise of populism.
Historically speaking, populism often comes about through the isolated elite ignoring the concerns and problems facing the common man. Tiberius Gracchus of Ancient Rome is a great early example of a populist, with a campaign that included the acquiring of land from a rich gentry class, and handing it over to landless labourers. His popularity was gained through people seeing his attempts to pander to the concerns of the many. Like Tiberius Gracchus, Trump has also championed disenfranchised labourers.
Flint, Michigan is perhaps the perfect example of a hotbed of labourers who have lost hope.
Michigan has been held by the Democrat party since 1992. Flint, used to have a booming car manufacturing industry, however currently it has a reputation of being the place where the jobs have left and the water is poisoned. Many people are aware of Flint’s reputation in the US, one of those people, is Donald Trump.
Trump’s campaign focused on the fact that some jobs were leaving and companies were relying on cheaper labour, overseas and in Mexico, which was devastating the working classes. The fact that Trump pledged to bring the jobs back, and penalise companies who chose to take their jobs away resonated, especially in forsaken states like Michigan, where things never seemed to improve. Michigan was predicted to be a strong win by the Democrats in this election. These predictions were wrong.
The promises of Trump, are great, there is no doubt about it. Let us not forget that President Obama was a popular candidate with his campaign for “Change”. But the type of change that the people of Michigan voted for never came. Instead of voting for more promises from the same people, Michigan decided it was time to try something different.
Now you may have asked yourself earlier, “what do you mean by the regressive left?” The “regressive left” is a term coined by the anti-Islamist activist, Maajid Nawaz, in an attempt to define those who are politically correct to the point that it becomes counter-productive, as it results in the protection of those who are potentially harmful to society; in his example, branding those who criticise illiberal Islamic views as racists. The use of this term became widely adopted and is now used against certain types left-wing “progressives”, who resort to authoritarian behaviours in an attempt to stifle criticisms of causes that seem to be virtuous at face-value.
Two of the common causes associated with the “regressive left” pertain to the fights against racism and against sexism. Donald Trump was branded a racist and a sexist early on into the battle, and this resulted in protests at many of his events. One problem relating to the protests and anti-Trump sentiment, was that the hatred and distaste for Trump fed into a form of tribalism, which resulted in Trump voters, and those who attended his rallies, experiencing wrath from his detractors. Possibly the most vile case of violence during the campaign, was when Trump protestors physically assaulted a homeless woman who defended Trump’s Hollywood star.
The problems with the “regressive left” have been brewing for a long time in Universities, with speakers being “no platformed” for having the “wrong views” or daring to criticise the status quo. There are strong challengers against the concepts of no platforming, from both left and right-wing intellectuals, from feminists like Christina Hoff Sommers, to “professional provocateurs” like Milo Yiannopolous, who receive a strong backlash at universities if they put on an event. To people like Milo Yiannopolous and those who do not wish to be intimidated for their views, Trump seems to be the perfect grenade to destroy the current zeitgeist of political correctness. The more authoritarian the anti-Trump people became, the more attractive he became as a candidate.
With all of these previous points in mind, there is one large problem left to contend with, Hillary’s reputation. Many people who would have voted for the Democrats if Bernie Sanders was on the ballot, felt that they could not vote for Hillary. Hillary Clinton’s reputation of being paid by Goldman Sachs for her talks, the Wikileaks revelations which expanded on rumours surrounding The Clinton Foundation and the types of people who donated to it, left a bitter taste in many traditional Democrat voters’ mouths. Hillary represented the establishment and after the establishment had seemingly failed the people multiple times, a more populist candidate was desired, sadly Bernie wasn’t there as an option…
Now we have Donald Trump as the President-Elect and people are going to be angry, scared and unsure of the future that is to come. But let me offer a bit of optimism to you for the future.
Donald Trump may be the Republican candidate, but in the scheme of things, he isn’t as conservative as people fear. In fact, many of the traditional conservative candidates have abandoned him. The Republican party has been cracked by Trump, and now the Democrats have been given a bloody nose, it’s fair to say that the party has been given an opportunity to reflect and regroup. Hillary was not the right candidate, as the people who would have traditionally voted for the Democrats, felt like they were not listened to by her for years, now the Democrats pay the price.
Perhaps a split on both sides, between the more extreme and more moderate people from each party, will solve a common problem in the US. Poor representation from a two party system…..
One thing is for certain, the next four years are going to be very interesting. Trump has Republicans, Democrats and voters to answer to and if he doesn’t make a good effort in his first term, it will be his last, because people are watching him like a hawk.
Barack Obama’s approval rating:
Example of thwarted attacks (2015):
Hillary on admitting refugees (video on page):
Hillary Clinton, refuting a link between Islam and terrorism:
Trump, Muslim Ban:
General Motors closure, Flint Michigan:
Michigan Voting History and Prediction:
Trump’s Ford Claim:
Bringing plant jobs back + Michigan:
On Trump’s Mexico Tax:
Definition of Regressive Left:
Trump Rally protests:
Homeless person attacked:
Peter Tatchell on No-Platforming:
Christina Hoff Sommers (The Factual Feminist):
Goldman’s Sachs Speeches:
Trump isn’t very Conservative compared to alternatives: