Donald Trump won the election, and it was time to put a brave face on it:
Hillary Clinton publicly conceded the election to Donald J. Trump on Wednesday, acknowledging the pain of the defeat in remarks in New York while calling on her supporters to accept that he would be president and give him a chance to lead with an open mind.
President Obama, speaking in Washington, also said that he would work to ensure a smooth transition to a Trump administration and that, despite their differences, we are “all rooting for his success.”
That’s what was supposed to happen. Everyone says the right things:
Mrs. Clinton thanked her supporters in her concession speech, and said that she felt pride in the campaign she ran. Of Mr. Trump, Mrs. Clinton said she hoped that he would be “a successful president for all Americans,” and that she respected and cherished the peaceful transition of power. She told her supporters that they must accept that Mr. Trump would be president. “We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead,” she said. But she also acknowledged that the country was more divided than she had realized. After a long campaign, Mrs. Clinton acknowledged that the loss cuts deep. “This is painful, and it will be for a long time,” she said. She also expressed regret that she did not shatter the glass ceiling, but said, “Someday, someone will, and hopefully sooner than we might think right now.”
No one believed that for a moment. There’s no woman in America who will ever have her qualifications and experience again. Who else is out there now? Who else will be out there one day? That dream is over, at least for four or five generations to come. Some women in her twenties now needs to get to work building a career of public policy accomplishments in a string of impressive public offices, and make no mistakes along the way – not one – to run for president forty years from now. That dream is over for now. It’s still a man’s world – but this is going work out well enough this time. Obama says so. Hillary Clinton says so.
Everyone should calm down – things should be okay – but there’s the rest of the world:
Allies recoiled. Adversaries rejoiced. And on the day after U.S. voters made Donald Trump the country’s 45th president, the world was left to collectively wonder: What happened to America?
The question hung in the air even as once-unthinkable congratulatory messages poured into Trump Tower from capitals across the globe.
They had to send congratulations – that’s also how things are done – but they’re worried:
“We have no idea what this American president is going to do, when this voice of anger will be the most powerful man in the world,” Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the German Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, told public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. “Whether he knows his allies and friends, how he is going to approach Vladimir Putin, an authoritarian ruler, how he is going to act when it comes to the question of nuclear armament, all these questions are completely open.”
That profound uncertainty was masked by a succession of bland statements from Trump’s soon-to-be counterparts among the ranks of global leaders.
Through gritted teeth, democratically elected allies congratulated Trump on his victory and promised business as usual.
Of course they did:
In Britain – where the Parliament in January debated banning Trump from even visiting the country – Prime Minister Theresa May said her nation and the United States had “an enduring and special relationship based on the values of freedom, democracy and enterprise.” That, she insisted, would carry forward under Trump.
No one believed that for a moment either, because the bad guys were far happier:
Global autocrats were far more enthusiastic. News of the Republican’s victory was greeted with broad smiles and a round of applause in the lower house of the Russian parliament.
That was to be expected. They won this election too, but they weren’t alone:
Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, whose record of imprisoning opponents and restricting speech has earned him condemnation from human rights groups, said he “looks forward to the presidency of President Donald Trump to inject a new spirit into the trajectory of Egyptian-American relations.”
In a later statement, Sissi’s office boasted that the Egyptian president was the first world leader to reach Trump by phone and personally congratulate him.
Burundi’s controversial leader, Pierre Nkurunziza, who has been accused of directing the killing of civilians, said of Trump, “Your victory is the victory of all Americans.”
They sense he’s one of them, but others sense something else:
In Brazil, analysts noted that the United States now has the kind of leader more commonly associated with Latin America – a “caudilho,” an authoritarian and charismatic figure often linked to military or landowning elites who responds to a desire for “dramatic solutions.”
“The North American electorate broke open the shell of the serpent’s egg that Donald Trump incubated during the campaign this Tuesday,” wrote Clóvis Rossi, a columnist for Brazil’s Folha de S. Paulo newspaper. “Therefore all of the demons that the politically correct had buried or at least eased in United States society are loose.”
Yeah, well, others were happy:
In the Middle East, Trump’s win was seen as a decisive victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Egypt’s Sissi, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other leaders who routinely flout the rights of their political opponents.
“Trump is not going to talk about human rights, definitely,” said Hisyar Ozsoy, a parliament member representing Turkey’s opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, whose leaders have recently been arrested. “He will remain deaf and blind to whatever happens here if he wants to work with Turkey.”
He will. He seems to be one of them, while others will now be scorned:
Nowhere was the result felt more keenly than in Mexico, where the peso crumbled. “It feels like our nightmare is here,” tweeted Jorge Guajardo, who was Mexico’s ambassador to China from 2007 to 2013.
Trump’s disdain for Mexican immigrants and his pledges to build a wall along the Mexican border and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement have made him a figure of hate for many Mexicans.
“Mexico will have a very big problem having good relations with him,” said Raul Benitez Manaut, a professor at Mexico’s National Autonomous University. “Mexicans are very nationalistic, and they feel aggrieved by Trump.”
Sure, but Trump’s campaign was from a new premise the United States had never had before. Who needs those people down there? Let them whine, just as others are now:
Trump’s victory was also deeply concerning to the governments in Japan and South Korea, Washington’s two closest allies in Asia. On the campaign trail, Trump had repeatedly pledged to upend the American military pacts with both countries, saying neither was paying enough for its defense against a nuclear-armed North Korea and a strengthening China.
“The current situation seems like the beginning of the U.S.’s decline and a beginning of the failure of democracy,” said Hasung Jang, a professor of finance at Korea University in Seoul.
Like we care? That seems to be the new policy with others nations, except one:
Israeli politicians called for Trump to make good on his campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, a long-running source of contention. And they predicted an even bigger triumph in the region’s decades of conflict.
“The era of the Palestinian state is over,” said Education Minister Naftali Bennett.
That would reverse more than thirty years of American policy, of trying to get Israel to consider a Palestinian state, to give the Palestinians something, to calm things down over there. Now, with Trump, our policy will be to give them nothing, ever. All the Muslims in the Middle East who have been white-hot angry since 1947 about the Palestinian situation can just go pound sand – they have plenty of it. Like we care? What could go wrong?
Don’t answer that. The world is waking up to Trump, and Anne Applebaum sees the bigger picture:
The West as we know it is nearing the end of its life. The United States of America has just elected as president a man who not only brags about groping women and swindles his business partners but also openly dislikes America’s traditional allies – and Europeans most of all.
Don’t take my word for it. Listen to what he has been saying for many, many years. As long ago as 2000, in his ghostwritten book “The America We Deserve,” Trump wrote that “America has no vital interest in choosing between warring factions whose animosities go back centuries. Their conflicts are not worth American lives. Pulling back from Europe would save this country millions of dollars annually. The cost of stationing NATO troops in Europe is enormous. And these are clearly funds that can be put to better use.”
Trump never changed that message:
Throughout the election campaign, he has repeated these views over and over again, even as he has flip-flopped and changed his mind about almost everything else. On abortion, he can go either way, depending on his audience. He was for the Iraq War before he was against it. But on NATO – and on Russia – Trump never wavers. In March, he described NATO as “obsolete.” In his first foreign policy speech, he proclaimed “America First,” using a famous isolationist slogan last heard in the 1940s. He has called for Japan and South Korea to acquire nuclear weapons.
At the same time, he has consistently praised the world’s dictators, Russia’s Vladimir Putin most of all. In 2014, he praised Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Since then, he has spoken with admiration of Putin’s “strength,” of his cruelty, even of his penchant for murdering journalists. Trump does not speak of Russia’s economic decline or its fierce authoritarianism, perhaps because he does not know about them or perhaps because he does not care. His campaign received open assistance from Russia in the form of massive hacking and leaks, and he publicly called on Russia’s security services to steal more.
Trump has also surrounded himself, from the beginning of his political career, with people linked to Putin, to Gazprom, and to Russian oligarchs. Newt Gingrich, the man who may be Trump’s secretary of state and who is certainly a senior adviser, has recently described Estonia as a country “in the suburbs of St. Petersburg” and thus not worth defending.
Whatever Trump says tomorrow or the next day, the doctrine of deterrence has been officially abandoned: It cannot be defended by a man who does not believe in it.
It might be that we’re pretty much walking away from the world:
Under President Trump, we cannot assume that America is still the leader of the free world – or the leader of anything. Protectionism, not free trade, has just won this election, and that will have consequences, too. We have to expect that transatlantic trade and transpacific trade treaties are not going to be passed. We have to assume that the North American Free Trade Agreement will be unpacked.
Free trade had all kinds of consequences, but one of the advantages is that it kept countries closely linked politically as well as economically. Walls, both metaphorical and physical, will go up all over the world, between Western countries and against others.
Like we care? That’s what we voted for, although that’s foreign policy and trade stuff. Many people didn’t think about such stuff at all. Most of the Trump folks wanted their country back, from the black and brown folks, and those too-smart-for-their-own-good Asians, and those irritating urban hipsters, and those “experts” with their fancy college degrees, and from unladylike uppity women. They finally won that, but it seems all those folks decided to fight back:
They chanted anti-Donald Trump slogans. They flooded city streets. They gathered near the White House, disheartened and dismayed.
“Not my president, not today,” many across the nation yelled.
In cities from Boston to Los Angeles, thousands of demonstrators gathered Wednesday night in protest of election results that mean the billionaire real estate developer will be the next president.
They too woke up to Trump:
In Portland, marchers chanted “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA” as they trekked through downtown. Protesters in D.C., who headed to the Trump International Hotel, shouted the same slogan. After an earlier solemn gathering at the White House a few dozen young people remained, their cries profane.
Hundreds of mostly young Latino protesters took to Los Angeles City Hall Wednesday night.
They chanted “I will not live in fear,” “Fight back, stand up” and “¡Si se puede!”
Several protesters said they feared that family or friends might be deported once Donald Trump is sworn into office.
Well, he did say he’d do that, but he may not have expected this:
In Austin, protesters blocked a highway Wednesday afternoon. Students burned a flag on the campus of American University in Washington, and they walked out of class in high schools and colleges across the country the day after the presidential election.
How did this happen? Greg Sargent offers this:
Whereas the 2012 campaign centered on a big argument over government and the economy, Campaign 2016 presented the occasion for a grand argument between a vision of an evolving America that embraces pluralism, tolerance, inclusion, and cultural change – and one that is standing athwart those changes.
Trump crudely but shrewdly positioned himself as that latter vision’s champion, through an explicit embrace of intolerance, bigotry, ethno-nationalism, and white identity politics.
Simply put, our operating premise was that the inhabitants of that evolving America outnumbered those who are resisting it.
That premise was wrong:
Clinton could assemble large numbers of nonwhites, millennials, and just enough college educated whites – particularly women – who were horrified by Trump’s racism, misogyny, and hatred to constitute a winning coalition. Barack Obama had done something similar twice before, even without facing a monstrous bigot and hater like Trump, and the national majorities embracing culturally changing America would rally behind Clinton and continue to deliver Democrats the White House. Clinton – who came of political age in the South and rose to national prominence during an era when Democrats still winked at white grievance – was an imperfect vehicle for this argument. But she gamely took it on, and we cheered when she went all in on an effort to force a national debate over Trump’s overt mainstreaming of hate, as she put it.
I thought she had won this argument. It turned out she lost it. At least she lost it in the sense that it failed to win over enough white voters to build a winning coalition, and failed to sufficiently energize the core elements in the Democratic coalition that were supposed to enthusiastically march into this battle.
So, partly that was her – she’s not that good a politician – and partly it was a numbers game. This wasn’t the year for that, yet, and Sargent cites Ron Brownstein describing the election as a “cultural civil war” that the Democrats lost this time. Trump won most of the blue collar whites and Clinton under-performed Obama. She’s not Obama – but the votes were there, barely.
Or maybe they weren’t. Sargent thinks something else was at play here:
What is undeniable for now is that in too many battleground states, enormous numbers of white voters either did embrace Trump’s bigotry and intolerance, or were not sufficiently alienated by those traits for it to make a difference, or simply found Clinton’s spirited rebuke of them to be insufficiently compelling or inspiring or relevant. I am not quite as despairing about this as are David Remnick and Brian Beutler and Paul Krugman, all of whom feel as if Trump’s win reveals America to no longer be the open and tolerant country they thought they inhabited, and threatens to drag us backward in dangerous ways. After all, Clinton does seem to be winning the national popular vote, suggesting there still is a popular majority aligned with our side of the argument.
But it certainly was a horrible shock to discover that there are so many of our fellow Americans on the other side of it.
Garrison Keillor, however, puts that a different way:
Raw ego and proud illiteracy have won out, and a severely learning-disabled man with a real character problem will be president. We are so exhausted from thinking about this election that millions of people will take up leaf-raking and garage cleaning with intense pleasure. We liberal elitists are wrecks. The Trumpers had a whale of a good time, waving their signs, jeering at the media, beating up protesters, chanting “Lock her up” – we elitists just stood and clapped. Nobody chanted “Stronger Together.” It just doesn’t chant.
But that may be a good thing:
The Trumpers never expected their guy to actually win the thing, and that’s their problem now. They wanted only to whoop and yell, boo at the H-word, wear profane t-shirts, maybe grab a crotch or two, jump in the RV with a couple of six-packs and go out and shoot some spotted owls. It was pleasure enough for them just to know that they were driving us wild with dismay – by “us” I mean librarians, children’s authors, yoga practitioners, Unitarians, bird-watchers, people who make their own pasta, opera-goers, the grammar police, people who keep books on their shelves, that bunch. The Trumpers exulted in knowing we were tearing our hair out. They had our number, like a bratty kid who knows exactly how to make you grit your teeth and froth at the mouth.
Alas for the Trump voters, the disasters he will bring on this country will fall more heavily on them than anyone else. The uneducated white males who elected him are the vulnerable ones, and they will not like what happens next.
They might have been the ones who made a miscalculation:
Resentment is no excuse for bald-faced stupidity. America is still the land where the waitress’s kids can grow up to become physicists and novelists and pediatricians, but it helps a lot if the waitress and her husband encourage good habits and the ambition to use your God-given talents and the kids aren’t plugged into electronics day and night. Whooping it up for the candidate of cruelty and ignorance does less than nothing for your kids.
We liberal elitists are now completely in the clear. The government is in Republican hands. Let them deal with him. Democrats can spend four years raising heirloom tomatoes, meditating, reading Jane Austen, traveling around the country, tasting artisan beers, and let the Republicans build the wall and carry on the trade war with China and deport the undocumented and deal with opioids, and we Democrats can go for a long , brisk walk and smell the roses.
That may be the best response:
We all experienced cruelty back in our playground days – boys who beat up on the timid, girls who made fun of the homely and naive – and most of us, to our shame, went along with it, afraid to defend the victims lest we become one of them. But by your 20s, you should be done with cruelty. Mr. Trump was the cruelest candidate since George Wallace. How he won on fear and bile is for political pathologists to study.
The country is already tired of his noise, even his own voters. He is likely to become the most intensely disliked president since Herbert Hoover. His children will carry the burden of his name. He will never be happy in his own skin. But the damage he will do to our country – who knows? His supporters voted for change, and boy, are they going to get it.
Eugene Robinson sees that too:
What happens when the factories and the steel mills don’t come back? When the coal mines fail to reopen? When both a tightfisted Congress and the government of Mexico refuse to pay for his boondoggle of a border wall?
When the president-elect, Donald Trump, takes office and has to confront inconvenient reality, how will he react? “We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead,” Hillary Clinton said Wednesday, and of course she is right. But I wouldn’t be honest if I pretended, at this point, to be hopeful. My fear is that the man we saw on the campaign trail is the same man we will see in the White House.
If so, he’s in trouble:
He proved to be a tremendously effective demagogue. He stunned the world by energizing and mobilizing legions of “forgotten men and women” – white, working-class Americans living in small towns and rural areas across the nation – who bought into his pledge to “make America great again.” Instead of serious policy proposals, he gave them scapegoats: immigrants, Muslims, people of color living in “inner cities” that he imagined as circles of Dante’s Inferno.
His promises were of the non-serious variety, in that they cannot be fulfilled. Surely Trump knows full well that globalization and technological change cannot be reversed. The millions of manufacturing jobs that have been shipped overseas or eliminated by automation will not magically reappear; many assembly lines are “manned” by robots these days. The coal industry is dying not because of government policy but because oil and natural gas are so cheap and plentiful. The huge infrastructure projects Trump says he will build, including the border wall, have essentially no chance of being funded by a Republican-controlled Congress determined to cut spending, not boost it.
How, then, will Trump keep his “forgotten” supporters from becoming disillusioned and disaffected?
His best option is obvious:
One way would be to continue to stoke their anger and resentment. To be black, Hispanic, Asian American, Muslim or an immigrant today is to feel oneself potentially a target of white grievance and rage.
That seems to be his favorite option:
During my adult life, following the triumph of the civil rights movement, overt bigotry and racism have been socially unacceptable. Trump released these demons from the back room of the American psyche where they had been stuffed. During the past year, I have seen and heard a kind of raw ugliness that I hadn’t witnessed since the dying days of Jim Crow in the segregated South.
Trump was the candidate not of working-class America but of working-class white America. It is hard not to see his victory as partly, or perhaps mostly, a reaction to the eight-year presidency of Barack Obama, the first black man to occupy the White House. Some people might disregard the fact that Trump branded himself as a political figure by becoming a leader of the “birther” movement that challenged Obama’s legitimacy as holder of the nation’s highest office. I can’t forget it, or forgive it.
That’s why people woke up to Trump in the morning and took to the streets on the evening, and Jamelle Bouie sees why:
Pundits and observers will attribute Trump’s win to “populism” or his “anti-elite” message. This is nonsense. Trump ran for president as a nationalist fighter for white America. He promised to deport Hispanic immigrants. He promised to ban Muslims from the United States. He refused to acknowledge Barack Obama’s legitimacy, casting him – until the end – as a kind of usurper of rightful authority. When faced with the fetid swamps of white reaction – of white supremacists and white nationalists and anti-Semites – he winked, and they cheered in response. And for good reason.
More than anything, Trump promises a restoration of white authority. After eight years of a black president – after eight years in which cosmopolitan America asserted its power and its influence, eight years in which women leaned in and blacks declared that their lives mattered – millions of white Americans said enough. They had their fill of this world and wanted the old one back. And although it’s tempting to treat this as a function of some colorblind anti-elitism, that cannot explain the unity of white voters in this election. Trump didn’t just win working-class whites – he won the college-educated and the affluent. He even won young whites. Seventeen months after he announced his candidacy, millions of white Americans flocked to the ballot box to put Trump into the White House. And they did so as a white Herrenvolk, racialized and radicalized by Trump.
That’s what we have here:
Americans are stubbornly, congenitally optimistic. And the millions who backed Trump see something in his visage, something that gives them hope. Here’s what I see. I see a man who empowered white nationalists and won. I see a man who demanded the removal of nonwhite immigrants and won. I see a man who pledged war crimes against foreign enemies and won. I see a man who empowers the likes of Rudy Giuliani and others who see blacks as potential criminals to control, not citizens to respect.
That’s what Americans woke up to, but at least they woke up, even if far too late. They took to the streets, for all that good that will do. Obama said that we owe Donald Trump an open mind and a chance to lead. Bashar al-Assad has said the same thing. Our allies aren’t saying that. Half the country isn’t saying that. They too want their country back.
That’s not going to happen. Sometimes waking up from a nightmare is worse than the nightmare itself.