NOTE: This author is constantly being asked to comment about Donald Trump, even though his topics are on other matters. This is the first of a series of articles called ‘The Trump Chronicles.’ Terminology: US Republicans are roughly equivalent to Liberal/Nationals in Australia and Tories in the UK. US Democrats are similar to Australia and Britain’s Labor Parties).
The Great Political Upset
They said he would never make it. The media, the Democratic Party, even part of his own Republican Party, were all against him. He faced the formidable, ‘cashed-up’ Clinton political machine. The campaign itself was long, gruelling, and the dirtiest in 100 years. The polls were predicting a Clinton win, even a landslide.
Yet, despite it all, Donald J. Trump pulled off one of the greatest political upsets in US history to become America’s 45th President. In addition, his Republican Party retained majorities in both houses of Congress.
What are we to make of all this?
First, the US election is the latest of several ‘shock’ electoral results that happened in the last two years. In 2015, national elections in Sri Lanka, Israel, and the United Kingdom delivered results totally the opposite to what experts, pundits and pollsters predicted. Ironically, David Cameron’s stunning unexpected majority win in 2015 set the stage for a promised referendum on continued UK membership in the European Union, which ultimately led to his political demise. The UK vote to leave the European Union on June 23, 2016, popularly known as ‘Brexit,’ was probably the biggest shock vote to date — until the election of Donald Trump.
How Did He Do It?
How did Donald Trump win the election? Is the American election a populist revolt equivalent to Brexit?
As this author has been stating for a while, our world is in a time of shaking: economic, social, political, and spiritual. These shock elections are part of it. When it comes to Donald Trump, the billionaire business mogul who entered the political fray only 17 months ago, he defied the odds and won the election.
First, Trump had a simple, catchy, compelling slogan: Make America Great Again. Effective campaigning means finding a vision that means something to the people, encapsulate it in a simple phrase, and talk about nothing else. Trump did this effectively. But there’s more.
Second, Trump capitalised on voter dissatisfaction on both sides. The electorate believes that career politicians are ‘out-of-touch,’ only giving them the time of day during an election campaign and telling them what they want to hear. Once (re)elected, the politicians go back to ‘business as usual:’ Serving the demands of big money and special interests rather than the person on Main Street.
Trump understood this. As a billionaire, he said that he could not be bought off by special interests. His rhetoric could be harsh, abrasive and politically incorrect, to the consternation of the cultural elite. Even some supporters were uncomfortable with his words. But here’s what the experts miss: Trump, unlike career politicians, did not sound like he was reading off a script. He was telling people what he really believed. The electorate found his honesty breathtakingly refreshing.
Third, Trump projected strength and resilience: Consider this - a 70 year old man went through the rigours of a protracted (17 month), nasty, divisive, bruising political campaign, facing the daunting Clinton political organisation. The media, academia, and Hollywood were all against him. A liberal Supreme Court justice denounced him. Even the Pope condemned his ‘Mexican wall’ as ‘unChristian.’ Despite all this, he triumphed and emerged without a smudge. Talk about ‘Teflon factor’ and strength. No wonder Vladimir Putin loves him!
Another point: Trump is an outsider. He is not part of the political establishment. He does not owe anyone favours. He does not bow the knee to special interests.
Trump also knew how to handle the often hostile mainstream media. Like Samson with the Philistines, he lampooned again and again while brushing off attacks against himself. He got a lot of publicity, for free.
Trump promised to be a man of action: Despite the mainstream media harping about his controversial phrases on Mexican walls, Muslim immigration, or age-old crude comments in private, he talked about issues Americans care about: Reforming the health system, rebuilding the military so America can start winning wars, taking care of war veterans, fixing the Clinton-era China trade agreement that has seen the loss of 1000s of US jobs, repair the immigration mess, the ailing economy, and restore pride in the country.
Finally, there was much prayer and fasting for the American election in the mode of II Chronicles 7:14. The same can be said for the other elections, including Brexit.
A Word from the Optimists
Let’s hear from a couple of people who predicted a Trump victory from Day One, despite the polls.
JM Shepal, author of the book Why Donald Trump Will Become the Next US President, said: ‘The main reason they (the American voters) are coming out to vote, they love his rhetoric, they love the way he carries himself, they love what he says and how he says it, but most of all, they love the fact that there is a candidate that is a political outsider and that understands what the people want from their next leader.’
Wayne Allyn Root, who was predicting the ultimate success of Trump’s campaign since the very day his candidacy was announced, gave some interesting insights in his October 24, 2016 article: ‘Why I’m (still) betting big on Donald Trump to Win.’ At the time the article was written, many (though not all) polls predicted a Clinton victory. Root pointed out some interesting signs that were totally overlooked by the political and media establishment:
1) A Las Vegas cab driver routinely asked every passenger who they were voting for. Without exception, they said ‘Trump.’
2) That on a drive from Washington DC to Florida (a distance of perhaps 1,000 kilometres or 620 miles), the driver saw 100s of Trump campaign signs along the highway. They did not see one ‘Vote for Hillary’ sign.
3) Despite her massive profile and positive standing in the polls, sales of Hillary’s new book were lagging. Trump’s book Great Again is a best-seller.
4) Trump rallies were attracting 1000s while Hillary’s only 100s.
Trump learned how to by-pass the special interests, cultural elite, and the ‘kingmakers’ in order to connect directly with the person on Main Street. Also, many independents and Democrats were crossing over to Trump because they found a man who was willing to listen to them.
Is the election of Donald Trump the equivalent of BREXIT? Trump apparently thinks so. He calls it ‘Brexit plus plus plus.’ Former UKIP and BREXIT leader Nigel Farage says Trump’s victory is ‘bigger than Brexit.’ Wayne Allyn Root called Trump’s election ‘America’s Brexit.’
There are clearly parallels. Both elections had the political, media, and business elite supporting the familiar, status-quo situation (e.g. remain in the European Union; vote for Hillary Clinton). Both elites thought they controlled the narrative. Their rhetoric was that of condescension, scare-mongering, and insults. Supporters of Brexit were called small minded little Englanders; uneducated, old white men, etc. while Trump supporters were called ‘bitter,’ ‘deplorables,’ and ‘uneducated.’ The polls pointed to a status quo victory. Despite it all, in both cases the found their voice, ignored the elites, and said ‘We want our country back.’
Trump and the Middle East
It is way too early to say what Trump will do in the Middle East, but he is clearly going in a different direction to his predecessor. He has expressed skepticism over the Iran nuclear deal and there are hints that he could scrap it. Of course, Tehran did respond with concern in the light of his election.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi appeared to be a bit more relaxed. He said that Trump’s election rhetoric may differ from his policies once he takes the oath of office. Furthermore, he said he understands Trump’s measures of registering Muslims in the US as a means of achieving stability and peace for his nation.
Trump said he was tired of Israel being treated as a second class citizen and promised to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In the past, other presidential candidates have promised to do the same thing but once in office, they backtracked. Nevertheless, a Palestinian official, sensing that Trump marches to a different drummer, threatened to use their power in the United Nations if Trump dares to make an embassy move.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed joy at Trump’s victory. He called the President-elect a ‘true friend of Israel.’ A post-election position paper by the Trump campaign said the Palestinians must renounce violence and recognise Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state before being receiving statehood.
Regardless of your political persuasion, country of residence and citizenship, the world should pray for the success of Donald Trump’s presidency. In this globalised world, we all have a vested interest in it.