Reflection on the USA Election

November 16, 2016 at 10:30 am Leave a comment

I wish to offer some reflections on the recent election. I do so as someone who has lived and studied in the USA for several years of my life. I have benefitted from what it has to offer in terms of higher education and am also a critic of some of what the USA does.

The election was remarkable in a number of ways. The long lead up, including the debates between the candidates, were unlike previous campaigns. On the one hand there was a very experienced Democratic politician in Hillary Clinton and on the other hand the outsider Republican Donald Trump. She tried to present herself as worthy to become the first woman President. He sought to buck the system and come in from outside it.

I was disappointed that the Democrats were not able to find a younger fresher candidate to follow Barack Obama. Obama had beaten Hillary Clinton to become the Democratic nominee back in 2008. Eight years later she was trying again to become President. While she had carried out various political roles in my view she lacked the capacity to inspire.

Donald Trump was not a Republican who had the clear backing of the party. He surprisingly emerged as the Republican frontrunner. His endorsement was somewhat reluctant with even some respected Republicans not happy with him. He came from outside the usual political sphere. He was known as a businessman who inherited wealth, built the Trump Tower in New York, developed casinos and other properties, some of which went bankrupt. Trump did not suffer financially even though many shareholders did. He hosted the NBC reality television show The Apprentice from 2004-2015 and made use of this experience. He knew that many Americans are not sophisticated but resentful due to job losses and the perceived negative impact of migrants. Like shock radio announcers in Australia, he was conscious that exaggerated statements get more attention than measured ones. Many were pleased he was so politically incorrect. His past misbehaviours were excused by supporters in the way that fans of celebrities tolerate their undisciplined actions. While Trump was offensive to more sophisticated people, to the average American he voiced their attitudes and got away with his indiscretions. Unfortunately, his success gives permission for others to speak and act in such ways. He is part of a global trend to the right at this time. Not surprisingly Pauline Hanson and her supporters were gleeful at Trump’s victory.

So we have the outcome that despite Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote Donald Trump won the election and became the President-elect. He did so with some help from the Republican head of the FBI whose actions just a few days from the election did no doubt have an influence.

What can we expect from Trump in the future? It is hard to say. In my view, he is closest to Ronald Reagan back in the 1980s. Reagan was a former film star who also knew how to gain the popular vote. Reagan was not especially sharp and did not pretend to be so. He expected those around him to give him summaries of situations out of which he would make his decisions based on his conservative Republican values. Trump no doubt will do the same. He is already surrounding himself with like-minded people as his advisors and team. His conservative values are evident in what he has said to this point in time. Exactly how that will translate into action is yet to be seen. He has made many outlandish statements and people do not regard these as political promises except in the direction to which they point. He probably will now try to sound more ‘presidential’ as he did in acknowledging Hillary Clinton after winning the Presidential race.

The United States has some values that I do not agree with as an Australian and a Christian which essentially relate to rampant individualism and unrestrained capitalism. We have universal health care. We have superannuation. We have gun laws. Many Americans, out of what to me is an exaggerated emphasis on free enterprise, do not have these to anything like the extent that we do. Trump is likely to seek to weaken the health care Obama brought in. As a businessman, Trump will do what he can to foster the economy even if it means allowing risky behaviour on the part of banks and assisting the fossil fuel industry instead of encouraging alternative sources of energy to be developed. Climate change will not be a concern for him as a disbeliever. America depends on migrants to do many of the low paid unattractive jobs. Yet Trump will be anti-immigration, will keep the minimum wage low, and reduce corporate tax to the benefit of the rich. He affirms the right to have guns and will increase the already huge amount of money spent on the military. From my Christian perspective, I see little concern for the least in society. I am someone committed to non-violent ways of overcoming conflicts. Trump represents someone who continues to emphasize the need to dominate others through the use of violence.

He says he wants to “Make America Great Again”. What that means is not good news for the rest of the world. It implies increasing American power and influence which will be to the advantage of the USA. National self-interest is high on Trump’s list of values. While the USA does contribute to international aid, it is likely to have more strings attached. American bases will be increased. This is already happening in our region due to American fear of the increasing power of China.

Trump has a mandate to be President and the Republicans have the majority in both houses. So he has the possibility of bringing in many changes. I hope and pray that more moderate people will be able to influence what the USA does in relation to its own people and in relation to the rest of the world. We need God not to bless America but rather to be upon it for all our sakes at this time.

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November 2016


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