Donald Trump’s upsetting victory–Expect the Unexpected

November 10, 2016

Donald Trump’s upsetting victory–Expect the Unexpected

by Bridget Welsh

Image result for bridget welsh national taiwan university

COMMENT: For months, I have worried about a Trump victory, and it has become a reality. Donald Trump won the US presidency yesterday. He achieved a political upset that makes this year’s baseball World Series victory of the Chicago Cubs pale in comparison. As they were in Brexit, the polls and pundits were wrong.

The dominant image is that this is a victory for racism, misogyny and anger. Americans have been grappling with the decline in global power and rising inequalities. Insecurity and fear have been underlying drivers of angst and despair. The dark forces in America have been growing stronger and empowered, with Trump representing and channelling them to his side.

To say the campaign has been ugly would be an understatement. From the onset of the campaign, Trump controlled the narrative and ultimately Hillary Clinton was not able to project as powerful an alternative message. Buttressed by massive media coverage, an effective use of social media (especially when he was not controlling his Twitter account) and a partisan FBI director, Trump won out against the odds. Like the famous Pogo comic strip, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Image result for Trump and Clinton

The campaign however was won in the middle ground. Two additional important more positive factors shaped the outcome. Trump tapped into a part of the American psyche that offered a return to the past, a nostalgia for the times when America was respected and economically thriving. The salesman he is, Trump sold the dream of the past. And there are many people who live in the past. At the same time, he represented change.

Moreover, he was (and is) an outsider. Americans have deep distrust for those inside the Washington DC Beltway, and the media and intellectuals who are seen to represent them. Hillary Clinton embodied, for many, more of the same. She was seen as too smart, too connected to the establishment, especially corporations.

For some who voted for Trump, they did so out of a desire to make the system better, to shake up the system with the hope that something positive would result. My own view disagrees with this sentiment, but in understanding this election outcome I appreciate it is not all about hate and negativity.

The world is grappling with what this means, and it will take some time for things to settle and for the new administration to find its footing. As someone who voted for Hillary, I take solace from three features of American politics.

First of these is the reality of pendulum swings in American politics. The Democrats have controlled the White House, and while they have faced opposition from the Republicans in the House and Senate, they have had the opportunity to introduce healthcare and leave important legacies on Cuba, Iran and Myanmar. Obama will leave office with a stronger economy, leading a recovery from the 2007-2008 financial crisis. With this election, the pendulum swung in the other direction, and it will swing back. In 1,460 days, there will be a new election.

Second, there are checks on power that operate in the US. Despite the battery of attacks in the 2016 campaign, American political institutions are resilient and designed against a concentration of power. The media is vibrant and will continue to be so.

Trump is likely to also face considerable resistance inside the bureaucracy, which will curb his powers. His relationship with his party, the Republicans, has been rocky, even antagonistic; this will be difficult for the new president to navigate. He will face impeachment if he violates the laws, as the office of the presidency comes with expectations of leadership that he will be expected to follow.

Isolationist and anti-Muslim

Finally, the reality is that as in physics, all actions lead to counter-reactions. This means that those that oppose him will strengthen. Trump does not have a mandate from all Americans. The anger he generated during the campaign assures that he will not have a long honeymoon or the benefit of the doubt of other presidents. He will be expected to deliver his promises to his diverse group of supporters and in doing so, this will provoke responses.

As an outsider, it will take some time for him to adjust to Washington and offer any deliverables. In all likelihood, he will look for low-hanging fruit and rely on his loyalists and former insiders for guidance. Many of his likely cabinet choices – Newt Gingrich or Chris Christie – have considerable baggage/scandals of their own, The Trump presidency will likely not be pretty, but the political polarisation of America so evident in the results will likely deepen and harden ahead.

Image result for Trump and Najib

Image result for Trump and Najib

Perak’s Harussani Zakaria must have done a better Job than KKK’s David Duke

What will all of this mean for Malaysia? The US Embassy made a point yesterday to assure Malaysians that all will be the same in the ‘partnership.’ This is not correct. Trump’s victory will mean significant changes for Asia, and Malaysia, and how the US is seen in Asia. There will be new approaches, allies and priorities. Judging from the campaign, a few key items stand out.

Trump will likely be a more isolationist, inward-oriented leader. Trump will oppose trade and immigration and this will spill over into ties between the two countries. The Asia pivot is effectively over.

Trump is anti-Muslim and in all likelihood, this will lead to more confrontational approaches and difficult relations with the Muslim world.

Trump is not a democrat by any measure of the word and this will mean weaker positions on human rights standards as democracy itself will face a further battering ahead.

Yet, it remains to be seen what role Trump will take in the White House. If the campaign and its results have taught us anything – it is to expect the unexpected.

BRIDGET WELSH is Senior Research Associate at the Center for East Asian Democratic Studies of National Taiwan University, Senior Associate Fellow of The Habibie Center, and University Fellow of Charles Darwin University.


12 thoughts on “Donald Trump’s upsetting victory–Expect the Unexpected

  1. The American political establishment has become so corrupt and rigid, rotten to the core. American people are angry and they have chosen a loud-mouthed outsider because they do not want another corrupt politician like Hillary Clinton.

    Why do the Hindu revere Kali the Goddess of Destruction? Because one must first destroy in order to create. If you do not destroy the bad old foundation, how can you build something new and good on top of it? Maybe the American people do not expect Trump to be a productive President. They just want him to destroy, if not shake up, the corrupt political establishment.

    He’s the right man for the job as a destroyer, being an outsider hated by both the corrupt Democratic and Republican parties, rich enough not be bought by the establishment, old enough to stay in office for only one term, thin-skinned and crazy enough to do whatever it takes when provoked. We are prepared to expect the unexpected.

    Hopefully, Trump’s election has already shaken the establishment which has taken us the people for granted for so long.

  2. “Bad times are ahead for the non-white peoples of the USA.”

    Dr. Phua:
    I don’t know where to put us Chinese-Americans. We are non-White, lauded as exemplary minority and excluded completely from any Affirmative Action Programs. Black and Hispanic kids can get into a good university with lesser grades than the White, but our kids have to have better grades than the White to get to the same university.

  3. They were all caught up with his misogyny they did not ask the most important question. Will he put a cap on borrowing and stop money printing? Other than his misguidance on trade, it’s the only other possible real catastrophe of Trump. Even bringing the terrorist into US with his isolationist policy will not help.

  4. (1) It’s already beginning :

    I expected this, as a sociologist who studied, lived and worked for almost 20 years in the USA, and having personally experienced racist incidents during the days of economic tension between the USA and Japan.

    (2) To the Asian-Americans (including ex-Malaysians) who voted for Trump — this is
    the outcome of your votes, I regret to say.

  5. Expect the expected. Whatever you expect will be in accordance with the rule of law and not rule by law. Study the body languaege of President – Elect Trump in the press conference with President Obama. It is very clear that his agenda is domestic and he is already feeling it’s weight. In the final analysis as has been the case over the last240 years foreign policy will be driven by domestic policies.Europe has to take on a greater role in its security and cannot continue stay on the side lines and expect the U.S. to do the unexpected. Asia has to learn to live with China bearing in mind that they should avoid the temptation to do as the Chinese do in domestic affairs.

    The peoples of Asia, excluding Northeast Asia have waited for a long time for their leaders to deliver the promised land. To date the results have been mixed while, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore have made good on the delivery issue.

    The value of big powers is when it comes to global strategic issues. But when it comes to domestic issues the individual countries and the individual countries alone are responsible to deliver the promised land. The developed countries can only give meaningful assistance once we become. But until then we have to work hard like the South Koreans and not try to play the global power game employed bythe North Koreans.

  6. Mr LaMoy

    1) Chinese-Americans are like the East Asian “honoray whites” of semi-apartheid South Africa. The “model minority” image is basically a stick to beat the black people of the USA with i.e. “if the Chinks can make it, why can’t you Ni**ers?” I predict more racist unpleasantness for Chinese-Americans in the USA as trade tensions escalate between neo-fascist Trump and the neo-communist/pseudo-communist leaders of China.

    2) Chinese-Americans and other Asian-Americans must organise and get politically involved (like the 6 million Jews in America and the Irish-Americans before them who controlled Tammany Hall),

    3) Yes, Chinese-Americans do not benefit generally from affirmative action. But I am sure some female Chinese-Americans do. It is better to stand on the side of social justice with other minority groups — Sanders’ free tuition proposal would have benefited Chinese-American families.
    (Let’s not forget that whites have affirmative action for them too e.g.
    Harvard’s preferential treatment for children of alumni, many of whom are white, in the college admissions process).

    4) Sociological research shows that immigrants to the USA who do well are the ones who already have “cultural capital” (i.e. not ones from a peasant background in the home country), such as those who arrived in the US as university students and then stayed.
    The Vietnamese did well in USA because they already were educated and numerate before fleeing Vietnam. On the other hand, Cambodians are doing badly in the USA because most of their immigrant refugee parents are of peasant background.
    Similar situation with Cubans (sophisticated urbanites in pre-Castro Cuba) in the USA and Mexicans (peasants with low education and skills) immigrants in the USA.

  7. @ Phua Kai Lit, the thread you have provided , if true in those allegations about possible law-suits against the President-elect, will certainly make American voters regretful for having acted in haste to put him into office , and keep them wondering IF they should not have been naive , in not giving a chance to a Lady President-elect for the first time in American history ? – reading the thread, any wonder why Trump is not a billionaire for having amassed that amount of wealth as an act of Prescience in his ‘battle ‘ for the Presidency ?

    In hind-sight , at least the Voters now realize ” …..IF ONLY WE HAD NOT BEEN GULLIBLE ” at all his Populist strategy , we would not have been taken in by his gimmicks of being an ‘ authentic ‘ billionaire befitting himself as DESERVING of the prestigious office of President of The United State of America ……. ?

    To the Voters : you get what you deserve …….

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