It is not such a surprise that Americans have elevated Donald Trump to the headship of their country. It was improbable at first, because of his raucous personality, and the fact he had never held public office or a high military command (the almost invariable qualifications for a nominee).
He financed his own campaign, avoiding the endless demeaning roundel of fundraisers (and doing quite well selling silly hats and T-shirts). It was also apparently unpromising because he was attacking the entire entrenched leadership of both parties, the Clintons, Obamas, and Bushes, OBushtons, as I called them last week, and because he was opposed by and deliberately incited the escalated hostility of the national media, and the officious polling organisations.
The whole Trump campaign was audacious because it relied altogether on a broad swath of all socioeconomic groups – it was not a coalition based on pitching to the particular desires of voting blocs. As Trump said on election night, and as his wife had stated in several speeches recently, it was a movement, a mighty national rejection of the prim, robotic flimflam that disguised a corrupt failing system and feckless leadership behind the façade of “bridge-building, inclusiveness,” and self-abasement in the world.
Two premises undergirded the whole enterprise: that the party elders and their apparatus in both parties were castles made of sand and sawdust, and that a majority of Americans were so concerned about the first period of outright decline in American history and when the economic well-being of the middle and working classes had deteriorated outside the downdraft of normal cycles, that they would vote for a purposeful strategy put in plain and politically incorrect language.
His entire campaign was an assault on everyone in both parties who was complicit in the blunders of the past 20 years: the soft early response to terrorism, the housing bubble and financial crisis and great recession; the admission of 12 million illegal and unskilled migrants, the disastrous Iraq war, 15 million dropouts from the workforce, immense trade and budgetary deficits, and a doubling of national debt in seven years to produce one per cent economic growth. Those who have been routed should have seen it coming. Trump thundered into the nomination race, cleaned up most of the primaries, routed 14 candidates, including five serious governors (Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Scott Walker), and three prominent senators (Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio). And is credited with raising the Republican primary vote by 60 per cent in four years.
Given their lengthy intertwined involvement in high government office, the Bushes and Clintons were both obvious targets for Trump’s uproarious billingsgate, and his political incorrectness shattered many taboos and enjoyed a much wider appeal than had been thought possible for many months. He debunked global warming (more or less accurately) as a leftist attempt to hobble capitalism and incidentally destroy the coal and oil industries, and reviled US President Barack Obama and former secretary of state Clinton for their inability to mention “Islamic extremism.”
His attacks in the crowded Republican debates were often brutal and personal: Sen. Rubio’s slight stature and tendency to perspire, Bush’s alleged lack of energy, Sen. Cruz’s claimed ethical lapses, even Carly Fiorina’s (unexceptionable) appearance; it was often gratuitous and unseemly but none of his opponents had any idea how to deal with it. He tapped a tremendous volcanic lava pool of public anger at poor government that has produced the first absolute and comparative decline in American history. Historians of the future will wonder how the political class imagined it could admit so many migrants without taking effective measures to control the southern border, and merely babble garrulously on, year after year, about “comprehensive immigration reform.”
The wellsprings of public anger and frustration were not exploited by Trump alone. He took half the Republicans, the democratic Marxist Bernie Sanders took almost half the Democrats, and the runner-up Republican contender, Cruz, took 30 per cent of the Republicans on a campaign of tearing down the federal government from the far right.
In the circumstances, it was no mean achievement for the two nominees to emerge still broadly within the political centre, despite Trump’s polemical flourishes about illegal immigration.
No informed person could be unaware of the depth of America’s problems, but the governing elites who were collectively responsible for the steady proliferation of those problems did not see what they had wrought. American democracy is undermined by corruption and misinformation, but it is still vital and healthy on election day. A clear choice was presented and the people have spoken.
The score is Donald Trump and the public 1; the authors of the economic debacle, the immigration disaster, the foreign policy fiascos and catastrophic wars and humanitarian crisis, and gross fiscal mismanagement and the deterioration of almost everything in America, 0. This is as it should be, and the alarmists are fools, as the positive response of financial markets to Trump’s economic growth program illustrates.
America and the world will be the better for it, Donald Trump spoke elegantly and generously on election night and I predict that, though there may be some stylistic lapses, he will be a successful president.
This article originally appeared in the National Post