America’s “deplorables” under the businessman-turned-politician Donald Trump have stunned pollsters, media, political scientists, and other experts of all nearly all hues. The unabashed racist, misogynist, bigoted, and renegade Republican candidate, who was disowned by many within his party, is the next President of the United States of America. Take time to digest this fact. In his stunning triumph, Trump overpowered not only the Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton but also the White House, Hollywood, liberal media, the Republican establishment, sexual and racial minorities, assorted critics from around the world, and Wall Street. It is a stunning number of opponents to overcome. It is the age of the demagogue. Fear mongering about the "other", playing up insecurities are real ways to win votes. Anti-immigrant rhetoric and open bigotry have become fashionable again.
But Trump isn't the first offender. The Republican Party and American right-wing media have fuelled anti-minority and anti-immigrant sentiments for decades. Despite US President Barack Obama’s efforts to get the American economy back on track, the effects of stagnant wage levels and soaring inequality were strongly felt, in particular among the white blue-collar working populace. By most metrics, the Obama Presidency had done a decent job of restoring normalcy to the economy after the horrors of 2008. In the past six years, the American private sector has added approximately 14.4 million jobs, which according to reports is the longest period of sustained job growth on record. Unemployment has dropped from 10 percent to 5 percent.
However, the one loophole in Obama’s economic mission is stagnant wages. Adjusted for inflation, Americans, especially the middle class, are making less money when Obama took office. Trump’s success came from convincing voters that their plight was due to a rigged political system and bad trade deals signed by the political establishment. In the context of Brexit, it is also imperative to illustrate how these results reflected the deep-seated anger of those left behind by globalisation. Many American blue collar workers have lost their manufacturing jobs to China and other developing Asian economies over the past few decades. These voters looked over his atrocious personal failings and acted on this sentiment enmasse. It was a quest to get rid of the establishment at any cost. But the irony is that although Trump is a political outsider, he is also a representative of the very establishment that the voters have come to distrust—a third generation millionaire.
Even though Bernie Sanders pushed the Democratic establishment towards addressing concerns surrounding rising inequality and stagnant wages during the primaries, Clinton never wholly picked up the mantle once she was nominated. Even though she formulated well-structured plans to address these concerns, her message did not resonate with many voters. Of course, the racial divide in America also played a big part in accentuating Trump's appeal, in particular among the white working class. Nate Cohn, a writer and observer with the New York Times, initially thought that Trump had a sub-1 percent chance of winning. But after the results were announced, Cohn made a startling remark on Twitter, "How to think about this election: white working class voters just decided to vote like a minority group. They're >40 percent of the electorate.”
Besides, as a votary of those trade deals, Clinton’s subsequent volte-face did not convince the average American voter, and the subsequent email leaks further sustained their suspicion. The dominant narrative among average white voter is that the political establishment, both Democratic and Republican, have left them for dead and focused merely on the minorities and the wealthy class. Trump exploited their insecurities for electoral purposes. Despite this narrative, Hillary failed to bring racial minorities, primarily the Latino community onto her side. Reports indicate that Trump received close to 30 percent of the Latino vote.
Even Clinton’s expected women vote did not materialise as per expectations. Approximately 50 percent of white women voted for Trump. These constituencies were just not convinced that Hillary Clinton was the agent of change they desired. Maybe, there is an element of sexism involved too. One of the biggest complaints against Hillary was her lack of trustworthiness—paid speeches to Wall Street, a dark web of business connections to the Clinton Foundation, and all linked to the leaked emails. But it’s hard to square how voters thought Trump to be more trustworthy, considering his atrocious record of lying in public. Maybe the conservative heart of America, which spoke in one voice this time, felt that it wasn't ready for a first female President after a first coloured President.