Tuesday, November 8, 2016 – either a day that will live in infamy, or the moment when America was made great again? The truth, as usual, will lie somewhere in the middle. After all, contrary to what both his supporters and detractors believe, Trump won’t be able to come into office and spend his first 100 days gleefully ripping up all the bits of the Constitution he doesn’t like.
But even if the American election’s seismic shock-wave doesn’t signal either the sky falling or the start of a bright new American era, the result was, to use one of The Donald’s favourite phrases, huge. It is, in fact, a total game changer.
In decades to come, historians will still bicker about the most poisonous, toxic and stupid election in living memory. They will also be bickering over the same vexed question – how did a man who was already unpopular with the public and who boasted precisely zero political experience beat a seasoned Washington insider who was married to one extremely popular president and who had worked closely with another? The answer, ultimately, is in the question.
History will record this as a Trump victory, which of course it is. But it was also more than that, because this was the most stunning self-inflicted defeat in the history of Western democracy.
Hillary Clinton has damned her party to irrelevance for at least the next four years. She has also ensured that Obama’s legacy will now be a footnote rather than a chapter. Because the Affordable Care Act is now doomed under a Trump presidency and that was always meant to be Obama’s gift, of sorts, to America.
How did a candidate who had virtually all of the media, all of Hollywood, every celebrity you could think of, a couple of former presidents and apparently, the hopes of an entire gender resting on her shoulders, blow up her own campaign?
I rather suspect that neither Donald nor Hillary know how they got to this point.
Where she seemed to expect the position to become available to her by right – the phrase “she deserves it” was used early in the campaign and then quickly dropped when her team remembered that Americans don’t like inherited power – his first steps into the campaign were those of someone chancing their arm. If Trump wasn’t such a stoic teetotaler, many observers would have accused him of only doing it as a drunken bet.
But the more the campaign wore on, something truly astonishing began to happen – the people began to speak. And they began to speak in a voice which, for the first time in years in the American heartland, would not be ignored.
Few of the people who voted for Trump seriously believe that he is going to personally improve their fortunes. Contrary to the smug, middle-class media narrative, Trump voters aren’t all barely educated idiots.
They know what he is; of course they do. It’s what he is not that appeals to them.
Clinton, on the other hand, had come to represent the apex of smug privilege. Whether it was boasting about her desire to shut down the remaining coal industry in Virginia, or calling half the electorate a “basket of deplorables,” she seemed to operate in the perfumed air of the elite, more obsessed with coddling idiots and pandering to identity and feelings than improving the hardscrabble life that is the lot of millions of Americans.
Also, nobody who voted for Trump did so because they wanted him as a spiritual guru or life coach.
But plenty of people invested an irrational amount of emotional energy into a woman who was patently undeserving of that level of adoration.
That’s why we’ve witnessed such fury from her supporters – they had wrapped themselves so tightly in the Hillary flag that a rejection of her felt like a rejection of them. And when you consider that many American colleges gave their students Wednesday off class because they were too ‘upset’ to study, you can see that this wasn’t a battle for the White House – this became a genuine battle for America’s future direction. And, indeed, for the West.
We have been going through a cultural paroxysm for the last 10 years – the rise of identity politics has created a Balkanised society where the content of someone’s mind is less important than their skin colour, gender, sexuality or whatever other attention-seeking label they wish to bestow upon themselves. In fact, where once it looked like racism and sexism might be becoming archaic remnants of a darker time, a whole new generation has popped up which wants to re-litigate all those arguments all over again.
In fact, while many of us are too young to recall the Vietnam War and the social upheaval of the 1960s, plenty of older observers say they haven’t seen an America more at war with itself than it is today.
One perfect example of this new America has been the renewed calls for segregation on campuses. Even a few years ago, such a move would have been greeted with understandable horror by civil rights activists – but this time it’s the black students demanding segregation and “safe spaces” from whites. If young people calling for racial segregation from each other isn’t the sign of a very, very sick society, nothing is.
The irony and hypocrisy of Clinton calling Trump and his followers racist while she was courting Black Lives Matter was telling. After all, no rational white person would defend the KKK, yet here was a white women defending both BLM and the New Black Panthers – explicitly racist organisations with the NBP, in particularly, openly espousing a race war if they don’t get what they want.
Fundamentally, Trump was attractive because he represents a repudiation of the nonsense that has been slowly strangling the West. He represents – rightly or wrongly – a scorn and contempt for these new rules. He won’t be a president worried about micro-aggression, or listening to the views of patently insane people just because they come from a fashionably protected group. He also represents a glorious two fingers to everyone who has become sick of being called a racist or a bigot or a homophobe – particularly by Hillary supporters who are too dense to realise that she has always actually been more conservative on social issues than Trump.
That it might take a madman to restore some sanity to America is, I suppose, a quirk that is typical to that great nation – land of the free and home to more contradictions than anyone can imagine.
Trump’s victory also signals just how out of step the media has been with the people. Not just American media, either. In fact, the Irish media has continued its desperate drive to make a show of itself with a seemingly endless parade of emotionally incontinent gibberish that, ironically, has increased in ferocity and hysterical spite in the last few days.
The fact that Hillary’s main cheerleaders in the Irish and UK media still haven’t realised where they went wrong is instructive and amusing in equal measure. They still don’t seem to understand that by constantly insulting his supporters, they’re just making asses of themselves.
One female contributor to this newspaper said Trump’s victory was a “sad day for women.” Well, not for the women who voted for him it wasn’t.
But that really is the nub of the matter – the ‘wrong’ kind of women obviously voted for Trump. The ‘right’ kind went with Hillary. And lost.
The Irish media are not alone in being filled largely with dinner-party liberals who have never had an original or socially awkward thought in their lives. They simply assume that everyone lives in the same bubble and thinks the same thoughts – and if they don’t, they should.
Of the many things that have changed with Trump’s victory, the bubble has burst. Never in American history have the polls, the media and the chin-stroking moral arbiters of the liberal agenda been so spectacularly, wonderfully wrong.
It was exactly that condescending, obnoxious sneer towards the working class that brought them out in such numbers, and that is the great irony of Election 2016 – the Left spent years creating identity politics to the extent that the only group left without protection or a celebrity sponsor was the white American male. That it was the white American male who swung it for Trump is a timely reminder that while black lives matter, all votes count –
even the ones of people you despise.
You don’t have to be a supporter of Trump to take great delight in the sheer, apoplectic rage that has greeted his victory. If Clinton had won and Trump supporters had gone on a rampage through a dozen American cities the next night, there would have been outrage – and rightly so.
But in a morally and linguistically inverted society, the wrong-doers are portrayed as the victims. We saw that at numerous Trump rallies – protesters would disrupt the event, claiming their right to free speech (a heckler’s veto is not free speech) and provoking people until they got a dig before running to the media and claiming victim-hood.
Yet none of Clinton’s rallies were shut down by her opponents (unlike Trump’s aborted Chicago meeting) and the great mistake the anti-Trump zealots should have learned was that just thinking you’re right isn’t enough – you need to convince others as well.
But, ultimately, this election was about people saying “enough with the bullshit.” This is a country in crisis, and most Americans don’t care about transgender bathrooms, or “safe” spaces, or government speech laws. This was about people taking some control back for themselves.
It was about them saying that they won’t be hectored and bullied by the toddler tantrums thrown by pissy and spoiled millennials, and they certainly won’t put up with being told they’re deplorable, stupid and wicked just because they have a difference of opinion.
But, really, this election is about hope for a better America; an America which isn’t obsessed with identity and perceived ‘privilege’; an America where being a victim isn’t a virtue and where you don’t have to apologise for not being up to date with the latest list of socially acceptable phrases.
Trump’s victory was a two fingers to the politically correct. It was a brutal rejection of the nonsense narrative which says Muslims who kill Americans are somehow victims. It took the ludicrous Green agenda and threw it out. It was a return, on some level, to a time when people weren’t afraid to speak their own mind without some self-elected language cop shouting at them. Who knows, we may even see Trump kicking the UN out of New York.
Frankly, if you’re one of those who gets their politics from Jon Stewart, CNN and Twitter, look away for the next four years, because you’re not going to like what you see. The rest of us, however, will be delighted.
This might go terribly, terribly wrong. Nobody knows – and if we have learned anything this week, it’s that, “nobody knows nuthin.” But just as the people of the UK took control back with Brexit, the people of America did likewise with their choice for president.
It’s called democracy.
Deal with it.
Ian O’Doherty is a columnist who works for the Irish Independent.