The Trump Election: Looking Beyond Populism

Most of us Europeans are still processing the shock we had on Wednesday morning. Surprised though we were that he made it so far, few of us really thought that we’d actually be facing four years Trump presidency. But alas, the unthinkable has happened: Trump now hosts the highest office in what is the most powerful country on the planet.

Let’s go through this with some Q&A, shall we?

 

So Trump won. Is it bad?

Yes, it’s bad.

 

Just regular bad, or “Holy crap it’s the end of the world!” bad?

Depends on who you ask. If we pay attention to what these scientists are saying, Trumps environmental policy might literally be the end of the world. Read it and weep.

Otherwise, the election of Donald J. Trump means a great step back from progressive and inclusive morals. To many people, it also means a loss of face for democracy and reason. We no longer trust that good, civil, and qualified people will be the ones to climb to the top of the political pyramid by means of a democratic election.

 

Trump won because of populism/sexism/racism, didn’t he?

What I think is the most pressing matter here is whether Trump has won because of his sexist and racist remarks, or despite of them.

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But isn’t the Trump election another sign of the victory of racism and sexism?

From what I remember from his speeches, Trumps view on anything that’s not a white male seems to range from “deport them” to “grab ‘em by the ******!”. So is a vote for Trump a vote for racism/sexism?

Here’s where I partly disagree. Though Trump obviously appeals to the fears and hopes of xenophobic white men, logic dictates that this cannot be the reason he won. The US is still a democracy, and white males simply do not make up the majority of the country, as they represent only 34% of the votes.

In fact, if we were to look at the voting demographics without any knowledge of who the candidates were and what they said, you might not even suspect that it was about gender. Men voted for Trump or Hilary at 53% and 41% respectively, compared to 42% and 54% for women. The difference is noticeable, but still minor. And here’s what will surprise many people: 29% of Hispanics voted for Trump (though this number is disputed). If anything, blacks were most put off by Trump, with 8% voting for him as opposed to 88% voting for Hilary, despite the fact that Trump never threw such awful accusations against blacks as he did to Latinos.

So what other factors seem important? Age and religion, for example. As expected, the rates for Trump voters steadily go up with age, and religious people were also more likely to vote red.

 

But he’s a racist and misogynist all the same, right?

Just as much. Pointing out other reasons people might have for voting Trump does not in any way deny the terrible things he has said and the fact that the voters tolerated them. But here I want to repeat the notion that I think it’s more accurate to say that Trump won despite his racism/sexism rather than because of it.

 

But I still don’t understand why anyone would vote for this lunatic!

That’s the problem: few of us understood why. I sure didn’t. When we saw videos of people being interviewed on their pro-Trump stance, we all rolled our eyes, laughed, and congratulated ourselves for being better than them. We constantly ridiculed and demonized anyone even remotely positive about Trump. But all this did was strengthen their idea that the current political/social system was leaving them out in the cold.

So why would anyone vote Trump? Let’s listen to a Trump supporter:

People are willing to look past racist comments if it at least means a break from a political system that doesn’t work for them. Many feel resent towards what they see as the “Washington elite”, and perhaps understandably so. Left without jobs or social status, they’ll vote for anyone who presents himself as the anti-politician, as the end of the current system. This makes even more sense when you think of who Trump was against. One of the hardest challenges Democrats had this election was explaining why Hilary was a good candidate without using the phrase “She’s not Trump…”

Call it populism if you want, but perhaps we were relying too much on this label as the end of a discussion instead of seeing it as a legitimate point of view.

 

So… any good news to end this article with?

Not much, but fortunately, we can see a silver lining here.

Trumps policies are mostly bad and a lot of them down-right harmful. However, his international policy seems to bring a ray of hope into what probably will be one of the worst presidencies in US history. Trumps idea for the future of the US is an isolationist one, with less interference in other countries, and with more friendly ties with Russia. This could actually bring more stability and peace to the world, as the previous policy of toppling regimes in the name of democracy doesn’t seem to work.

If the past is any indicator, what we’re seeing right now is perhaps not simply a step backwards, but just the opposite swing of the pendulum. The US has gone back and forth between Democrats and Republicans over the last decades. After four or eight years, the people are tired of the president that was, and vote for its opposite. When Obama won in 2008, it was considered as the beginning of a new age, as the end of racism, inequality, and financial misery. Even though he was a good president, Obama just couldn’t fulfill these high expectations, and now there’s a desire to go into another direction.

Just as Obama did not lead the US into a utopia, let’s hope that Trump will not lead it into chaos and misery. Hold tight, and let’s learn from the past so that we’re ready for 2020.

Frank Kool
Frank Kool
Born and raised in Holland, spent his time procrastinating and studying Psychology and Philosophy. Frank harbors a special interest in weird social phenomena (which are ALL social phenomenon if you think about them long enough).

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