BY: MIROSLAV TOMOSKI
At some point in the night, things got weird and there are no other words to describe the sharp burst of confused laughter that split the room when we realised it wasn’t a joke.
President Elect, Donald J. Trump, took the stage at his campaign headquarters in Manhattan to deliver a 3 AM acceptance speech which was poetically capped with the Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Moments before his appearance, Trump had received a congratulatory call from Hillary Clinton after her Campaign Chairman, John Podesta, announced that Hillary would not be giving a speech of her own. While the vote count continued into Wednesday morning, it was clear that Trump had already crossed the 270 electoral vote threshold needed to win the election.
“To all republicans and democrats across this nation, I say that it is time for us to come together as one united people.” Trump said, striking a diplomatic nerve he failed to find during the campaign and pledging to be a president “for all Americans.”
Standing with his closest allies in the Republican Party – including former Mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, and New Jersey Governor, Chris Chirstie – Trump promised that his administration, “will deal fairly with everyone, all people, all other nations,” as the unsettled minds of Trump’s opponents caused the Canadian Government’s immigration website to crash.
Their preferred choice, a former First Lady and Secretary of State, was the favourite of nearly every poll and pundit going into the race. But with a Democratic primary that was far closer than anything on the crowded Republican side, voters demanded a more personable approach from their candidates at every turn. With one final upset, Hillary had built a career among a series of frustrating moments in which she had been asked to compromise her own personality in order to become: the model wife, an honest campaigner, and a president you can be friends with.
In a peculiar twist of politics, her attempts at playing to the emotions of voters fell flat when measured against her stronger traits as a rational and calculated leader who could get the job done. Hillary is a master of the political game who – though a painful irony – should never have had to compromise to appear honest or change in order to win. But the game she played so well was upended by an emotionally charged opponent who gutted all conventional norms.
The election of Donald Trump has proven that, as a symptom of democracy, politics is among a small list of jobs that anyone can apply for and ultimately achieve regardless of qualifications. It’s an awkward lesson to learn from a man who spent months claiming, “the system is rigged”, but with the final day of this elaborate distraction behind us we ought to come to terms with the idea that the real reason a President Donald Trump exists is because democracy works.
Like it or not, Trump managed to be the wildest caricature on the trail while still hammering a message that resonated with the devastated workers of the Midwest and propelled him to victory. Trump promised to restore industries that America has long since outgrown, with the help of the tech revolution, to their former greatness.
Clinton promised to preserve the legacy of President Obama which sent a signal that – when compared to Donald Trump’s America – nothing would change. After a relentless call for revolution by Bernie Sanders supporters, e-mail leaks which tarnished the Democratic Party’s credibility, and two years spent in denial of Trump’s appeal to voters, the institutions that might have seen this coming had been blindfolded.
Reporters, pollsters and politicians consistently underestimated Trump’s ability to win because they couldn’t stomach it. The crowds had been staring us in the face for months and between those who had come for the novelty value and the far-flung-nuts, it was hard to believe that average Americans could be among them.
Working within a severely restricted environment (confined behind barricades at the back of the room), reporters cast a wide net across all Trump supporters assuming that the loudest ones were the only ones that existed. But the more silent type were never lurking in the woodwork, but hiding in plain sight. They routinely attended rallies, but were overshadowed by their candidate. These supporters may not have been reflected by the polls, but as Bob Dylan once said, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”
With full Republican control of the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the potential to appoint a new Judge to the Supreme Court, America could be be looking at more coal power, a repealed Affordable Care Act and a foreign policy that might be just as historic as a first female president. The only thing that stands in Donald Trump’s way is a tendency to create his own obstacles and the anger of those who could never have imagined a night like this.
In any case, 2016 will go down as the year that America was asked a simple question and gave an even simpler answer, causing those who were once certain of the truth to shake their heads before burying them in the sand because they used to believe that democracy was the best form of government until the majority* proved them wrong.
*As of Wednesday Nov. 9 results show Hillary Clinton winning a majority of the popular vote.