On Nov. 8, Donald Trump became the 45th president-elect of the United States, and whether you voted for him or not, his victory is no doubt historic. In the last week there has been a stark shift in the mood of campus and of the nation, as the wounds of perhaps the most divisive campaign in American history still linger.
Protests against the president-elect have cropped up all over the country, as have reports of an increase in hate violence. Trump’s callousness and refusal to apologize for the inflammatory remarks he made on the campaign trail have contributed to a growing sense instability.
As the storm brews, many Americans on both sides of the political spectrum are left wondering, “How did we get here?”
With hindsight continuing to make clearer the intricacies of this election, Trump’s victory begins to look less like a Hail Mary campaign and more like a materialization of major shifts in Western politics.
During the campaign, Trump prided himself on being an outsider capable of putting a stop to Wall-Street-based establishment politics and the grid-lock of Congress under Obama.
He claimed to be a champion of the worker: a President who would fight to bring manufacturing jobs back to America, strengthen the borders and unleash the awesome power of the American military against the Islamic State and other terrorist groups. In essence, he would put America first.
Like no other candidate in the 2016 election, Trump spoke to a growing demographic of Americans who viewed the inaction of Washington as responsible for the decline of America’s status in the world. His election to the Oval Office is a resounding indictment of both the Democratic and Republican parties and establishment politics in general.
It is no secret that, today, the two major parties are less interested in governing than they are in winning. They do not attempt to change each other’s minds or carry on any meaningful discourse. Their supporters have become more polarized and combative than ever, as faction has come to dominate decision making.
They operate in echo chambers, and those seeking meaningful political discussion are left with unreliable third party candidates. From the beginning, the 2016 election was about anti-establishment versus establishment, and both parties failed or refused to see it coming.
Through complete disorder and inaction in the Republican party, Trump, a reality TV star with no political experience, was allowed to rise to the nomination. The Democrats, on the other hand, did everything in their power to support Clinton against party’s far left.
The result was a brutal campaign between a weakened Hillary Clinton and a reluctantly embraced Trump. In the end, the Republicans, lead by their more radical element won, and now the nation has to live with the golem we created.
And yet since his electoral victory, Trump has named several establishment Republicans as possible appointees to cabinet positions and raised the question of how committed he is to his promises on the campaign trail. Despite his more un-presidential temperament, it seems increasingly likely that Trump’s policies will be quite in line with those of the mainstream Republican party.
If this is the case, his election could very well be the death of the Republican party who have only maintained national relevance in recent years by their obstruction of Obama. Four years of a Republican presidency and majority in both chambers of congress will force them to articulate their abstract positions through concrete policy.
With his mandate, Trump will reform the tax code to benefit so-called job creators at the expense of many of those who supported him in the election. Donald Trump will go down in history as the greatest con man there ever was.
The backlash will come swiftly once the American people experience what it is like to live in a country dominated by policies from a bygone era, whose application in the present is both ineffective and dangerous. America will fall even further behind in the world and those who cried out for greatness will realize exactly how un-great America can truly be.
If America is to rise from the ashes of a Trump presidency, we must all do our part. The left must own their intellectual elitism and the right must articulate a vision of social conservatism that is not intrinsically bigoted. We must debate the actual differences between progressivism and conservatism, socialism and laissez faire, not in their most abstract and dogmatic forms, but in terms of concrete policy.