Hook in the West
AND so, late last Tuesday night, it finally came to pass. What had only recently been considered a virtual impossibility was played out in a sea of red stamps, as US state after US state turned out for Trump, in one of the most dramatic nights in US political history.
The reaction on the streets of America was mixed, with Trump supporters openly celebrating an historic and unlikely victory, while Democrats and anti-Trump protesters attempted to absorb the news that their worst fears had been realised.
Some immediate knock-on effects of Trump’s victory were inevitable, with the Mexican peso plummeting in value, as stock markets around the world fell initially, before recovering momentum and then levelling out. Political commentators across the major US television networks offered their two cents on what a Trump victory would mean for the future of the economy. Speculation was ferocious and dramatic in equal measure.
As news of Trump’s win filtered across the world, presidents and leaders telephoned the billionaire to congratulate him on his win, but there were significant caveats to the majority of those congratulatory messages.
In keeping with the traditions of respecting a binding democratic vote, world leaders passed on messages of goodwill that demonstrated, at least for the time being, that Trump would be afforded the opportunity to show he is capable of managing the most powerful job in the world.
A host of measured statements, with carefully constructed language, expressed the desire that Trump will prove to be a successful and all-encompassing president during his term.
In his speech following the result, Trump himself was quite impressive, insisting that he will work towards bringing America together on his journey as president. His tone and demeanour was calm and almost humble; a far cry from the loud rants that so typified his election campaign.
The first meeting with President Obama at the White House made for uncomfortable viewing, but such was the obvious distrust between the pair over the course of the campaign, that anything other than mild unease would have been too much to expect.
Obama was generous in his congratulatory message, while Trump was conciliatory in offering to examine the details behind Obama’s policies - healthcare being of primary concern - before making any drastic changes. On this first crucial examination of temperament, Trump passed with flying colours.
Looking further ahead, however, it is difficult to know what a Trump presidency will mean for the rest of the world. Ireland’s most significant battle will be borne out of Trump’s position on corporation tax. One of his key messages during the election campaign was the promise of job creation in America and his determination to lure multinational companies back to US soil could have a significant impact on the Irish economy. There is no guarantee, however, that any reduction in US corporation tax would automatically result in mass withdrawals from the Irish market.
Trump’s insistence during his campaign that he will abolish Obamacare completely has already softened to the possibility of reform and alteration. And if I was a betting man, I would be confident that the ‘great wall’ on the Mexican border will not come to pass. Perhaps a hardening of border control policy will come into effect in its place.
The truth is that nobody knows what the future will hold. 2016 has already seen two seismic shifts on the democratic landscape, with Brexit preceding Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton. On both counts, the media and the experts got it badly wrong.
That the polls and commentators were so completely out-of-touch with the mood on the ground should force the media to reflect on its own position. On both fronts, the fourth estate and the establishment utterly failed to comprehend the reality of what was unfolding. Brexit would not happen, we were told. Nigel Farage and UKIP were not representative of the British majority, they said. Trump will not get to the White House...
The media has a duty to seek out public opinion and to correctly portray the mood of the population to which they cater for. By pushing it’s own agenda and ignoring evidence to the contrary, there is a case to be made that the media, on both sides, failed in its duty of care and fundamentally abused its position. Most media outlets in the case of Brexit and Trump got it hopelessly wrong.
And so we face into an uncertain future. Early indications suggest Trump’s presidency will not be the absolute disaster that many had feared. Equally, it is too difficult to say with any degree of certainty what Brexit will mean for the United Kingdom and its neighbours and allies.
But with both of these monumental decisions, one thing is clear. The world as we know it is shifting ever so slowly away from recent convention and onto a new, alternate platform. Where this road will lead is anyone’s guess. And anyone that tries to convince you that they understand exactly what is happening is lying. The truth is, nobody knows. All we can do is face forward and keep marching. The rest is in the hands of a future we simply cannot predict.