On the eve of the US election, I was talking with some young school kids who assured me that if Donald Trump was elected he would release scary clowns into local communities. It did not surprise me that they would think that, given how bizarre the campaign had been.
It’s stating the obvious to say Donald Trump’s win was historic. It’s actually staggering from various perspectives, but 2016 has been a year of historical outcomes – including Brexit.
Democracy though is a remarkable thing. Whoever thought of it should be congratulated. It has saved a lot of bloodshed. The fundamental tenant of a functional democracy is that everyone is entitled to vote, every vote is equal, and every opinion should be respected. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump understand that and both were very wise in their post-election speeches. Hillary Clinton did not blame the electorate for being wrong – she accepted the collective view even though it was not her view. Unfortunately those street protestors who are now venting their anger at Trump’s victory are not wise enough to understand this – or they are so arrogant that they believe their view should be imposed on others.
2016 has thrown out the “How to” book on politics, but the new rule book has yet to be fully understood or even written. What we do know is that Trump defied every convention, every commentator, every pollster, and most politicians, including some in his own party! Everyone seemed to get it wrong, apart from Trump who remained staunch.
So, what can we expect from Donald Trump?
Trump’s 100 Day Plan, released in October, indicates there will be busy times ahead. Day 1 has a very long list of things he will do – some are:
- Withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
- Lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal.
- Cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programmes.
- Begin removing the more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants.
- Suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur.
That’s Day 1. In the 99 days that follow he intends to:
- Implement a plan to grow the economy 4% per year and create 25 million new jobs. This would include massive tax cuts. A middle-class family with 2 children will get a 35% tax cut. The current number of brackets will be reduced from 7 to 3, and tax forms will likewise be greatly simplified. The business tax rate will be lowered from 35 to 15 percent, and the trillions of dollars of American corporate money overseas can now be brought back at a 10 percent rate.
- Initiate a $1 trillion spending programme on infrastructure investment over 10 years.
- Introduce school choice giving parents the right to send their children to the public or private school of their choice – or home school.
- Repeal Obamacare and replaces it with Health Savings Accounts and health insurance.
These are just a few of many bold promises. It will be interesting to see if Trump’s fellow Republicans in the Senate and Congress have the courage to follow his lead or if they bind his hands and feet – they, after all, are politicians and part of the ‘establishment’ that Trump has railed against and has promised to fix – “drain the swamp”, in his words.
Will Donald Trump make a good president? Who knows, (nothing is certain anymore) but Americans are prepared to take the risk. Personally I think he will be a better president than Hillary Clinton would have been, simply because has the personal attributes that have made him an outstanding success in property development: courage in the face of huge obstacles, a determination to achieve something worthwhile, and a vision of what is possible. They may prove to be fairly good traits for a leader in a country built on the principle of freedom – but politics is a tough and nasty game, even tougher than property development, so time will tell.
Trump’s influence is likely to extend a whole lot further than the US. Ironically it was Hillary Clinton’s reference to Trump supporters during the campaign as “deplorable” that has triggered the “Deplorables” movement that may well gain traction internationally. The term is now being used as a badge of honour by those who want to take control away from the political establishment and, they say, give it back to the people. In reality it probably means taking power from the current political establishment and giving it to another political establishment. Nevertheless, the mood of cynicism and call for change is disrupting politics everywhere.
Next year there are some critical elections in Europe – the Netherlands, Germany, France. The repercussions for a united Europe should Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party lose power are very significant. It remains to be seen whether this disruption will spread to New Zealand, where The Opportunity Party (TOP) has already emerged in the form of a Messiah called Gareth Morgan, who made reference to being Trump-like when announcing his party to the media. Who knows how that will end!
Here is my take on the way things stand in politics today.
- Nothing is certain anymore. Anything is possible.
- Politics is a very dirty, take no prisoners game. Campaigns are full of lies and exaggeration. Unfortunately that is even becoming the case here in New Zealand, where campaigning is largely about stunts and staged media events, rather than policy.
- Politicians don’t seem to realise how little regard the public have for their office. If they want the respect of voters, they have to earn it and the best way they can do that is to be like real people – honest and up-front. The fact that Donald Trump prevailed, despite all of his alleged sins against women and everyone else, shows that genuine beats phoney, every time. In comparison, Hilary Clinton came across as phoney and staged.
- Those who hog the megaphones and the media headlines don’t speak for the majority. There remains a significant portion of society, that doesn’t speak out, doesn’t engage in social media, and doesn’t take a lot of notice what’s being said in the media. But they do vote, and their vote has the same value as the person with the megaphone.
- The media no longer has a monopoly on influence. In my view that’s because the quality of media reporting has, in the last generation, declined to such a degree that it is rapidly becoming irrelevant. The media now seems fixated on reporting social media or repeating what is dished up for them in press releases – probably because content from those sources is cheap and easy. Balanced journalism requires work and costs money, and is fast disappearing, to the point that one does not now expect to read it in newspapers, see it on TV news, or hear it on radio.
These are interesting times – and entertaining times!