Donald Trump has won. Pundits of all denominations have drawn up apocalyptic possibilities already. As the most powerful man on earth — isn’t that what a US President is presumed to be — he would usher in disaster at home with his homophobic stance, cause a collapse of the country’s delicate equations with other nations and bring ruin to economies around the globe with his anti-globalisation position. His quest to 'Make America Great Again' may leave a unipolar world very unstable. We have heard it all from Trump critics during the long campaign. Their apprehension may not be misplaced.
But, he has won.
We have a big but to deal with here. Why is a person, who has been called everything nasty — racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-everything the US holds to be politically proper, loutish and misogynist — so popular? Yes, popular. Don’t go by what the newspapers or experts say. Watch how close the contest is and you get the actual picture. Forget his win, the real question is why he is where he is?
His victory is no accident because he represents something very powerful; something strong enough to challenge and upset what we have come to know as the mainstream. It's anger, feeding on frustration — collective and personal — and the realisation of being left out among people. It has no fixed contour, does not render itself to easy definitions, but it is big enough to challenge establishments of all sizes. We saw it during the Arab Spring, in the convulsion in Eastern Europe, Brexit, in India during UPA II’s last years, on social media and we see it in the US now.
Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton in the presidential race, marks a clear victory of the forces of discontent over those of status quo. Clinton, after all, represents the idea of the establishment common to both Democrats and Republicans. The consequences of a Trump victory can be an entirely different worldview and economic view taking precedence over the earlier one, thereby changing the world as we knew it completely.
Intellectuals everywhere have been dismissive of the trend that has been catching on with social media playing the force-multiplier. Psephologists have failed to decipher the trend despite all their surveys — with so many wrong calls over the last many years in India and elsewhere, one doubts whether they know their job or they are in touch with reality. Those in the media who have been extremely harsh on Trump the person, failed to grasp the fact that there are factors propelling his popularity, the most important of which is jobs.
Job loss is a real problem across the world, as is jobless growth. Economic globalisation has meant massive flight of jobs from the US. As businesses shift elsewhere in the world to capitalise on cheap labour and rake in profits, the work force at home has been getting desperate. The income inequality in the American society is just too huge not to give rise to a social backlash. It manifests itself to anyone who is perceived as a challenger to jobs. The anti-immigrant anger is a manifestation of this.
Jobs or the lack of it have become a worldwide problem. The reaction showed itself in Brexit and it still does in rabid anti-immigrant voices in Europe. It requires a leader, any leader, to take advantage of that. It does not matter whether he is uncouth, anti-woman and does not meet the delicate standards of propriety set by the earlier establishment.
How is the world going to shape under Trump is a difficult poser. But the fact remains that the world has to give a fresh look to economy. The question now has to be whether world economy, IMF and World Bank-driven economy if you please, is creating a more and more unequal world, giving rise to social discontentment that are difficult political leaders to handle.
Trump’s policies may tell us something about the future of the world. Let’s wait and watch.