So it has come to this. Trump has won the United States Presidency, not just by a few votes but by a rather comprehensive margin. Clinton won’t even win the popular vote, a possibility that 12 hours ago was widely considered as the absolute worst case scenario.
I have been asked to write about the political implications of Trump in the Oval Office. But f*ck.
Never, in all the times I wrote “political implications” in articles and essays has it felt so deeply personal. For the first time, my own personhood is one of the “political implications”. During Brexit, we all mourned equally what we felt was a huge mistake by Britain’s retirees. But this one feels like a direct attack on my gender. This isn’t just the feeling of discomfort when a guy leers at you on a dark street or a male friend asking you to fetch another guy to help him move a three-foot side table. Never have I felt more oppressed or more restricted by my gender than I do this morning.
It’s a hollow, empty gut kick from which I can’t quite get my breath back. From which I don’t know if my daughters will ever recover from. I might be just in a melancholic mood, but the hope for equality with which we as women once clung to has been completely erased. Suddenly, I pity myself and have an inexplicable feeling of shame. Shame that I thought we were light years ahead of where we evidently are, and guilt for feeling this shame that the feminist in me knows I shouldn’t have.
The trouble with Trump is, his politics are like a merry-go-round – if you don’t see a policy you like, then hold on and one will eventually come around. He was once a Democrat and a Clinton donor, he’s now a hard-right Republican who wants Hillary in jail. Similarly, he was pro-choice but now we can expect a row-back on the federal precedent which paved the way for state legalisation of abortion. He has vaguely put forward a policy to improving women’s maternity leave and tax-back for childcare but it’s difficult to put any faith in this considering his disgusting track record with women.
A Conservative and Reactionary United States
Republicans have managed to hold on to Congress and with four of the nine Supreme Court justices due to retire in the next four years, we can expect an emboldened and reactionary US government. This will affect all levels of politics and progress – like the removal of environmental legislation and perhaps a retaliation against of the recently agreed Paris Agreement. Ditto for Obamacare, increased gun control measures, citizenship for long-term illegal immigrants, equality for LGBTQ, African-American, Hispanic, and Muslim communities, reduction of the gender gap, any increase in refugee numbers, and any kind of crackdown on police violence. With such domination of the political houses and federal courts and an egotistical yet clueless leader, it’s hard to fathom all the possible scenarios.
Trump has no real desire to rule, he’s interested in power and prestige but not politics so there will be a huge vacuum for radical right-wing Republicans to step in as his ‘advisors’ and become de-facto policy-makers. The rejection of Trump by traditional Republican leaders like John McCain, house speaker Paul Ryan, and even former President George W Bush means that it won’t be them stepping up, it will be the bigots and racists who have found in Trump an easily-manipulated voicebox for their ultraconservative ideologies. I’m not trying to scaremonger here, this is simply laying out the facts, liberals and minorities in the US can expect to be at worst persecuted, and at best ignored during this Presidential cycle.
The Death of Liberalism
I think the most pressing issue here is that we (and by ‘we’ I mean all those who are in disbelief this morning) left-wing liberalists are a minority. If Brexit wasn’t enough of a wake-up call, the Trump election certainly ought to be. So how do we get out of this bubble to try and further understand what has happened in 2016?
A friend told me recently that she and her mom were out shopping when a young guy came running in with his phone, asking where the Pokémon was. The bewildered shopkeeper responded that they don’t sell Pokémon and her mum turned to her and said, “Sometimes I think all the normal people are dead”. We laughed (this was pre-Terrible Tuesday) because we felt the exact opposite – if all those elderly, old-fashioned retirees could just die off and stop deciding on a future they will not witness, the world would be a better place. But almost 60 million people voted for Trump yesterday. This cannot be simply a generational divide and now we need to find a way to bridge these gaps before it’s too late.
But it may already be too late.