The Trump Surprise

2016-11-09 12:40

I was wrong. I had no doubt that Hilary Clinton would win the US election and would be ushered in, Bill at her side, as the next President of the United States. Not that I was happy about the prospects of the Clintons back in the Whitehouse. But then I didn’t want Trump to win either, so it was a pretty much a lose; lose for me.

And I was not alone.

Not for the first time this year, global media as well as the pollsters have been left scratching their heads and wondering what just happened. The election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States was seen being as impossible as a British exit from the European Union was.

And yet both happened.

Fifty-Eight million Americans in fact decided that Donald Trump is a better choice than Hillary Clinton is, and the question is not only why this happened but how main stream media could get it so fantastically wrong. Yet again.

In the age of social media, where every opinion is stated and illustrated with a meme, one would think that the pulse and view of every voter would be known and documented. Possibly even before they themselves are aware of their stance. And yet, fifty-eight million people managed to enjoy the biggest surprise party of all time. Without anyone suspecting a thing.

South African experts and non experts alike have been quick to throw “Racist” accusations. They seem to suggest that Americans have the desire to turn back the clock and that deep in the heart of every Trump voter lies a bigot seeking expression. Outrage, horror and disbelief are spewed across social media platforms along with the name callings of the most politically incorrect kind. And whereas it might well be true that some Trump supporters veer more to the right than is acceptable, there is little doubting that this cannot be true for all. And a suggestion that that is the case is by nature racist in of itself.

There also seems to be a desire to remove the complexity of the events and to reduce the explanation to convenient horrible sound bites. Trump, we are told, is a misogynist, a rogue, a racist and an anti-Semite. He is an Islamaphobe and his hair is a suspicious colour.

And yet, despite an unfortunate choice of stylist the majority of American citizens elected to vote for him over a person who is qualified, is known, has done her time in the system and who is married to a man who has served his country for eight years as President. That kind of experience is hard to come by. And yet the people inexplicably chose to pass, and to choose the alternative. When it should have been a “no brainer.”

Some of the answer lie within the choice of Hilary as the Democratic nominee. Like him or hate him, Trump has emerged as a real person. His comments about women are vile, his personality crass, his statements about immigrants are ugly and his tendency to bully are known. Which means that when making a decision the voter (true or not) has the feeling that they are fully aware of the all the warts of the candidate.

Hillary in contrast, though-out her campaign, came across as robotic, practiced and insincere. The question about her health became relevant in that it reflected her reluctance to “level” with her constituents which made them more suspicious as to what else she might be hiding. The message was that she didn’t trust them, and they returned the favour at the polls.

The US media further, unwittingly became an accomplice to her downfall. The more popular Trump became, the more hysterical and rabid their dislike became. In doing so they lost all semblance of impartiality and therefore could no longer be trusted to inform without bias. The public therefore had no choice but to turn to social media for information, much of which is unsubstantiated and conspiracy based. But if the press was not going to provide the information, then another medium would. And did.

If 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that people will make their own decisions. It’s that they will be influenced by multiple factors that they desire that which is authentic. Even if that is imperfect. It has taught us further that the world can no longer be reduced to comfortable sound bites and that we have to live with the consequences of a democratic process.

Even if we are petrified to do so.

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