America votes unorthodoxly
What started as a joke for many, when Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency of the world’s strongest nation, has turned into a shocking reality, not only to tens of millions of Americans, but also to hundreds of millions of spectators across the globe.
It was a nail-biter race, if anything was to be said about the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.
The suspense slowly started to retreat in favor of surprise, where the Republicans’ votes swept one state after the other, even by a tight margin—as tight as less than a percentage point.
Onlookers from the U.S. and worldwide watched the results, most in disbelief, many in horror, as real estate mogul and Republican candidate Trump swept the ballots, including those in crucial swing states such as Florida. He further won the state of Ohio, noting that all Democratic candidates who have won the presidency in the past, have won that state.
And as Trump led the polls in a nose to nose battle with his opponent, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, the latter took to Twitter to thank her team for “everything” irrespective of “whatever happens tonight,” hours ahead of the results. She later called Trump to concede the elections and congratulate the Republicans over the win. Clinton also refused to address her supporters, sending John Podesta, her campaign manager to tell everyone to go home.
The Trump effect transcended people to impact markets, which sharply plummeted on news of the unexpected lead, and later win of the Republican candidate, now president-elect Trump. Oil prices sharply fell as well, negatively impacted by Trump’s election as well.
Despite a shooting incident near a polling station in California, leaving one dead and three injured and the polling station closed ahead of time, there were no security-related incidents to disturb the voting process, though Trump did complain during the casting ballots process, alleging that there were some rigged machines changing Republicans’ votes in favor of Clinton.
Trump will be officially sworn in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol as the 45th president of the United States on January 20, 2017.
Trump’s running mate Michael “Mike” Pence, who introduced the president-elect to give a speech, stressed that the president-elect’s “leadership and vision will make America great again.”
His victory comes amid a more divided American electorate than it has ever been in recent history.
“It is time to bind the wounds of division, and to all the Democrates and all the Republicans I say that it is time for us to come together as one united people. I pledge I will be a president for all Americans,” Trump told his supporters.
He further promised to “double” the economic growth, rebuild the country’s infrastructure so that it becomes “second to none,” and by doing so, create millions of jobs to American citizens.
“The country now must answer the call of self-reflection, of finding our core democratic values and of discovering new ways to build a sense of community and shared purpose across the nation,” says Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School.
However, the real estate mogul turned reality TV star turned politician-cum-leader of the world’s most powerful nation faces a steep climb toward bringing about even the slightest amount of enthusiasm among his Democratic opponent’s supporters, many of whom view him as inexperienced and lacking understanding of government or policy.
In the end, Trump, who said in 2015 that he was “in for the win,” swept what is now seen as shocker elections, to become the new president of the United States, succeeding current outgoing President Barack Obama.
Never has the anticipation and voting results been this tight since 2000, when Al Gore competed against former President George W. Bush.
The result was inconclusive up until the last hours of counting the ballots, in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, Abu Dhabi time.
In the last 24 hours prior to the elections, exit polls by NGOs, media outlets and other groups had all shown how close the 2016 U.S. presidential race was, with a slight margin in favor of Clinton, who was ahead of Trump then by as low as four points.
And perhaps the FBI acquitting Clinton in its email-investigation case the day before the elec-tions has brought disgruntled republicans to vote in masses, in hopes that their leader, Trump, would live up to his promise of seeing her jailed after assuming the presidency.
Harrison Rubenfeld from New York says that, as a citizen, he “sees the sun is setting with Trump in America… I really respect the American constitution and wonder, with a Trump presidency, if he’ll uphold our values.”
But Trump’s supporters wanted an unorthodox leader, one with no ties to the so-called establishment.
“The fact that he has a multibillion-dollar company, that’s what we need: someone who can run our government like a business,” says one Trump voter in Pennsylvania.
However, according to Congressman Peter King, current U.S. representative for New York’s second congressional district, Trump has an opportunity to bring Democrats and Republicans together by finding an issue both agree needs attention.
“He could raise infrastructure spending,” King tells Newsweek Middle East. Issues like that, he says, would form at least some type of national unity.
“It’s not exotic, but it’s a way to start the mechanism going.”
During Trump’s candidacy, his character was scrutinized, and it will not be much different as president.
“Donald Trump’s biggest problem is going to be Donald Trump,” says Alan Singer, professor of learning and leadership at Hofstra University.
“He’s always been the boss and doesn’t take advice, but that’s not how government works in the United States. The president has to be a leader, not a boss,” he adds.
Singer also wants to see Trump define thought-out programs, take advice and pursue reconciliation with his political opponents.
According to Marc Fisher, who interviewed Trump for a book he co-authored titled Trump Revealed, Trump relies heavily on his instincts and is allergic to ideology.
Fisher recalls Trump telling him that he wants people to come into the office and tell him about something: “‘I will know in my gut what to do,’ [says Trump],” according to Fisher.
“He leaps deeply into his own instincts and apparently plans to rule by gut. So that’s a big change from the way Washington normally works,” he adds.
Then there is the issue of how Trump plans on running the government. Trump has always operated with a tight, loyal circle of executives; even during his campaign, he often relied on his children and a handful of others for advice.
“The government obviously is enormous and sprawling, and he somehow believes he can pare that down quite dramatically, so we would have to see how he struggled with that prospect,” Fisher tells Newsweek Middle East.
“I think people will be watching him more carefully, and that means they will be watching his appointments more carefully,” says King.
Representative King adds that if Trump “is able” to pass the first few tests in the eyes of the American public, he will be in a strong position to lead. The first question is whom he will appoint in key positions such as secretary of defense, national security adviser and secretary of state—jobs that involve the nuclear button, the use of force or quick and complex decisions of war and peace.
Americans will also be watching closely on who will be head of the CIA or, most importantly, the choice for head of the Department of Homeland Security.
“Then, also, somewhere there’s going to be the first crisis,” King says.
“There will be more pressure on him and his first crisis than another president would have.”
Political observers will be keen to see whether Trump has the right temperament to deal with a crisis situation: will he underreact? Or overreact?
Politically, President-elect Trump also has the daunting task of uniting an ever-more-polarized Republican party. King says: “He is going to get very little, if any support, from Democrats, certainly those in the House, so he would have to get the Republican Party united first.”
That will involve working closely with House Speaker Paul Ryan, with whom he’s had an awkward relationship, and Republican Senate Majority Leader Addison Mitchell “Mitch” McConnell, Jr. who is a senior U.S. Senator from Kentucky. McConnell has been the Majority Leader of the Senate since 2015.
Trump’s economic policies will be scrutinized the most, according to analysts.
“There are a lot of people out there who are hungry for a president who is going to propose big, revolutionary changes to our economy, that will take power from the folks running Wall Street and the big oil companies and the big pharmaceutical companies and hand it to regular people,” says Senator Chris Murphy, from the district of Connecticut.
Trump will first have to make sure that the current economic growth is felt by a large sector of the American workforce. “We’ve had gains in GDP, but it has not translated into wages. So the question is: how do you deal with an economy that’s growing but isn’t delivering real, tangible benefits to a huge swath of the workforce?” asks Murphy.
“Donald Trump is plugged into a very real belief, like most Americans, that the economy is rigged to benefit the rich and powerful, and it’s hard to argue with that.”
Pablo Muriel teaches U.S. history and participation in U.S. government at the Alfred E. Smith High School in South Bronx, New York, the poorest district in the nation.
He says 98 percent of his students and their families live below the poverty line, so they will look to see how their new leader will deal with “what affects them the most, like food stamp programs and social security. Most of my kids live on those things. They survive on those programs,” Muriel says.
While Muriel would have preferred to see Bernie Sanders on the Democratic ticket, he says many in his community voted for Trump, and he understands why.
“There’s a lot of similarities between the Sanders phenomenon earlier this year and the Trump phenomenon,” says Murphy.
“I think there are people who fundamentally believe the system is designed for the benefit of only a handful of very rich and powerful people, and you know, they’re not wrong,” he adds.
Internationally, Trump will have to outline a clear policy towards Russia, with which he has been accused of being too close for comfort at times. He will also have to outline his policies regarding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and other allies around the world.
THE MIDDLE EAST ISSUE
Regarding the Middle East, first and foremost will be Syria, says Fordham’s Karen Greenberg. Americans and the world will also be watching how Trump plans on working with the military to defeat Daesh.
His comment, “I know more about Daesh than the generals do,” is still regarded as one of the biggest gaffes of his campaign.
Whether he will send more Americans to fight on the ground in the region or use local forces rather than American military power will set in motion one of his most important foreign policy agendas.
It is certain that Trump has the backing of one powerful regional player, Saudi Arabia.
“It is important to note that the two countries successfully navigated various challenges throughout the history of our relationship, from countering Soviet expansion to the liberation of Kuwait to fighting Al Qaeda and Daesh side by side,” Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the U.S. Abdullah Al Saud, tells Newsweek Middle East.
“We might at times differ on certain tactics, which is normal between close allies and friends. However, our overall objectives remain aligned, and we look forward to continuing our work with the next administration towards peace, stability and prosperity in the region and the world over,” the ambassador adds.
Trump will also find another spikey issue at hand, and that is the Arab-Israeli conflict in general and the Palestinian issue in particular.
Arab nations will be monitoring his action towards those matters closely.
If this election proved one thing, Murphy says, it was that “people are sick of incrementalism” and “they are ready for some big changes.”
But “one of the most concerning aspects of his character that we learned in reporting for Trump Revealed’ was that we were talking about the campaign and how excited he’s been by it, how much fun he’s having. He says, ‘Yes, I’ve always been about the hunt and the chase, but once I get something I really want, I tend to lose interest in it.’ I don’t recall any previous presidents saying they tend to lose interest once they get things,” says Fisher.
His supporters will want to see the same determination as president that he demonstrated as the Republican candidate. With so much at stake in the upcoming years of his presidency, Trump will be hard-pressed to maintain that enthusiasm.
At the moment, most of the world along with millions of Americans, are holding their breaths and crossing their fingers in anticipation of what might come after Trump’s election.
Arab diplomats and officials, whom Newsweek Middle East spoke with, have all agreed that Trump will be the worst choice for the U.S., despite them stating that at the end of the day, it remains the choice of the American people.
“It is not healthy to put an inexperienced person as the president of the world’s strongest nation,” an Arab League diplomat, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells Newsweek Middle East.
The sentiment was also shared by intellectuals from the Arab Gulf region.
“Trump is the worst candidate to ever run in the history of the U.S. presidential elections,” says Dr. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, an Emirati political expert, professor of political science and chairman of the Arab Council for Social Science. To him, Trump “is the least credible, the least experienced and… he is full of it and thinks he knows everything but he doesn’t.”
None of the analysts and diplomats whom Newsweek Middle East approached believe that Trump would be able to take proper decisions on foreign policy matters.
“Hopefully his team is skilled and will be able to moderate and calm him [Trump] down,” Dr. Abdulla adds.
On the other hand, America’s biggest ally in the Arab world and Arab Gulf region Saudi Arabia, has been reserved in commenting throughout the electoral campaign and up until Trump’s primary win.
For eight decades, both have been cooperating on matters of defense, education, trade and other fields.
Perhaps it is because Saudi Arabia sees the U.S. beyond the person heading it.
According to the Saudi Ambassador Prince Abdullah, the Kingdom believes that despite the challenges and differences that the Saudi-American relations may have faced in the past, their relationship remains “solid.”
Differences are normal between close friends, he adds.
“We might at times differ on certain tactics, which is normal between close allies and friends. However, our overall objectives remain aligned,” the prince says.
BEYOND THE U.S.
Surprisingly, Trump, who had once called for building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and deporting Arabs and Muslims, vowed in his acceptance speech, to “deal fairly with everyone; all people and nations who will work,” with the U.S. on a “partnership, and not conflict,” basis.
Much to the dismay of many world leaders, they now have to deal with Trump. Throughout the presidential campaign, many officials had expressively spoken about their distrust and lack of support to the newly elected U.S. president, with Mexico’s President Pena Nieto saying Trump’s way of addressing issues resembles those of Italian and German dictators Mussolini and Hitler.
Argentina’s Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra also attacked Trump calling his policies “isolationist and xenophobic.”
And perhaps Russian President Vladimir Putin was one of the very few leaders who put in a good word for Trump, saying he favored him over Clinton.?Whatever Trump’s next step is, and his yet-to-be-shaped foreign policy would look like, one thing remains sure: The U.S. cannot afford to isolate itself from the world, and its president cannot afford to alienate a large component of his people based on race, religion or thoughts.
After all, the world still sees the U.S. as a superpower, and its upcoming foreign policy will have impact other nations on many levels, from security to economy. America was built on the hopes of millions who wished to see a state that safeguards the freedoms and rights of all its citizens, irrespective of their ethnic and religious background and political beliefs.
“I am reaching for your guidance and help,” Trump told those who opposed him in his speech early November 9, in a gest seen by many as an extended olive branch to his countrymen.