In the early hours of Wednesday morning it was confirmed that, following one of the most personal and divisive elections in U.S political history, Donald Trump would be the 45th President of the United States. Trump defied the odds, the pollsters and media to claim a landmark victory. However, the question everyone is asking is where now for the U.S.A? Faced with the choice between the establishment candidate in Hillary Clinton and Trump, the political novice, the U.S. has torn up the rule book in what was an historic election result.
Polls had not predicted this outcome nor had the political elite; some would even argue that it was a shock for Trump himself – a reality TV star who reportedly only initially ran as part of a TV deal. However, in the last eighteen months, political upsets have become a common theme, following the 2015 UK General Election result and the outcome of the EU Referendum. Of course, the sense of shock depends on your political outlook. Whilst the (mainly) liberal media was almost united in their belief that the election would return a Democrat to the White House, a different conversation was taking place across the dinner tables of blue collar and Middle America. People are angry, people want to be heard and when they have that opportunity they will make that statement.
A key question is how the pollsters got it so wrong. I am sure there will be much more detailed analyses into them than I can provide. However, I believe that it came down to the 11th hour emergence of shy Trump voters, who feel embarrassed to own up to agreeing with Trump’s views.
A significant amount of Trump’s support came from educated men earning over $50,000, who the CNN exit polls put as Trumps core base. In addition, the exit polls showed that there was as much as a 25% shift in low earning voters from the Democrats to the Republicans. Working class voters who felt that globalisation hasn’t worked in their favour changed their long term allegiance from the Democrat Party to the Republican Party as part of a wider rebellion against the established order. This group took inspiration from the UK’s vote to leave the European Union and cast their votes for the candidate who offered the most decisive break from the past.
The result has already moved markets across the world. About half an hour into trading, the FTSE 100 was down by 1%, (although it steadied following Trump’s speech), whilst the dollar is slightly weaker against the Pound and Euro. This, it should be said, was less than the UK weekend press had predicted. Nonetheless, many investors across the globe are still to be convinced that Trump can lead the world’s largest economy to safer ground. Such are the extent of business concerns that, today, Chief Executives from more than 1,100 US companies, including Boeing, Coca-Cola and Caterpillar, wrote an open letter to Donald Trump, warning of “an urgent need to restore faith in our vital economic and Government institutions” after the election. The letter comes as some businesses express concern about uncertainty and threats to trade in the wake of Trump’s victory, while seeing opportunities in possible tax cuts and deregulation.
After Trump’s triumph, huge questions remain for his defeated opponent – Hillary Clinton, and the wider Democrat Party. Hillary Clinton had a negative image among the American public especially after the FBI email investigation. The Clinton foundation was also called into question as its use of donations had been dogged with legal questions. Many hard line republicans have also had a long standing hate for the Clinton family since Bill Clinton’s presidency. There was also a perception that her downfall came from the view that she was a continuation of the Obama Presidency. Though he is flying high in the opinion polls, blue collar Americans as well as Republicans clearly wanted change.
Not only has Trump managed to throw a spanner into the works of the establishment, but many Democrats and liberals are now fearful that his legacy will undo Barack Obama’s legacy. The current administration’s approach to tackling the fall out of the economic crisis, affordable health care and gun crime are all key policy issues that are likely to be approached from an opposing stand point by the next President. Where America goes from here will become more clear as Trump appoints his Cabinet and his West Wing staff.