Wednesday, 9 November 2016

When will the real Donald Trump stand up?

First the good news. Donald Trump the president will be nothing like Donald Trump the candidate. The nature of the job means he will be have to be more conciliatory and willing to compromise. He will be surrounded by officials, advisers, ambassadors, secretaries, military figures –relationships he will need and have to nurture – and his bombastic, my way or the highway attitude simply won’t work.

Look at some of his most attention grabbing plans during the campaign and it’s reassuring to see many are illegal, impractical or impossible. All Muslims will not be barred from entering the United States. Eleven million illegal immigrants will not be deported. Hillary Clinton will not be sent to jail. And, while his team remain insistent it will happen, the building of a wall along the 3,200km border with Mexico will prove immensely difficult and expensive to achieve. And the Mexicans have already said they won’t pay.

In his victory speech, President-elect Trump (boy, that’s going to take some getting used to!) was clearly at pains to be as magnanimous and inclusive as he possibly could be. Far from reissuing his threats to Hillary Clinton he said the country owed her ‘a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country’. Trump made an effort to unify the nation:

‘Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division…. to all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to get together as one united people. It’s a time, I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.’

Next, regardless of how isolationist Trump has threatened to be, he will find he needs international allies. Theresa May, ever the submarine, has managed not to say anything too rude about Mr Trump. She will simply have to ignore and rise above the manner in which Trump talks about women in order to build a professional, working relationship. Brexiteers are claiming Trump’s election will make negotiating a free trade deal with the US easier as we might no longer be at the ‘back of the queue’. This, however, relies on having faith in a campaign pledge – a bold step – and Trump might not show one iota of interest in Brexit Britain.

The problems begin when one starts considering what he can do and what might happen. While stopping all Muslims from entering the US won’t happen, it’s hard to imagine that American Muslims won’t face more discrimination and racist attacks under a Trump presidency; as with the Brexit vote here, racists will believe the vote endorses their behaviour, whether it does or not.

Obamacare looks doomed. During the campaign Trump said he would dismantle it ‘very, very quickly’ and replace it with ‘free market reforms’. What this means in practice is unknown, but a hasty repeal will leave millions of people, the poorest in US society, without healthcare. Will Trump even bother to find an alternative?

Trump has indicated he wants swiftly to end any US involvement in international climate change deals. Taxes for the wealthy could be cut and his desire to bring jobs back to the US and hike tariffs could trigger several trade wars.

Many clearly do feel appalled and sick to the stomach that someone who has been openly racist, boastful of sexually assaulting women, someone so crude, someone who, for some, provokes comparisons with disturbing events in the 1930s, could possibly have been elected to the highest office in the free world.

Ultimately, though, what I can’t shake from my head is David Duke, the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Donald Trump didn’t want his endorsement but had it nonetheless. Trump won and the KKK are celebrating. It's hard to think of anything more disturbing.

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