The View from London: The PR Office looks at US Elections
Trump’s win has sent shockwaves around the world, as his platform of anti-establishment, pro-isolationist populist swept across the US.
Despite the confidence in Clinton who had consistently polled ahead of the Republican nominee, with election-day predictions offering a 15% chance of a Trump Presidency, the odds suddenly shortened as Florida balked expectations and began to turn red.
Much has been made of the parallels with Brexit – Trump was the soi-disant ‘Mr Brexit’ while Nigel Farage described 8 November as ‘Brexit day’. Certainly there were many similarities in the feel of the evening, as quiet confidence from party insiders at the start of the night began to ebb away as the results rolled in.
The deciding demographic for this election was white, non-college educated men. Trump’s anti-establishment tone tapped into a section of the nation which has felt sidelined by years of globalisation, and engaged with the perception that minorities, alongside a dismissive and uncaring corporate elite, have forced them into the sidelines. Clinton’s bid for the Latino and African-American vote simply didn’t cut through. Just with Brexit, the sense that something must change and change now – making America ‘great’ again – carries with it a sense of nostalgia for an unspecified time when things were, simply, better.
Then there is failure of the pollsters to engage with the electorate in a meaningful way. While the idea of the ‘shy tory’ voter unwilling to share their voting intentions is familiar in the UK, the sheer scale of the Trump’s voting core has blasted polling out of the water. There are questions about how polling is conducted – online and touch phone responses tending to skew more accurately to the right – as well as whether the right questions are being asked. Perhaps, even, it could be voters’ resistance to questioning from part of a political machine that they feel a disconnected from. How the polling industry will recover from a year of high profile failures remains to be seen.
So what can we expect from the Trump presidency? In truth, it is difficult to know – Trump’s policy declarations have been erratic and one of the greatest criticisms of the Presidential Debates has been how thin they were on content. Certainly the core of his rhetoric has been focused on returning jobs and industry from abroad to America, and enforcing more stringent border controls to protect against terrorism and illegal immigration from Mexico. While the control of the House of Representatives and the Senate is now in the hands of the Republicans, who would be able to push legislation through with little resistance, there will be some barriers to Trump enacting any of his planned policies. Firstly, his lack of public service means that the nuance and processes of an administration will potentially put paid to what is realistic and practicable. And secondly, the schisms his nomination has created within the GOP could, potentially, lead to rebellions blocking the passage of legislation. House Speaker Paul Ryan, for example, had become increasingly outspoken against Trump’s misogynistic revelations, and even if he doesn’t seek re-election to the post of speaker, it’s possible that he could support resistance in Congress.
The greatest challenge will be for Trump to establish what he can deliver and whether that matches up with the high hopes of a disenfranchised population. We will soon see if America is happy with its choices or if it will mirror the UK and come down with a serious case of Rep-gret.