Sun | Apr 22, 2018

Edward Seaga | Trump’s trump card – the blue collars

Published:Sunday | November 13, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Trump supporter Grant Bynum raises his hands after hearing the news Donald Trump won Ohio in the presidential election during a Dallas County Republican watch party at the Westin Dallas Park Central hotel in Dallas, Texas, on Tuesday, November 8.

Voters in the American presidential election of November 8 were trumped by the billionaire, Donald Trump.

The election featured an almost ceaseless stream of vile accusations on both sides, accusing Trump of massive tax avoidance over two decades and alleged sexual abuse publicly disclosed by aggrieved women, among other incidents.

Hillary Clinton was ahead in the electoral race from early and in comfortable control until she was confronted by the FBI with accusations of using her personal server to process government emails, possibly including top-secret government correspondence. Exposing secret correspondence was a criminal offence if proven.

She was eventually vindicated on the eve of election day by the FBI, leaving no time to sufficiently advise the public who went to the polls with the mistaken impression that she faced criminal charges as Trump politically maintained.

He won the vote of the Electoral College, 298 to 228; the popular vote was narrowly won by Clinton.

Who is Donald Trump? One of the moguls of the real-estate world in America owning several monumental buildings accommodating his high-rise offices and apartment buildings, casinos and hotels. In addition, he owns many golf courses, all of which entitled him to enjoy the status of billionaire without disclosing the size of his fortune.

But there is another side to this man who was widely considered to be unfit for the position of president of the United States.

His campaign was laced with provocative, crude, inept speeches that caused great concern as to how as the American president he would compare with the seasoned political leaders of the world. This could bring shame to the USA.

Psychologically, he was a narcissist, which gave credence to the concern that he would not be able to tolerate the advisers around him.

But there is more to this man who broke several glass ceilings in his campaigning:

- He fiercely accused the media, in general, of being biased;

- When he realised that he was losing, he charged that the election was rigged;

- The Republican Party leadership was insulted openly by him when he was challenged about his raucous conduct and wild strategy; even his colleagues who participated with him in the debate had to leave under his damaging shameful and disrespectful references to them;

- He threatened to boycott his party and campaign on his own, which he did;

- His view of Washington was that it was the roost of inept, self-serving politicians, not interested in the people they served;

- Wall Street did not escape his caustic comments, nor did he spare foreign leaders and countries;

- Women were abused in language using the most vulgar terms;

- But he saved the worst for his opponent, Hillary Clinton who in the rundown to the election he disrespectfully referred to in virtually every speech as "corrupt" and having a 30 years of unsuccessful performance in politics;

- Trump is perceived as a racist for his insistence that President Barack Obama was not an American, and other racial remarks. The statement by the Ku Klux Klan that they were supporting him, which he rejected, exposed him to the racial divide which will need his full attention;

- Immigration policy would deal only with documented persons. This could resurrect "America for Americans"as a popular policy after deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US;

- And characteristic of his style, he would "bomb the s**t out of ISIS", which could create more civilian deaths than in the ISIS military forces;

But still, he was elected with a solid majority. Why?




The central feature of this campaign was that Donald Trump created a blue-collar coalition movement involving workers from the construction industries, factories, wharfs and their counterparts on farms, tradesmen, clerical and middle-level workers, among others, who are fed up with Washington making pacts with foreign countries that business favoured and workers lost their jobs. He was "making America great again", he extolled.

Trump's promise to review Obamacare, the national health system, to spare the people from its growing costs that would make health care more expensive. This was hailed nationally. His commitment to substantially increase the minimum wage was another signal to the blue-collar movement that he cared.

Notwithstanding these positive policies, Americans feared putting the ability to set off a nuclear war by this wild-card president.

Anti-Trump protests have now been staged by small and large crowds in many cities and fires set in many forests. They were giving notice that his provocative and abusive actions would not be tolerated. Later, Trump supporters arrived. All these were areas of the national divide that he has promised to heal as he displayed a new Trump who would be more compliant; but only time will tell.

Trump's hard hats are also going to be insistent on America limiting foreign military involvements which they consider do not involve the United States. This could radically alter the boundaries of nations fighting oppression in the world without American backing.

Still to come is perhaps the most dangerous initiative. The new Trump administration is likely to impose a 35% duty on imports having American content to dissuade American business from having their goods produced overseas. In today's trade, that could be a severe blow to foreign economies, such as China's.

It appears to be unknown that this is what caused the Great Depression of 1929.

Such a policy could cause untold distress for Americans at home and abroad as the economies of foreign countries would experience creeping collapse from a dysfunctional American economy.

Trump will have to learn the diplomatic art of compromise for his administration to be strong enough to heal his divided nation and to maintain peace and global stability. He will need a lot of guidance, which the new Trump would have to learn where the old Trump failed.

If his blue-collar movement is to survive as a critical new voice politically, they, too, would have to learn to compromise, lest they become just more of the category of those who are already known as 'ugly Americans'.

In their hands rests the future of the globe and balance of power.

- Edward Seaga is a former prime minister.