There is no way to mince words about the result. Donald Trump, who in the early hours of Wednesday morning won the presidency of the United States, is not the ideal candidate for the job.
He’s hardly the choice of the establishment, media, cultural, business or political. That includes the establishment of his own Republican party, which had been predicting – and quietly hoping – that his leadership would lead to a defeat of cataclysmic proportions. As recently as a few weeks ago, when a video of him bragging about groping women came out, many leaders of his party considered dropping him, because his time appeared to be up.
He’s not who the polls, scores and scores of them, said would come out on top.
His campaign appeared to be in almost permanent disarray, particularly in the last few weeks, a reflection of his own chaotic style. Throughout the election season, and at times even during his debates with Hillary Clinton, he would launch into extended rants or promise vendettas against those he believed had slighted him.
And yet, somehow, Mr. Trump, the reality TV star who jumped into politics, is now on the precipice of becoming president. Earlier this year, the man improbably defeated – crushed, actually – more experienced and deeper-pocketed candidates in the Republican primary. He then went on, more improbably still, to challenge and defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
There are a few lessons to draw from this.
First of all, Mr. Trump is a marketing genius. He has done the impossible. There is no other way to describe his simultaneous hostile takeover of one political party, and his conquest of the other on the electoral battlefield. Nothing like this has happened before. It was previously believed to be inconceivable.
He targeted the frustrations of a certain segment of the population – call them Middle America, call them the Silent Majority, call them whatever you will – and he understood how to reach them. He does not have answers to offer them. But he knew how to get them to vote for him.
If Mr. Trump has shaken the American political system and its two establishment parties to their foundations, it is because a sufficient large number of voters, in a few key states, decided that they are fed up with the status quo. America has not experienced an insurgency like this since Richard Nixon and the Republicans destroyed the New Deal Democratic Party coalition in 1968 and 1972.
Mr. Trump is as much of an outsider as it is possible to imagine at the pinnacle of U.S. politics. His opponent, Ms. Clinton, was the ultimate Beltway insider. But he intuited how to tap into the well of disaffection among American who have either been economically or culturally left behind, or who fear that they will be. Bernie Sanders tapped into a similar vein. Ms. Clinton could not.
As a result, Mr. Trump made gains and breakthroughs in areas where Democrats had long enjoyed comfortable majorities, from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin. The Midwest and the old Rustbelt leaned Trump, and that was enough to doom Ms. Clinton. In much of the country, the polls were largely right. But in the Midwest, they were spectacularly wrong. And Mr. Trump, as far as those voters are concerned, was spectacularly right.
For America, and for the rest of the world, big changes are coming.
Tuesday’s results leave Congress firmly in the hands of Republicans – which means the Trump program, such as it is, can be enacted.
That means a big tax cut, focused on upper-income earners, is coming.
It means Obamacare is on the chopping block, though it’s unclear what replaces it.
It means the Great Wall of Mexico is on the table, though no one knows how it can be built, or where, or who will pay for it.
It means the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement is dead. It means the North American Free Trade Agreement is at the risk of being reopened.
It means America’s allies, from the Pacific to the Middle East, are left with questions about where America stands, and where they sit. Countries that rely on American help to counter Russian influence are particulary worried.
It means that the Obama administration’s plan to phase in the Paris climate accords, phase out coal and move to cleaner energy are on death row.
All of this will have an enormous impact on Canada, and Canadian politics. The Trudeau government and nearly all Canadian provinces are bringing in aggressive greenhouse gas-reduction policies. But if our American neighbour is no longer going down the same road, Canada’s policies will be less effective, and they may prove economically non-viable. Depending on where Washington goes, Ottawa and the provinces may have to rethink parts their green strategy.
At the same time, Canada’s decade-long struggle to get pipelines approved and built has almost certainly been given a boost. Remember Keystone XL? Democrats blocked and killed it, which forced Canada to come up with new and contentious pipeline routes to the Atlantic and the Pacific. But Republicans consistently championed Keystone XL.
A Trump administration might make it harder for Canada to bring in carbon taxes – but easier to build pipelines.
Mr. Trump is not the ideal president for America, or for Canada. But Ottawa never gets to choose who it has to work with in Washington. And now, Mr. Trudeau will have to work with Mr. Trump. What a long, strange trip this is going to be.Report Typo/Error
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