Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Why Trump Won

Winston Churchill said, "Democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time", and I tend to agree - as imperfect as it is, democracy sure beats dictatorship. It has been revealing to observe the protests against Donald Trump's election as the next president of the United States. Like the protests after the Brexit vote, it is difficult to discern what the complainants actually want to achieve; however, it is obvious they do not really want electors to have a genuine choice and they think the voting system is only there to validate their own narrow views.

During the election campaign we saw the media and left-wing commentators try to delegitimise the Trump campaign. Trump himself didn't help of course, straying from the real issues into personal prejudices as with his comments about Mexicans, but the dismissal of anyone who supported the Trump campaign as racist, sexist or fascist demonstrated an intolerance that, in my view, was worse than anything Trump said. The trend is continuing post-election, with mainstream media outlets such as Reuters demonising the appointment of Breitbart editor Stephen Bannon as a "right-wing firebrand" who has turned his news site into a "loose online group of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites." I read Breitbart occasionally and at worst it is a strident voice of conservative America and at best it is a forum that robustly challenges the prevailing left-wing consensus of the mainstream media.

Trump's win was due to the frustrations of Americans with the leadership of their country. Mostly that frustration is about economic matters, particularly the high levels of underemployment amongst non-college educated Americans and the huge increase in the cost of health insurance under Obama's so-called Affordable Care Act. However, a degree of the frustration was about the erosion of the pluralism that is an essential part of democracy and the fact that it has become unacceptable in much of the mainstream media and social media to espouse any views other than the prevailing left-wing orthodoxy. I believe many Americans voted for Trump simply because they wanted to reassert their right to hold a dissenting view.

I disagree with most of what Trump stands for and I don't think he is going to be a great president, but the thing about political leaders is that you often don't know what they really will be like until they are in the role. One of New Zealand's most effective prime ministers in recent years was Helen Clark, who, like Trump, was dismissed as unelectable before she got into power. Trump is the American president-elect whether his opponents like it or not and if they have any respect for the American republic and its democratic system, then they have to accept the result and give him a chance.

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