Trump wins the US Presidential Election – Commentary from our experts

Donald Trump has won the U.S. presidential election 2016 – read a first round of commentaries from our experts at Canterbury Christ Church University.

Dr Andre Barrinha, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations


“In terms of foreign policy, I think it will be particularly interesting to see what the now President-elect Donald Trump will do regarding NATO and Russia. Despite his sceptical stance towards the Atlantic Alliance during the campaign (partially reversed in one of the debates with Hillary Clinton when he said he was ‘all for NATO’) , I suspect the US support for NATO will continue. The business as usual attitude may not apply to the currently tense relations between Russia and the US. Trump has more than once declared its admiration for President Putin and conspiracy theories aside, we could see a rapprochement between Washington and Moscow, which could have important implications for Eastern Europe and the Middle East. More due to the tone of his campaign than anything else, it will also be interesting to see how relations with Mexico and the Muslim world will unfold. Finally, in Brussels, Berlin and other European capitals, Washington will certainly feel a distant place today. One has to wonder if London woke up with the same feeling…”

Dr David Bates, Director of Politics and International Relations

david-bates“What happened in the US last night shocked some sections of the political elite, along with many so-called experts. But is this really so shocking? We are in the middle of a global financial crisis. As we saw in the 1930s, it is not necessarily liberals who the masses turn to in such a situation. Donald Trump is now leader of the ‘free world’. This is an important conjuncture for neo-liberalism – the explosion of ‘post-truth’ populism together with economic crisis and the decline of the US as global hegemon.  I am concerned not so much about what this means for so-called liberal centrists (Tariq Ali has written of the ‘extreme centre’) who have been entirely complicit with the violence of the global neo-liberal project. I shed no tears therefore for the supporters of Hillary Clinton. But what does this mean for the anti-capitalist left? The moment of Trump is undoubtedly an Event. The pure id turning against the neo-liberal ego, rampant desire mobilised against rational economic self-interest. For the anti-capitalist project, therefore, this might be the moment when the system turns in on itself – the moment of destruction which will lay the seeds for a new possible future beyond the market. However, I doubt this very much. Writing against Marxist determinism Rosa Luxemburg argued that in a period of crisis, there were at least two possible outcomes – socialism or ‘barbarism’. I fear that the most powerful country in the world may have just chosen barbarism.”

Dr Mark Bennister, Reader in Politics and International Relations


“The civil servants who drafted Theresa May’s statement congratulating President-elect Donald Trump had a tough job. The UK Government, struggling to present a coherent plan on Brexit didn’t want the uncertainty of a Trump Presidency. Hillary Clinton was a known commodity and a May-Clinton-Merkel axis sounded appealing. However as we know from the UK experience, political continuity and stability is currently in short supply. The upheaval in the US may, as ITVs Robert Peston pointed out, make EU membership look a more secure option and help to drive a softer Brexit. That may be wishful thinking, but with such an inward looking and divisive campaign in the US, British interests are unlikely to be high on the agenda under Trump. Reaching beyond the global impact, we as academics need to engage more fully in understanding how political leadership has become so toxic, resorting to such low level tactics in order to press the electoral buttons.”

Dr Laura Cashman, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations


“A bubble has burst. The great American myth that anyone can be president, regardless of their background or race has exploded. Evidently any MAN with enough money can be president – even one with no political experience whatsoever. On the other hand, a woman who has amassed a lifetime of political experience cannot. She will be held to higher standards than a man. Her attitudes, her decisions, her demeanour will be criticised for being false, for not being something else. But what else? Not masculine enough or not feminine enough?  This election has to be viewed through a gender lens to make any sense.

Gender politics isn’t simply about pay gaps or proportions of women in different roles in public life. It is about power. The patriarchal structures are so deeply entrenched that we cannot see or feel them but they control our lives, our choices and our decisions. Men and women are trained to see some roles or forms as behaviour to be appropriate for only half the population. When someone attempts to transgress those boundaries they are dragged back into line. Both Clinton and Trump are white, hugely wealthy, trailed by allegations of corruption. On top of that Trump showed himself to be an impulsive, narcissistic, racist, misogynistic, sexual predator. And yet Americans still decided that he would be better placed to be their head of state. I can’t help think it’s because his masculinity, however distasteful, still proved to better fit the cognitive frame of what a Commander in Chief needs to be.”

Dr Amelia Hadfield, Reader in European Foreign Affairs

amelia-hadfieldSo much for the status quo. So much for structure, logic, predictability, allies and the rule book of governance. Reasons to be excited? Revolution seems fun and necessary. Who doesn’t enjoy the euphoria accompanying ‘winds of change’. Millions of them are riding that wind today. Reasons to run screaming for the hills (they’re coming from the hills, my lord… well then, run the other way, run away from the hills)? A vociferous repudiation of the status quo does not a brave new world make. It’s one thing to rewrite the rules on the norms of campaigning. It’s quite another to intimate a massive overhaul of the western democratic order. The Trump victory is improbable as it is historic. The point is that the key debate about the disenfranchised vs ‘the system’, the ‘voiceless America’ vs ‘the establishment’ argument is that will promptly be telescoped onto the international terrain. In foreign policy terms, the anti-candidate may now be tempted to take the same tack and rip up the rule books.

This could mean deconstructing the ‘form’ of global governance, comprising multilateral neoliberal structures. And its ‘content’: collectively if uneasily managed agreements on security and defence (e.g. NATO, NAFTA), trade (WTO), international cooperation in general (UN) and bloc-to-bloc agreements (US-EU), and key treaties on large issues (e.g. climate change). Or the outcome may mean more of the same: Trump foreign policy that is long on rhetoric and short on details. Maybe the benefit of an anti-establishment candidate is that … he doesn’t need a plan! Wouldn’t that be nice. A brave new methodology based on bluffing large chunks of the American electorate now disenfranchised by their opposition to Trump, and rebuffing the international community (to whom disenfranchisement now looks like the smart option). What are the chances that the most divisive candidate in American electoral history can indeed heal the deepest political, social and economic fault lines that have emerged to define modern America, let alone those that continue to exist abroad? Slim, at best. Even Brexit doesn’t look so bad after this. The EU looks generally manageable. And Canada looks like what it’s always looked like: ‘the True North’. Not necessarily strong. But still free.

Dr Soeren Keil, Reader in Politics and International Relations


“I find it fascinating that the “imagined suffering” of the white man in the USA has finally managed to dominate the discourse in a society, in which being white and male is still a recipe to privilege. Trump will clearly not be able to deliver on many of the promises he has made, it is for example difficult to see why Mexico would pay for a border wall. Despite his first focus on “unity”, internally, there will be many wounds to heal and divisions to overcome. Will Trump be able to do this? He will surely have to spend a lot of time focusing on the US economy, taking into account that the markets are already negatively reacting to his election. Many people remain disenfranchised from politics and feel as they have lost out. Trump, while being a multi-millionaire, campaigned as the “voice of the people”, the representative of those that have been alienated by economic crises, by an elite that seems to get richer and richer and does not take the concerns of “the people” into account. Will Trump now act as a man of the people? Much will depend on the people around Trump, how they will be able to ensure that at least some of his promises are kept without causing major upheaval in the US economy and in Foreign Policy. Of course one of the main worries for the near future is that many racists, from the KKK to the Tea Party movement, will now feel that they have won and that their ideas are fashionable and supported by a majority of Americans. In light of racial conflict, increased distribution conflicts and growing tensions between people in different parts of the USA, this will create a massive challenge. One might not agree with Trump and his ideas, but one should really wish him good luck, he will need it!”

Dr Philipp Köker, Senior Research Fellow in Politics and International Relations

philipp-koker“The outcome of the elections seems to have confirmed one of Juan Linz’ ‘perils of presidentialism’ – the election of a populist outsider candidate. Although Trump won the Republican nomination, he has no established ties with the party and already faces opposition from a number of its legislators. Thus, Trump who neither has any experience of holding elected office, nor can rely on parliamentary representation, needs to find other ways to influence policy. While executive vetoes and public veto threats reached an all-time low under Barack Obama, Trump will need to resort to a much more frequent use of his powers – not only to make himself heard and effect the change he promised, but also to satisfy his supporters. Even if his vetoes are overridden and policy initiatives blocked, presidential activism is an important signal to the electorate – particularly for a self-styled anti-establishment candidate.”

Dr Sarah Lieberman, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations


“March and Olsens’s seminal text on the new institutionalism (1989) instructs us that institutions matter. Today, this is important. As an institution the role of President of the United States of America seen many crises, pitfalls and difficult times: it has survived Watergate, Monica-gate and Reagan as President.  Although it is difficult today to see how any institution can withstand the extreme rightwing sentiment of not only the newly elected President Trump, but also the majority of US citizens, we must have faith that the operational machinery of state, the rules, norms, operating procedures and faceless grey bureaucrats of the institution will uphold a level of decency. Institutions matter: let us make sure they continue to matter, continue to constrain behaviour and continue to uphold the liberal democratic ideals that they were constructed to support.”

Dr Demetris Tillyris, Lecturer in Politics and International Relations

demetris-tillyris“The outcome of the US presidential election constitutes a reflection of a rather familiar current of modern thought and feeling, often characterised as a kind of disenchantment with democratic politics and its practitioners – or, at least, a kind of disenchantment with the establishment and with ‘politics as usual’. Trump’s rise to power (amongst other recent, unfortunate events) and the sense of disenchantment itself– the sense of moral loss and decline in democratic politics and the corresponding desire to clean up and morally sanitise democratic politics once-and-for all– can, to a considerable extent, be explained by reference to the recognition that most citizens appear to subscribe to a rather problematic, naive and indeed potentially disastrous, vision of political morality and of political integrity: the conviction that political integrity should be akin to moral integrity, or the integrity and consistency of the saint (or, perhaps, of the rhinoceros). On this account, political practitioners should be uncompromising tout court: they should act purely on the basis of their principles and public proclamations. From the perspective of this account, the ‘mere’ compromises which characterise ‘politics as usual’, and the acts of betrayal and deception which typically accompany these, amount to no integrity at all and should be discarded as immoral tout court.

We do, however, have reasons to doubt whether an uncompromising disposition is a political virtue. For, those who find compromise, lying and betrayal intolerable, who concede nothing to others who espouse opposing values, are characterized by a dogmatic inflexibility which is unsuited for the messy world of politics – a world characterised by diversity, pluralism and disagreement over how we should live. At its worst, an uncompromising disposition might find expression in a zealous, uncontaminated and explicitly violent, Robespierrian will to impose one’s principles and unconditionally honour the dictates of one’s conscience come what may. The single-minded quest of moral purity and sanitation is purchased at a terrible price: it is bound to reduce the rest of us into a Procrustean bed of a rigid, monistic dogma and to jeopardize the goods which politics should shelter: a modicum of order, security, stability and civility. Iff Trump’s public proclamations constitute an accurate reflection of his principles and convictions, one can thus only hope that his reign will be a reaffirmation of ‘politics as usual’.”


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