Trump’s Victory: The Elephants Woke Up

Some people didn’t believe that Trump was going to win. Others were afraid of his victory. The American election system seemed to be created in such a way that no incident like this could ever happen.

The primaries and the electoral college are designed to weed out any politicians unacceptable to the elite. In this election cycle, people believed that the safety mechanism would work again. However something went wrong, which was unexpected and even disappointing for many people.  Then again, it is disappointing only for the elite.  In reality, it’s a matter of a naturally determined fact, as formulated by Yury Andropov in reference to Soviet society: “We haven’t managed to get to know the society we work and live in yet”. These days that saying is relevant to the US as well. The “one-story America” where many representatives of the American establishment grew up has remained in the twentieth century.

The new globalised economy, which was supposed to bring only prosperity and well-being, is drastically changing society. The western middle class that was the backbone of the liberal-democratic system during the post-war period has begun rapidly breaking down. Estimates were made in the 1990s showing that the average income of an office worker is lower than the income of a qualified worker in industry, and that white-collar workers face a higher risk of unemployment. The unprecedented level of working people’s individual exposure to economic risks in post-industrial economies is a serious social and political factor – hence one of Trump’s main promises: to invest in infrastructure. Until now, it has been primarily the voice of the elite that has been heard. But in 2016 the masses began to speak up –millions of voters in the Republican Party and beyond.

Trump is a typical product of the globalised economy. But the irony of history is that he also personifies the massive protest against its consequences. His program is rather syncretic, focused on cronyism. A drop in taxes on businesses and reducing large-scale projects of economic integration should enable the return of American capital and industry to its motherland. However, the president-elect charmed many people in the guise of a rebel protesting against the elite and the system they created.  Both democrats and republicans thought he was an outcast. We should do justice to Trump: he chose a faultless strategy. Instead of fighting against the trend, he used it in his favour. And he won. Trump is the indicator of extreme contradictions within American society. If this trend continues, the contradictions could reach a certain limit and turn from latent to active clashes, if not a revolution.

Is the new president going to be a revolutionary? His wish to get even with the party elite might be reasonable and understandable. But the question is, how well is Trump prepared for this? There is no obvious answer to that. Let’s not forget, he has never been involved in politics. Trump used to say that “politics is a hard business”, but this formula is not correct. Politics and business are very different activities; perhaps they cannot be combined at all. Still, even a partial realisation of Trump’s program could be the second step in a new course, the turning point in American development, which could be followed by the whole world. Just a year ago the US seemed to be the rock that could consolidate western society. Today this is no longer so. Perhaps, as a result, the world will see new global initiatives and projects, such as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Chinese model of leadership behind it, which is supposed to be discreet and invisible. Little by little, China has already managed to shore up its economic capacity, and its military potential is quietly growing.

Any state of unrest can be dangerous due to its unpredictability – we shouldn’t forget that Trump won with a slender majority, and some parts of American society hoped for the opposite outcome.  Now these people are discouraged but mobilised. It’s unlikely we’ll see an American Maidan, but it’s a challenge for the political system and the new president. The successful handling of this challenge will teach us all a lot.

What’s the Russian interest in all of this?  In my opinion, it is too early to expect any fundamental development in mutual relations. The president of US is powerful, but his power is not absolute. All the headlines in the mass media sustain confrontational posturing, and stopping this trend is not that simple. But still, a certain window of stabilisation is obviously opening. During the election campaign, Trump declared his intention to restore relations with Russia. Obviously we should expect that his advisors will be working on contacts with influential formal and informal representatives of Russian political circles. For now, let’s trust his optimism.


The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the original author(s) and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views and opinions of the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute, its co-founders, or its staff members.

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