Our Future with Donald Trump

Trump has won the battle against the political establishment for now. But what must Europe be prepared for next?

The Americans have made their choice. Donald Trump is an exception among American Presidents: he has never held political office. That was also his key message: As a true outsider, he promised to truly stir up the Washington establishment.

This establishment did not cover itself in glory during the campaign: The Republican elite entirely lost control of the nomination process. For the Democrats, Hillary Clinton positioned herself so skilfully that the Democratic Party initially wanted to forego the primaries entirely. Then the Socialist from Vermont wouldn't have got a look in. His campaign went very well indeed. His main theme was the battle against the establishment. So the voters saw two dynamic campaigns, namely those of the outsiders Trump and Sanders. The political establishment seemed to have imploded across the political spectrum. Both parties are a shadow of themselves.

Whoever liked Sanders did not necessarily choose Clinton

It was clear from the outset that Hillary Clinton would have problems in mobilising her own party’s base, and this ultimately cost her victory. Both candidates are less well-liked than any other candidate for the office in history. The reputation of being part of the aloof establishment and therefore of the problem also stuck to Hillary Clinton. What’s more, for liberal analysts, the demographic handicap of Republican voters is a persistent factor. The voters are white, less educated, male, and live predominantly in rural areas. Time and these trends work for Democrats. This type of self-assurance led, among other things, to Clinton not visiting important states such as Wisconsin a single time throughout her campaign. The second question relates to the whereabouts of supporters of Bernie Sanders. They were apparently booked to the party’s account to recklessly. Voter discontent has been recognised for some time; to date, the Democrats have proven unable to achieve policies that give people the feeling of belonging and no longer being hung out to dry socially, economically and culturally.

Trump will have to change

For Democrats, the outcome of the election is a real disaster. Republicans not only have the Presidency, but also the majority in both Houses of Congress. The majority of Governors are also Republicans. However, this also puts the Republicans under significant pressure. After years, and in fact decades, of blockage by Democratic holders of office being a fixed component of Republican politics, they now cannot steal themselves from the responsibility.
There are two scenarios here: firstly, the party could govern itself entirely given these majorities. However, it seems more likely that now the dispute will go in the other direction. Even under Obama, the atmosphere in the Republican fraction of the House of Representatives time and time again had the whiff of civil war. The mood in there is hot enough without Trump’s bluster. Instead, he will have to shift his approach if he wants to hold his troops together. His speech after the election sounded markedly conciliatory. With Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey, as head of the transition team, he has edged towards the party establishment. Without its support, Trump will fail in the political jungle of Washington.

Aside from the election battle, which revealed little in terms of policies, little is known about Trump’s plans. Although he will take a hard line on immigrants and terrorism and strengthen the military, he also promised investment in education and infrastructure. On the other hand, he wants to repeal Obamacare, Trump’s predecessor’s most important project. Minorities, in terms of sexual orientation or ethnicity, may have a hard time ahead of them. As a businessman who earns his money in the USA, he tends toward protectionism, and so The TTIP and TPP trade agreements that are currently under negotiation may have little chance of realisation. One of his most important promises is to create jobs.

Is a right wing populist international movement in the making?

In Brussels and the European capital cities, there are complaints that there was hardly any contact with the election campaign team or even with advisers on foreign affairs. This is no surprise as Trump, as a candidate, consulted no foreign affairs expertise whatsoever. His positive statements regarding Putin and his management style as well as shared appearances with the British Brexitier Nigel Farage are less encouraging. The profiles of right-wing international politics are already clearly visible.

Experienced transatlantics on both sides view this with horror. Trump neither approves of the weakening and lagging European Union, nor does he indicate any great sympathies for NATO. It may be some time until he recognises that a strong, even militaristic, America will be reliant upon NATO. Europeans should adjust to greater autonomy.

Europeans would also be well advised to develop a pragmatic relationship with the new President. Firstly, we will have to live with the choice our most important ally has made. The signs indicate a limitation of damage and the view that a new Congress will be elected in two years, and a new President in four years. Until then, Americans and all of the West may have turbulent times ahead.