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Trump’s Biggest Challenge: Bringing Together the Nation He Helped Divide

By: María Teresa Romero - @mt_romero - Nov 13, 2016, 8:34 pm
(Trump) Trump
It is not a mere rhetoric to say that after this presidential campaign, the United States is a different nation. (Trump)

EspañolNow that the US election dust is settling, there are innumerable analysis of the fate of the still — though in decline — world power, and the reasons for Donald Trump‘s stunning upset.

It was so atypical an election that the US made headlines across the world and kept political leaders, citizens, and stock exchanges of every continent on tenterhooks.

At this point, however, what should be calling our attention is what this presidential election, which some describe as “historical,” have revealed about US society.

During a rally in Arizona late last week, Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine stated: “This election is not just about where we are going, but about who we really are.”

On November 9, US citizens did not only wake up to a new president, but also to a polarized society, fragmented by the overwhelming and aggressive way the Republican candidate oriented and developed his campaign.

Trump has managed to bring out the worst fears and beliefs harbored by the American people.

It is clear now that US society, so dissimilar and varied, has become a conglomerate where two conceptions of life and aspirations face off.

Trump discovered how to use this sociological fact to his advantage. He swept the Republican primaries even when his own party wrote off the campaign as just another stunt of the real estate mogul turned into a successful TV host.

We can now assert with confidence: the United States is a country divided in half. After this presidential campaign, the US is a different nation: you have one half that sees the other with suspicion, with some wounds that people believed had been healed, open again.

On the one hand, we have the educated, cosmopolitan, urban, inclusive nation. An open society, tolerant of current national and international trends, such as gun control, abortion; sexual, racial and gender diversity, immigration, multiculturalism and multilateralism; and prone to alliances, cooperation, and integration.

On the other hand, you have a society that represents the rural, less educated, poor, racist, Christian Americans, who are opposed to the current challenges posed by modernization and globalization.

The people that felt represented by Trump is not “politically correct” and care little for the rest of the world. They often do not hold university degrees and reject the “ruling elite,” which Hillary Clinton incarnates perfectly.

In addition, this election revealed — and not only thanks to Trump, but also Democrat Bernie Sanders — the popular mistrust towards the country’s institutions.

Not surprisingly, studies show that seven out of 10 citizens are suspicious of the current government and the status quo, particularly towards security agencies like the FBI.

 

That is what made possible Trump’s serious accusation of possible electoral fraud and rejection of the election results — if Clinton had won.

This is the complex reality that Donald Trump will face starting January 20, 2017, when he will be sworn in as the new president of the United States. His ability to face it — now that his populist campaign is over — is what should concern us.

How will Trump, for example, maintain governance, order, and democratic peace without falling into the authoritarianism and sectarianism, having both chambers of Congress and probably the Supreme Court on his side?

How will Trump handle social, economic, health, security and defense issues, as well as foreign policy, after having promised so many things that are very difficult if not impossible to fulfill, and ruling against so powerful internal and external forces and interests?

It remains to be seen whether Trump is going to make the United States great again or whether he will end up accelerating its decline.

María Teresa Romero María Teresa Romero

Romero is a journalist with a PhD in political science, specializing in international politics. She's a professor at the Central University of Venezuela, a columnist in several Venezuelan and international newspapers, and the author of several books. Follow her at @MT_romero.