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Nov 15,2016 - Last updated at Nov 15,2016
Much will be said and written about Donald Trump’s phenomenal rise to power and America, along with the rest of the world, will watch as the maverick president begins to implement his controversial agenda, which remains a mystery to many.
But Trump’s historic victory last week, heralding what is now seen as a second American revolution against the ruling establishment, was in fact a triumph for a movement whose core is largely made up of angry white middle class that has become disenchanted with the political and socioeconomic status quo.
It is a rebellion against globalisation, the elite and a world order that has sucked the life out of America’s hinterland.
Trump gave voice to voiceless millions and his detractors focused on the messenger when they should have turned their attention to the message.
But America is equally divided.
Trump’s presidency will deepen the divide and his reign will be fraught with backlashes from the far right and the far left.
His unrefined nationalist/populist message appealed to a diverse group of people, from the KKK and the Alt-Right to distressed white middle class, blue-collar workers in America’s rust belt states who believe they were abandoned by the system.
This is why Republicans as well as Democrats voted for him. It was not about ideology, but emotions, mostly anger, and this is probably why voters ignored Trump’s billionaire, playboy background, his sexism, misogyny, demagoguery, racism and contradictory views on policies.
He was anti-Washington and the corrupt, rigged system it espouses. This is why he, as a complete outsider, defeated veteran Republican governors and senators in the primaries, and this why he pulled off a surprise victory last week when he defied the odds and the polls and won against Hillary Clinton.
After all is said and done, his was a facetious triumph — and a proverbial slap in the face — over Republican and Democratic institutions.
Parallels to the rise of Hitler and Mussolini aside, the Trump phenomenon has similarities with more recent examples, such as Narendra Modi’s spectacular victory in India in 2014 and, to a lesser extent, Rodrigo Duterte’s election as president in the Philippines earlier this year.
One can look at Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his populist appeal, or at the British supporting Brexit and the influence of UKIP’s Nigel Farage and its right-wing message.
In recent years, the far right has been gaining ground in France, Germany, Austria and The Netherlands, among others.
Playing on ethnic-religious fears, most of these cases point to a new reality that we should get ready to accept, resist or cope with in the coming years and decades.
One can even find some logic behind the rise of Daesh and similar fundamentalist religious groups in many parts of the world.
They are all reactions to and backlashes against globalisation, the information revolution and the changing socio-economic realities of our present age.
Free trade and movement of people, immigration — legal and not — the domination of Western, largely American, cultural values, the shifting economic balance of power and the transition to a new industrial-technology-based era have contributed to massive cultural shakeups, especially in developed countries. Multiculturalism became the norm in many Western countries and this was bound to trigger a populist response.
Fascism is rooted in nationalism, an obscure notion still, even as the latter is celebrated by groups of people who feel an existential threat.
Perhaps what we are seeing is a 21st century form of neo-fascism; a non-ideological, pseudo-democratic, populist movement driven by an innate instinct of survival in a fast-changing world.
While it has no solid answers to today’s complex challenges —climate change, gay marriage, atheism, democracy, multiculturalism, among others — the common denominator is a lethal mixture of xenophobia, racism, religious fervour and a confused belief in nationalism.
While Trump appears to be an unlikely bearer of such a message, he is, after all, a successful businessman who made billions in a globalised economy.
One cannot but credit him for eying a good deal and riding a populist wave that delivered him the White House.
In the end, it is about the true Trump. Is it the demagogue or the deal maker?
Trump will try to make America great again, but he will not do it by waging wars, trade or otherwise, or by building real walls.
He will redefine America’s role in the world and by doing so he will shift his attention to domestic issues.
He will follow and implement a conservative agenda that will be backed by a Republican-controlled Congress, but he will also keep an eye on the core of his right-wing constituency.
He will crack hard on illegal immigration, punish companies that move to Mexico or elsewhere by raising tariffs and invest heavily in America’s dilapidated infrastructure, thus creating jobs.
This will appeal to both Republicans and Democrats. It could make him a good US president.
The ultra-right movement falsely believes that it found a voice in Trump. But Trump remains a quasi-pragmatist; a political animal in evolution.
His early years will be controversial, but he will soon move away from the extreme right and more towards the right of centre, closer to his conservative allies in Congress.
He has changed American politics forever and the movement he created will continue long after he is gone.
What this means for democracy and universal values such as human rights, equality before the law and others is another issue.
The writer is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.
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