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Trump is out but Trumpism will last for a long time to come

Nov 10,2020 - Last updated at Nov 10,2020

Donald Trump has lost his reelection bid. That reality is yet to sink in for the occupant of the Oval Office. He is now a lame duck president who should be working with President-elect Joe Biden to facilitate a smooth transition by January 20. But Trump, being who he is, has rejected election results, which had pushed the 78-year-old Democratic nominee across the 270 electoral vote benchmark on Saturday, five days after more than 140 million Americans cast their vote, of whom an unprecedented number, almost 100 million, voted early.

While Trump screamed foul, accusing the Democrats of stealing his victory; more than 70 million voted for him, 4 million less than those who voted blue, Biden spoke about national healing, uniting Americans, restoring common decency and moving forward. Trump’s team will contest the results in some states. But there is little or no evidence that fraud and illegal voting had taken place. His hope of bringing his case to the US Supreme Court appears weak at best. Even then and with a majority of Conservative judges on the bench, it is highly unlikely that the court can help him.

Instead of uniting a deeply polarised country, Trump is pursuing what he had been doing for more than five years; ever since he stormed the political stage as an unorthodox Republican candidate in 2015; advocating an agenda of xenophobia, misogyny, racism, bigotry and white supremacy. Trump will not go down easily but he will in the end. By then, he will have dealt an additional damage to the national social fabric. Not since independent candidate George Wallace contested the 1968 presidential elections, and lost, had the US seen such an openly racist candidate. Trump arrived at the scene following eight years of the first African-American president to reach the White House; Barack Obama. Trump’s uncanny success in defeating conventional Republican rivals, and later winning the presidency against Hillary Clinton, remains one of the most bizarre events in modern American politics.

His attacks on globalism, China, free trade, the UN, NATO, climate change and finally the scientists who warned him of the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic solidified his base of mainly less educated middle aged white workers, who were becoming increasingly frustrated and angry at the huge demographic shifts that the US had seen in the last two to three decades while, at the same time, seeing their blue collar jobs move to China. Trump touched a raw nerve and was able to put together a motley voter base that included Evangelicals, white supremacists and angry middle-aged white workers.

Trump used Islamophobia to drum up support from his base while demonising China for stealing American jobs and later for spreading the virus. His anti-immigrant rhetoric was the icing on the cake along with his promise to build a wall along the borders with Mexico. His populist, divisive, fear mongering style endeared him to many, who overlooked his personal and moral track record. It was a bleak moment in America’s history; one fueled by fear, anxiety and a clear departure from universal American values.

But even if Trump is going down Trumpism is not. With 70 million people voting for him even when more than 230,000 Americans had succumbed to COVID-19, even when the economy had shed millions of jobs and millions of Americans are unable to pay their rent, keep a job or pay their health insurance premiums, his populist dogma will live on. It will take years for the country to come together. Even out of office, Trump will continue to play the victim and peddle conspiracy theories.

Biden was never an ideal or a charismatic candidate. But he will bring back civility to the office of the presidency; a sure and trusted choice. The American people; those who loathed the Trump era, wanted to restore dignity, tolerance and a balanced leadership. So did the world! America remains the leading global force and its influence on regional politics cannot be discounted.

It remains to be seen if Biden will be able to steer American politics, both domestic and foreign, from Trump’s trajectory. Without a majority in the Senate he will have a tough time appointing his key staff. We know that he will cancel many of Trump’s Executive Orders through ones of his own. The US will rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and will renegotiate a way to save the Iran nuclear deal. We know that he will restore aid to the Palestinians and UNRWA and revive the two-state solution, putting an end to the “Deal of the Century” . And we know that he will work with the rest of the world in fighting the pandemic; giving scientists a crucial say in what to do.

But his attempts to roll back some of Trump’s audacious achievements will be stymied. Without a majority in the Senate will not be able to confront one of Trump’s lasting legacies which is the packing of the US Supreme Court with a majority of Conservative judges. The Green New Deal, a progressive agenda, will be blocked by Conservatives for being too far on the left.

Biden may still be able to restore bi-partisanship on other issues. The Republican Party will have to rid itself of Trump’s most stinging stigmas. The US under Biden will be embroiled in domestic challenges. But the world will breathe a sigh of relief that the tide of Trumpism, for now, has been checked. America needs a reprieve and so does the world!

Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.

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