Skip to main content

The United States of Trump

Trump's path to victory tells us everything we need to know about what his White House may portend - except how to explain it to our children

It is real. You did not imagine it in a dreaded nightmare: Donald J Trump, an admitted grabber of female genitalia has just become the 45th president of the United States of America.

The US is not the same country that my parents brought my brother and me to from Egypt several decades ago. That much is certain. 

Every pundit on this side of the Atlantic and beyond is now burning the midnight oil in an effort to understand what will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest upset victories in American political folklore.

Today, the US is not the same country that my parents brought my brother and me to from Egypt several decades ago. That much is certain. That America had no difficulty welcoming two young boys who hardly spoke a word of English, but came with their family in search of freedom of thought and a superior education. Now, decades later, Trump rises to power on the wings of an anti-immigrant policy.

As these words find their way to paper, two dictators, in particular, are celebrating their great fortune, Vladimir Putin of Russia and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. To say that Trump’s victory was unexpected is an understatement of "yugeproportions.

Though gracious in his victory speech, words cannot and will not wipe away many months of divisive, sexist, and racist rhetoric by a man who may yet prove to be the most ill-prepared president in the history of the United States. His path to victory relied, negatively, on a toxic threesome: race, class and gender.

The muted underbelly

A writer for a local New York paper captured the mood of tens of millions of Americans of colour when he said Donald Trump would "preside over the bigoted States of America". These words reflect a belief that these elections reflected a truth that many have only whispered for decades: the country is divided in two.

The America projected to the world is that of New York, San Francisco and Chicago, but that the underbelly, the south and the midwest where Trump ruled last night has a more nefariously exclusionary and nationalistic tonality.

Members of supporters of the National Organization (NOW) for Women of New York protest in front of Trump Tower last month (AFP)
In places where race is spoken about in blunt racist pre-Civil War terms, non-college educated white men who somehow in a white majority nation feel ignored, made a president out of a real estate guy in love with degrading women.

Trump didn’t stop there. Defending his planned ban on Muslims, an obviously neo-fascist faux pas that would only assist the Islamic State(s) of the world, Trump dared to compare himself to Franklin D Roosevelt and his biggest mistake of interning Japanese Americans.

No one will forget his remarks about Mexico and "how they are sending rapists…and drugs". Think American Latinos, numbering in the millions, will wipe their memory clean with the rise of today’s sun? Such "logic" was prominent and consistent throughout the decisive Trump campaign and it tore away the veneer of propriety and political correctness from half the country.

Buying snake oil

Rather than saying clearly what will "make America great again", Trump is a man who excels in peddling a class-based divisiveness that says: we are not them - as if, miraculously, tens of millions of Americans who call the Democratic Party home, are all members of the elite.

It is nothing new that politicians are subsumed by cynicism, but Donald Trump took it to new heights - or more correctly lows

Washington politicians, intellectuals, journalists and the entirety of the Democratic Party became the enemy in order to curry favour with the blue-collar white man. Trump gambled on the combustible fuels of fear and anger, igniting both for his electoral machine - and won.

It is nothing new that politicians are subsumed by cynicism, but Donald Trump took it to new heights - or more correctly lows. It was no surprise when ABC News announced, repeatedly, that Trump had overwhelming support of 72 percent to Hillary Clinton’s 28 percent among white non-college educated males.

Facts were of little import in such a setting. Only the fact that he "was talking to people that hadn’t been spoken to".

Credit should be given to a billionaire who, stunningly, made the working class feel as though he were one of them. It is a trick few, if ever, have pulled off with such success in the annals of American politics.

Despite his business dealings that reveal how it was looking out for the United States of Trump, not the interests of the United States of America, that motivated him, white voters bought his snake oil pitch and did so with unprecedented verve.

The inner authoritarian

Trump’s choice of foreign dance partners in Sisi and Putin indicate a man in love, not with American democracy, but with thinly disguised autocracy and blatant dictatorship.

His inner dictator, as evidenced by numerous dalliances with violence against women, both verbal and physical, seeks dominance over women at every opportunity. To the president-elect, as evidence has shown, women are either viewed as property or an object to admire or grab.

Last month, Attorney Gloria Allred held a press conference with Summer Zervos, a former candidate on season five of The Apprentice, who has accused Donald Trump of inappropriate sexual conduct (AFP)
When it comes to equality, he leaves the plantation of logic and saunters frequently into illogical justification of sexual assault. In 2013, he went on record in his favorite public hangout, Twitter, to justify 26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military that had resulted in only 238 convictions. “What did these geniuses expect when they put men and women together?" he wrote.

Slice it and dice it as you wish, but any man who tells a "group of 14-year-olds" he would date them in a couple of years has a warped sense of what is acceptable in civilised society and what is not.

There can be no doubt that, early this morning, as many American women go to bed, they must be questioning the rationale of having such a man in an office so powerful. A man who, to this day, stands accused of multiple sexual assaults exceeding double digits.

Dictators of a feather

Any Trump-related discourse cannot conclude without shining a light on his miniscule, and some might argue non-existent, foreign policy credentials.

When you systematically insult Muslims, you run the obvious risk of insulting 1.2 billion people worldwide and greatly complicating American foreign policy objectives.

Mere minutes after Trump’s election, Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi intellectual and a regime voice, launched the first shot. Perhaps, speaking of Arabs, he said: "we can put our differences aside… we will need this as we are facing an American president who views us all as opponents and as ‘cash’".

Of course, Putin and Sisi, Trump’s foreign policy twins and ideological cousins, welcomed the president-elect with open arms.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Trump shake hands after a meeting in Mexico City in August (AFP)
But can you imagine the reaction of the Mexican president? How can Enrique Pena open a new page when his American counterpart insists on repeating on every occasion “Don’t worry. We’re going to build the wall”, referring to a physical barrier on the US-Mexico border meant to block out the aforementioned "rapists"?

The litany of difficulties Trump has already created with irresponsible remarks like questioning the American role in NATO or suggesting he may accept Russian military intervention in the Ukraine are but the tip of a dangerous iceberg.

There can be no question that extremely tough questions will and must be asked regarding what thrust Trump into the most powerful presidency in the world, but this much is clear: he was successful in painting himself as warrior of change and Americans responded to that message.

He was successful where Bernie Sanders’ far more progressive message of change failed. We must leave it to historians to debate the true reasons behind Bernie’s failure, whether it was party conspiracy or a shortage of realism by an anti-establishment dreamer but cynicism, divisiveness, anger and fear won the day as they often have.

What lies ahead, at least for today, is ensuring that my wife and I find the all-important answer to a most troubling question: what do we tell our children now?

Amr Khalifa is a freelance journalist and analyst recently published in Ahram Online, Mada Masr,The New Arab, Muftah and Daily News Egypt. You can follow him on Twitter@cairo67unedited.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Republican president-elect Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech as vice president-elect Mike Pence looks on during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of 9 November 2016 in New York City (AFP).

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.