Problems on hold
Against all odds, Donald Trump won the US presidential election and became the 45th president of the United States. The media all over the world, which had during the past year followed up closely on everything relating to the US presidential election, described this unexpected victory as a ‘historic shock’. Prior to the election, everyone around the world was intensely anxious about who the upcoming president of the world’s greatest power would be. Opinion was divided in support for Trump or his opponent Hillary Clinton but, as the media reported, the balance appeared to tip towards Clinton. It was predicted that Clinton would be the first woman to make it to the Oval Office. The media had even begun to refer to Bill Clinton as the first ‘First Man’ in the White House.
Unexpectedly, Trump garnered the majority of the Electoral College votes, even though Clinton won the public vote. This is the fifth time in the history of the US, throughout 45 presidential elections, that the Electoral College votes do not match the public vote. It happened before in 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000 elections; the 2016 election was the fifth.
This was not the only paradox in this year’s election which boasted inconsistencies and twists sufficient to place it in a league of its own. The first paradox was that Trump was able to win the Republican nomination despite the fact that he had no political experience or awareness of world affairs. At the outset of his electoral campaign, he admitted he knew nothing about politics, yet he said he had never attempted anything and failed; this was an allusion to his success as a business tycoon. Second, Trump’s insolent and insensitive rhetoric reached unprecedented heights during the three presidential debates with Clinton, rendering these debates among the worst and most crass in the history of US presidential elections. The third shocking paradox was Trump’s repeated threats to his opponent that he would put her in jail once he became president, as if he could do that and overrule the course of justice. The final blow, however, was his repeated hints at the possibility of election fraud in favour of his opponent, Clinton. His bravado might have been a reason for losing support among leaders of his party and many political figures.
Notwithstanding, Trump won. It was as much a shock as was the arrogant and unbridled rhetoric of his electoral campaign. Most curious, however, is that instead of overstating his victory and insolently bragging about it as his opponents expected him to do, his acceptance speech was calm, reasonable and balanced. He praised Clinton’s courage and said she drove a “very hard-fought campaign”. He pledged to be a president for all Americans, and asked them to unite under his presidency. I contemplated this unexpected change in behaviour and language, and wondered whether it owed to the weight of the responsibility he now shouldered as president of the most powerful State in the world. Or was it that his consultants and aides, seeing he was now president, rushed to advise him to contain his passions and set him up for serious work? I really do not know how the change came about, but the days to come will be sure to put an end to my doubts. Will Trump’s impulsiveness gain the upper hand over the behavioural requirements of a president, or will it work the other way round?
I address my final word to Egyptians who had favoured Trump over Clinton, basing on the fact that Trump had not been complicit in the US policies and strategies that wreaked havoc with the Middle East, and that he had during his electoral campaign stood against Islamic extremism and terrorism. He also praised Egypt and said it was the cornerstone of peace and stability in the region. Clinton, on the other hand, gained the hostility of Egyptians for the role she played in establishing a detrimental US Middle East policy, also for her part in the Obama administration which conspired with the Muslim Brotherhood against Egypt. To all those I say, do not jump to conclusions. We know from past experience that the pledges made by US presidents during their electoral campaigns may change once they reach the White House when they must abide by what serves America’s strategic interests as drawn by the decision making establishment in the US. So we have to wait and see how much of Trump’s electoral promises will be fulfilled once he is in the Oval Office.
20 November 2016