After Brexit came the election of Donald Trump as the US President. If Brexit was a shock, Trump’s election was an earthquake…no one thought he would get the Republican nomination let alone win the election against the experienced if not popular Hilary Clinton. The election campaign, especially its last weeks, was one of the most visceral I’ve ever seen with making promises that he will need to honour—though in some cases this is unlikely—with the FBI saying it was reopening investigations into Hilary’s private email server ten days or so before election day and then withdrawing from investigation a few days later when the damage to Hilary’s already fragile reputation was done. With Hilary wining the popular vote but Donald gaining the electoral college votes and the presidency, the result was hardly a ringing endorsement of the processes through which American democracy functions.
One of the major criticisms of Trump in the election campaign is that he has little experience of Washington but this misses the point that it is precisely because he has no experience that he was elected. His brand of authoritarian populism, his notion of ‘American First’ appealed to those Americans for whom globalism has paid no dividends and whose lives have been blighted by the impact of untrammelled global free trade and who see no real benefit from the United States acting as the arbiter of global affairs. What Trump is is an extremely successful if ruthless businessman who tweets what he thinks and who had vast experience in running and particularly managing things and increasingly people believed that he had the skills necessary to bring an expanding federal state to heel by not being prepared to do things the way they’ve always been done. For the electorate this is his greatest strength but it is also his greatest weakness as the whole panoply of the Washington establishment will be against him and will obstruct his changes. For a US President to get his policies accepted by Congress, there needs to be a degree of consensus; without this he becomes a ‘lame duck’ with the Washington political elite—and it has inexhaustible patience and ability to ‘dig the dirt’--simply waiting for his term of office to expire.