Whatever one might think of the outcome of the 2016 US election, perhaps the one thing we could all agree on is that it was extremely surreal. Not only did Donald Trump win, but also he — a candidate without any political experience under his belt — won against Hillary Clinton, a former first lady, senator and secretary of state.
He also came on top despite the majority of polls, analysts and experts predicting a miserable failure for him and a landslide victory for Clinton.
How did this happen? Well, looking back, it may very well be true that President-elect Donald Trump didn’t have the endorsement of the intellectuals or media elites; however — all along — he seems to have had the ears of the masses which don’t read Op-Eds of the major dailies, or even care about them. How did he win over so many voters?
More and more, it seems that the answer is simply: “It is the economy, stupid.”
“I don’t think it is as political as people think. Obama’s taxes and regulations, including Obamacare, were crushing the middle class. I think that is what the election turned on,” said Caitlin Miller, an American friend of mine who is a DC-based strategic communications consultant.
Yet, surreal or not, the people have spoken and the outcome must be accepted. As such, it is certainly ironic that the police is now forced to disperse angry riots organized by Hillary supporters; when less than a week ago, the worry among pundits and observers was about Trump supporters becoming violent had he lost.
Of course, the right to peaceful protest is guaranteed under the US Constitution, but Americans angry at the result must also remember that the whole world is watching and expecting them to deploy the same self-restraint and democratic values they preach elsewhere. As such, Hillary Clinton has a major role to play now in calming down and insisting that her followers adhere to the rules of the game (hopefully with the same persistence she displayed — a few years ago — against Egyptians who took to the streets to oppose the “democratically elected” former Muslim Brotherhood-backed Muhammad Mursi).
On the other hand, I find it surprising that many observers are surprised that Mr. Trump is now sounding more “presidential”, that Mr. Obama has welcomed him at the White House and that Ms. Clinton has said that her former opponent “deserves a chance to lead.”
Maybe it is because this year’s election was so intense, and so much more about personality than we have seen in a very long time, to the extent that voters actually believed it was personal. Yet, the reality is once the results are out, it is game-over and it is the political leaders’ job to ensure a smooth transition of power and that the will of the people is adhered to.
Now, whether or not Donald J. Trump will be a good US president is a different question. Judging by his post-election statements so far — which singled that he intends to treat ALL Americans equally and he means well for other nations — one shouldn’t be worried yet.
As far as the Arab world goes, one can’t say anything except that it was certainly a positive development that the president-elect has pledged to work towards a just peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
While one of his foreign policy advisors, Walid Phares, has gestured the intention to develop a coalition with the GCC states, Egypt and Jordan to fight terrorism.
However, this topic should be revisited once Trump’s key appointments, chief of staff and cabinet are announced over the next few days.
Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News. He can be reached on Twitter @FaisalJAbbas