When Hate Trumps Hope; The American Elections

Kun noen få dager før innsettelsen av den nye presidenten i USA er det svært nyttig både å ta et tilbakeblikk på fjorårets valg, samt å lage seg noen tanker om hvordan fremtiden vil se ut for amerinakerne og for oss.

Det gjør AreaS-medlem Robert Lewis Mikkelsen i en kronikk publisert i Fredrissktad Blad 10. november 2016. Vi legger ut artikkelversjonen på engelsk.


Screenshot_2When Hate Trumps Hope; The American Elections

Eight years ago tears filled the eyes of many people in America and Norway when the USA elected its first black President and revived America’s damaged reputation after the Presidency of George W. Bush. The message that Barack Obama brought to the world was hope. Now many of those same eyes are again filled with tears, but this time of sorrow and despair.  How could it happen? How could America elect Donald Trump, a man whose message is soaked with hate, racism and rampant nationalism? That is a question that is producing millions of words around the world. Here are mine.

The Easy Answer

Two weeks ago Hillary Clinton had a strong lead in the race. Had the election been held on October 27th, she would have won more than 300 electoral votes – 30 more than the 270 she needed. Then on October 28th, FBI Director James Comey reopened the investigation into her private e-mails, making her a potential criminal. Her popularity began to fall immediately. Comey’s action was unprecedented. Government agencies are to stay out of elections. In addition, no information was given about the content of these e-mails. Then, two days before the election, the investigation was called off. But the damage had already been done. By that time Hillary’s lead had been cut to a mere 272 electoral votes to Trump’s 266 and the momentum was on his side. The scene was set for his victory. In sum, without Comey’s action, Clinton would be president today.

The Hard Answer

But this begs the deeper question the world is asking itself, how could a majority of Americans vote for someone like Trump under any circumstances? To understand that, you first have to understand that many – if not most Americans – view government as a necessary evil, not a servant of the people. All politicians are held in suspicion. And, as Donald Trump has never tired of saying, he is a businessman, not a politician. He has never held a public office. Even the leadership of his own party, the Republicans, dislikes him. He is the ultimate outsider who has promised to go to Washington, knock some heads together and get things done. And a majority of angry and frustrated Americans decided to give him a chance. He may be a bully, but he is their bully.

Angry Americans

Which raises the question, what are Americans so angry about? There are many answers to that question. In the short term, for the last 6 years (at least) the Republican Congress has been in bitter opposition to President Obama. Very little has gotten done. People are disillusioned and frustrated with the establishment. But this is only a sign of a deeper, much more serious long term problem. Inequality has been increasing in the USA for the last 40 years. 4/5th of the population has not seen a significant increase in their yearly incomes since 1970. More wealth has been produced during those years, but the lion’s share of it has gone to the top 1/5 of the population – and particularly to the top 5% of that 1/5. Inequality has not been greater in the USA since the 1920s.

This inequality causes a wide variety of other serious problems. It locks minorities like Afro-Americans into the lower levels of American society. It makes it increasingly difficult for middle class families to send their children to college. It causes conflict and division between ethnic groups that look at each other as competitors for scarce jobs. It creates poverty and crime among the “underclass” that hands on poverty from generation to generation. The list could go on and on. But

the most damaging thing of all is that inequality is undermining the broad middle class of America , the middle class that is the heart of any Western democratic system. Fearful, anxious, uncertain about their future and the future of their children, they become easy targets for demagogues who turn one group against another and offer easy answers to their problems – “Build a Wall!”

Fear and Anxiety

The election of Donald Trump has now exported that fear and anxiety to the rest of the world. What will Donald Trump mean for Norway? The short answer is uncertain times. His election marks the end of the role that the United States has played in the world since the end of the Second World War. Together with Brexit, it signals the unraveling of the system of international agreements put in place at that time. This will make the world a more unstable and dangerous place. Concretely it will mean, for example,  that international agreements dealing with climate change, trade, Iran’s nuclear program, relations with China,  human rights and the NATO alliance will be up to revision. These are all matters that will affect Norway deeply.

Hold on. It’s going to be a very bumpy four years.