As we approach Donald Trump’s 100th day as US President this Saturday, Niall Stanage, Associate Editor of The Hill, brought his Carryduff accent back where it belongs, providing Queen’s University Belfast with an excellent insight into The Donald’s campaign and Trump White House.
The Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s hosted Stanage, for this year’s Annual Spring Festival guest lecture.
As well as looking at what the Trump administration has accomplished during its first 100 days, and indeed, what it has not accomplished, Stanage took us back to Trump’s bizarre trajectory to power, sharing his theories behind the victory which rocked Washington and the world.
Most interesting were observations around key demographics in last November’s presidential vote between Republic candidate Trump and Democrat rival Hillary Clinton:
- African Americans
While it may not be too surprising that Clinton didn’t get the African American vote out to the same extent as fellow Democrat Barack Obama, her poor performance amongst Hispanics is more difficult to explain.
This is particularly so given that Trump at times seemed intent on alienating that group with relentless verbal attacks.
No-one could forget Donald Trump’s assertion that while most Mexicans entering America were “rapists” and “criminals,” some, he assumed, were good people…
But the biggest shock for Clinton must have been her poor results amongst female voters; she polled about the same figures as Obama did in 2012, at around 53%.
She was, after all, the first female contender for the White House, and Trump is what many perceive to be the textbook definition of a misogynist, backed up with lurid videotaped bragging on genital-grabbing.
Surely these votes should have been sowen up for Clinton. So, how did she manage it? According to Stanage this isn’t straightforward either; but must be generally down to a failure to inspire.
Interestingly, the election hinged on an altogether different vote. If we want to thank anyone for President Trump, it has to be the voters in the Midwest states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan which form the so-called “blue wall”, which Donald Trump shattered with gusto.
These people are predominantly white and do not hold college degrees, and were frequently attacked as being “racists” after the election for their so-called “white-lash.”
Yet racism, Stanage pointed out, is much too simplistic and quite irreconcilable with the fact that a majority of the same voters turned out for Barack Obama in 2012 (51% to 47% for Republican nominee Mitt Romney).
No, they voted for Donald Trump because he brought them back into the political discourse, by giving them exactly what they wanted: attention; recognition that they have, to a large extent, been left behind by globalisation and deindustrialisation.
Trump filled this messiah role with ease, promising to bring them back their mines and steelworks, regardless of how unrealistic and uneconomical that would be.
He successfully created an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ narrative, even though working class and unemployed are two things he has never been. If anything, this was aided by mainstream media attacks on him; Trump the underdog had the evidence he needed in his fabricated battle against the establishment.
The lecture and discussions that followed confirmed two suspicions: Clinton didn’t ignite enthusiasm, and Donald Trump was much more adept at igniting enthusiasm than we on this side of the Atlantic could have imagined.