This morning, a majority of Americans are making their way to work in shock and awe that their candidate, Democrat Hillary Clinton, is not the president-elect of the United States. In fact, as of 11am EST, the latter has yet to make a formal concession speech, though she has privately conceded the race – clearly beaten last night – to her opponent. Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has already secured 279 of the available 538 electoral votes with at least another forty available, a majority of which are leaning in his favour.
Even at his best during a particularly quagmired, quarrelsome, and quixotic presidential campaign, the major polls, pundits, and popular opinion polemics suggested Trump had few Electoral College paths to the White House. As it turns out, all paths lead to only one front door at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: President-elect Trump’s. What a stunning, improbable, unfathomable upset.
Trump will be the forty-fifth man to hold what has become the highest elected office of the free world. While he campaigned on anti-western values including the absurd and frightening (repealing the Gun-Free School Zones Act), the unconstitutional and xenophobic (banning Muslims), the useless and ineffective (US-Mexican border wall), the protectionist and populist (exiting or renegotiating international trade deals), the embarrassing and eye-roll-inducing (US elections are rigged by the Democrats and their media), he has now promised to be the president “for all Americans” by putting millions of people and billions of dollars to work rebuilding the country’s crumbling infrastructure and inner-cities to make the United States “second to none.”
The unlikely Republican presidential nominee is the 2016 “change” candidate, not unlike the star Democratic State Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, in 2008. His fervent campaign slogan, “Yes We Can,” echoed across the country and reverberated in adherents’ hearts. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Obama pledged to overcome the fray and end Congress’ partisan political problems. He would end wars, hunt terrorists, repatriate American troops, close prisons, build bridges where his predecessor had built walls, heal the deep social, economic and political divisions within America, and restore hope that the US was an international leader wanted by the world.
In the end, President Obama’s passionate promises did not equal sustained change. Yes, he had milestone successes in providing basic health insurance to many of America’s most vulnerable and under-privileged citizens, in first bailing-out and then reforming Wall Street, in eliminating the 9/11 mastermind and subduing other terrorist threats, and in finding a peaceable solution to the Iran question.
But Congress remains inextricably stalled and divided; the Guantanamo Bay detention facility remains open for business; thousands of US troops remain deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan (to mention nothing of the new US theatres of war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria); international contempt for American intervention boiled-over in Benghazi; the national debt has all but doubled during his administration, though to be fair, some of that belongs to George W. Bush; and yesterday, the people of the United States overwhelmingly demonstrated that they remain deeply divided on what will actually make America great again – the popular vote going to Clinton and the presidency to Trump.
Now it is Trump’s turn to effect his venereal version of vacuous change in Washington. Favourably to the Republican Party is that it also won majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the bicameral legislatorial bodies that form Congress. But unlike in Canada where recent provincial majority governments (the Alberta NDP and Ontario Liberals) and back-to-back majority governments at the federal level (Stephen Harper Conservatives and Justin Trudeau Liberals) have passed controversial legislation with ease as politicians toe the party line, President Trump will have a difficult time wielding similar congressional authority.
In the American Republic, Representatives (435) and Senators (100) owe allegiance first and foremost to the electorate of the states they represent. Thus, fellow Republicans are afforded the ability to openly defy party wisdom or refuse their support for a presidential candidate, which Congressional Republicans Paul Ryan, John McCain, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, Ben Sasse, and Mike Lee have publicly done. Thus, Trump has the next two years to persuade, cajole, force, and otherwise threaten the aforementioned Republicans and their colleagues into turning Trump campaign promises into meaningful, change-inducing legislation. That would be a feat of epic proportions for Trump, but he has already pulled off two minor miracles – winning the Republican Primary contest and the Presidential election. If he does pull it off, he will be a candidate for canonization.
We wait, with bated breath, for 2016’s change candidate to make good on his promise to govern for all Americans and “drain the swamp” that is Washington D.C.
Congratulations, Mr. President-elect Trump.