If we were to take Donald Trump’s pre-election rhetoric, his declarations and statements, at face value, it is obvious that the American tycoon’s election as the 45th president of the United States signals the start of a new chapter not just for the country, but also for the West as a whole.
A world that was built on the principles of liberalism and tolerance, on multiculturalism and globalization, shaped mainly by the Anglo-Saxon elite in the aftermath of the Second World War – with a lot of help from its dominance in the areas of information and communication – is now at risk of being dismantled by the lower strata of Anglo-Saxon society, with the US election coming in the wake of the Brexit vote. We could argue, in fact, that the planet is experiencing a seismic shift in political and social norms, as was the case in Greece in the wake of the fall of the 1967-74 junta – a process known here as metapolitefsi – but toward something much, much worse.
The situation of course is much more complex. The unpredictable Trump may seem the absolute victor in the United States – especially as the Republicans have maintained their majority in Congress as well – but huge established business, strategic and economic interests and the economic and political structures that have been built across the West in the past 70 years or so also remain extremely powerful. Hard as he may try, it will not be easy for the new US president – albeit a global force – to stir things up to the extent that he has insinuated or to upset steady geopolitical relationships in order to impose his new status quo on America and the world. Regardless of rhetoric, ambitions and fears, the world will judge him on his actions and on the course he chooses to pursue from here on out. After all, there is nothing else to do but wait at this point.
For the time being, there are a few conclusions that can be drawn.
To begin with, it is evident that the working-class masses in the West are under intense pressure from globalization and from the leaps in technology that are fast eating up existing job positions or generating new jobs that require a much higher set of skills.
Societies do not have the reflexes to adapt so quickly to the barrage of change and anger is starting to swell to ungovernable proportions as the gap between rich and poor continues to grow, with only the former seeing any benefits. This brings us to the second conclusion. What we are seeing is that the way people are voting is being determined to a significant degree by social class. This awareness of class differences has also led to unbridled populism, something that the Democrats have clearly failed to address.
The third point is that the “system,” or the establishment, has obviously failed to acknowledge and understand the intensity and depth of public discontent, as is evident from the failure of public opinion poll predictions in the runup to the US elections and in the waning influence of the mainstream media, which is fast being replaced by social media, where every extremist, moron or mouthpiece can shape public opinion.
The outcome of the US elections has also revealed the deep division of American society and there is no way to predict how this will manifest itself or what it will mean in the immediate future.
The wave of the American brand of populism is also threatening to sweep across Europe, as Trump’s victory will provide a boost to similar forces in Italy, Austria, France, the Netherlands and even Germany. The question, therefore, is whether the European structure will be able to survive the shock.