Although a large number of Americans are still stunned by the outcome of the presidential election, Donald Trump maintains a loyal base of followers.
For Americans, Donald Trump’s election will always be one of those events where you remember where you were at the exact moment it happened, in the same way as the moon landing or the assassination of JFK. One year after this political earthquake, many Americans are still stunned by what is undoubtedly the most unusual presidency in the history of this long-standing democracy. Dismay mingled with incomprehension in the face of a victory that very few had seen coming.
Many Democratic voters have worn themselves out searching for excuses or explanations, convincing or otherwise. Some have blamed the electoral system, while others have criticized the selection of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate. However, focusing on these reasons inevitably leads to missing the crux of the matter.
Trump won the election principally because he spoke directly to an America that felt it had been forgotten. Outside the prosperous big cities and coastal areas, an entire population was suffering in silence from the indifference of the political elite and sections of the media. The flattering macroeconomic statistics left by Barack Obama had masked the fractures caused by the financial crisis of 2008 and the consequences of globalization, which have not always been attended to.
Trump began his term in office with some of the lowest approval ratings of any American president, but one year later, ratings are holding up rather well. With an approval rating of 38 percent, the billionaire maintains a loyal base of followers who have evidently not been affected by the accusations of Russian interference that have marred his presidency. Nor do they appear shaken by his short track record, which is pathetic in comparison with the promises he dangled in front of voters as a candidate. His health care reform bill failed to make it past Congress, the wall on the Mexican border has still not received funding, and the checks and balances of the U.S. system have effectively neutralized his plans to combat immigration.
But Trump has managed to pull the wool over his voters’ eyes by attacking his predecessor’s decisions in a systematic and almost obsessive manner, whether they relate to the environment or foreign policy. Once again, many underestimated the rejection of the first black president by a part of the country that has been slowly dying for the past eight years.
Pandering to the nationalist streak among his followers is one thing; applying the policies that they are expecting is another. That is where the situation is at risk of becoming complicated for Trump. During his election campaign, he promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington; in other words, to neutralize financial lobbies, which had corrupted American democracy in favor of private interests.
Yet, far from having eliminated them, the real estate mogul has established a plutocracy that is the polar opposite of what the America that voted for him expected; those forgotten by the system, enemies of the politically correct. Between the deregulation of the financial system, fiscal reform that favors those who are most privileged and obvious cuts to education and social budgets, it is not difficult to imagine that those who took Trump to the White House may end up as die-hard supporters of policies that will ultimately exacerbate their situation.