Donald Trump promised that he was going to deliver ‘Brexit Plus Plus Plus’. He has.

The outsider who was ridiculed by the establishment and written off at every stage in the campaign by political experts who said he had no chance, has, against all the odds, seized the main prize. He is now President-elect Trump. As with Brexit, but on a hugely bigger scale, he has shattered what is familiar in the political world and rendered the future deeply uncertain. Many people view the prospect of him in the Oval Office with horror. Are we right to be so alarmed or is it just a question of getting used to what was not predicted?

Donald Trump promised that he was going to deliver ‘Brexit Plus Plus Plus’. He has.

The outsider who was ridiculed by the establishment and written off at every stage in the campaign by political experts who said he had no chance, has, against all the odds, seized the main prize. He is now President-elect Trump. As with Brexit, but on a hugely bigger scale, he has shattered what is familiar in the political world and rendered the future deeply uncertain. Many people view the prospect of him in the Oval Office with horror. Are we right to be so alarmed or is it just a question of getting used to what was not predicted?

It’s easy to see why he was dismissed as a no-hoper who was just using his billions on an ego trip to satisfy his own narcissism. He had no political experience and from the beginning he broke every rule in the book. He alienated the leadership in his own party to the point where many of them disowned him and publicly declared their refusal to vote for him. And he insulted people whose votes he would need, notably women and the Latinos who comprise a growing part of the American electorate. Most of all he was viewed as a loose cannon, a figure who even by America’s generous standards, seemed beyond the pale in terms of his unpredictability, his bigotry and his extremism.

Yet it is these very qualities, as an outsider to acceptable political behaviour, that seem to have propelled him to the White House. His target was ‘the forgotten people’, those who felt they had been let down by the establishment of both parties, who had pursued policies they felt had neglected their plight. That plight can be measured in economic terms: around fifty percent of American workers have seen their real incomes at best stagnate over the last seventeen years, as both Democrat and Republican presidents have espoused free trade and liberal immigration policies under the umbrella term of ‘globalisation’. Mr Trump said he would break with that and put the United States first.

In this respect there are indeed parallels with Brexit: the referendum would not have been won by Leave without the backing of many who used not to vote at all but had come to the conclusion that the existing system was not working for them and that they needed to seize the chance to make a change. Mr Trump rallied their equivalents among the non-college-educated in the rust belt of the Midwest and elsewhere. But in the much more racially-divided society that is America, he also rallied a white majority who felt that the prevailing liberal, multi-cultural climate sold them short: 63% of white men voted for him, and even 51% of white women did, despite the reputation he had gained as a misogynist and sexual predator. His promise of change even attracted more Latino voters in Florida than Mitt Romney, his predecessor in 2012, managed to secure.

But even if Mr Trump’s success can be explained (and more thorough explanations will emerge over the coming months) it is still a great shock. Even in the early hours after the polls started closing, it was widely expected that Hillary Clinton would win and become America’s first woman president (just as Remain at that point expected to win the referendum). The speed of the turnaround has not just shocked but stunned the world. That its most powerful country has elected as its leader a man its own establishment thinks unfit for the job has plunged the world into greater uncertainty than it has known in generations. With that uncertainty inevitably comes alarm.

The alarm is not unfounded. Mr Trump’s personality alone would generate it. He has been described as an unstable bigot, a compulsive liar, a man driven solely by his narcissistic ego and (by someone who knows him well) as a ‘sociopath’. Even if such terms are no more than the weapons of character assassination that get deployed in hard-fought contests, the fact that they have stuck is cause for alarm. They leave the impression of a man whose behaviour is inherently unpredictable and who is, in the words of one commentator, ‘capable of anything’.

Then there is the ugliness of the mood he has stirred up on his way to victory. Everyone agrees this campaign has been the nastiest in living memory and he is widely seen as having been the chief whipper-up of anger and partisan antagonism in the country. Vitriol has been part of his armoury. It was he who said his opponent should be locked up and that, if he won, she would be. In his victory speech he was far more emollient towards her, thanking her for her public service. And, more generally, he said it was time for the country to come together as one united country. But he, his critics will say, was the one to make the divisions as deep and bitter as they are, and calming that ugly mood will not be easy to achieve. Many will continue to worry about whether he even wants to.

But it is his policies that are perhaps the greatest source of alarm to those who are alarmed. They do not see how they can be implemented without causing huge strife. He is pledged to expel from the country eleven million undocumented immigrants (who constitute 6% of the workforce), and to build a wall along the entire Mexican border, insisting that Mexico will pay for it. And he has promised to impose ‘extreme vetting’ on all Muslims seeking to enter the country, having previously proposed to ban them altogether. He’s also said he wants to introduce punishments for women seeking abortions. None of these policies can be implemented without generating fierce resistance and heightened conflict; but equally, if he simply abandons them as having been no more than campaigning flights of fancy that he never really meant, he will bring anger upon himself by those who will feel betrayed.

Mr Trump’s domestic policies are, of course, for the Americans alone to champion or be alarmed by. But that alarm stretches to the wider world because of what he has said about foreign policy. He wishes to tear up virtually every aspect of what has been a broadly consistent approach to foreign policy by presidents of both parties for the last seventy years.

He is opposed to the trade deals that have been the basis of globalisation’s greater liberalisation of trade between countries. He backs protectionism to ‘put America first’ and threatens a trade war with China. He regards climate change as a hoax and agreements made to deal with it as hostile to America’s interests. He wants to rip up the agreement President Obama negotiated to bring Iran in from the cold. And he has asked why America has nuclear weapons if it doesn’t use them.

From Europe’s point of view, perhaps the most alarming aspect of his foreign policy is his attitude to NATO. Like other US presidents he has said he sees no reason why America should continue to pay the bulk of the bills when European defence spending is so small, but has gone far beyond that in describing the organisation as ‘obsolete’ and questioning its most basic tenet, that an attack on one member should be regarded as an attack on all.

Such an attitude must be music to the ears of Vladimir Putin, who has shown his willingness to engage in military ventures to boost his popularity at home, but has so far resisted attacking any NATO countries. Three of them, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the Baltic states that until twenty-five years ago were part of the Soviet Union but are now in the EU, must now feel that their protection within NATO is in real doubt.

In short, Mr Trump’s foreign policy positions are tantamount, in the phrase of one commentator, to ‘the end of the West’: the end of the multilateral approach to both economic and security policy that has prevailed since the end of the Second World War.

So the alarm is understandable. But will it prove to be justified? We have known before politicians who come to power promising one thing and then doing something very different. Those who think the alarm at Mr Trump’s election overdone, don’t quite say that he won’t do what he said he would do, but rather that it won’t be anything like as threatening or as disruptive as the old establishment is making out it will be. In short, life will go on.

It is, of course, far too soon to know. But in these early days after the shock result, do you feel the sense of alarm and foreboding that many are expressing, or do you feel that it was time for a shake-up, that the old way of doing things hasn’t been working for enough people, and that President Trump might be the man to make the world a better place?

Let us know your views.            

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