Belfast Telegraph

He's talked the talk, now Donald Trump must walk the walk

Editor's Viewpoint

After one of the most bruising presidential campaigns in history, the American electorate delivered an unprecedented bloody nose to the political elite by making Donald Trump the 45th President in waiting. Dismissed as a no-hope maverick - whose more bizarre comments even estranged him from elements of the Republican party - Trump triumphed against all expectations.

Viewed dispassionately, his success is due in large part to voters, especially those who felt ignored, patronised or simply overlooked by the professional political cabals, finding their voice and crying out 'no more'.

Trump's simple message of making America great again found a resonance across a much wider spectrum of US society than first imagined. The poorly educated, the blue collar workers who have seen jobs and opportunities disappear, and a surprisingly large swathe of the professional classes voted for the candidate they thought would shake up the political system.

It may seem ironic that they chose a billionaire businessman who has little experience of their travails as their champion, but obviously needs must and what better way to cause a stir than by voting into office the candidate reckoned to have no chance.

The US result has obvious parallels with the Brexit vote in the UK where the electorate - apart from London which has always been a place apart - decided on making an equally startling statement by withdrawing from the EU.

In both cases it is a leap into the unknown. Just as there is no clear picture of what Brexit will mean or even what the UK government wants, the prospect of a Trump presidency has sent political analysts into a tail spin.

Could he really mean he wants to build a wall dividing the US from Mexico or is it simply a metaphor for a new era of protectionism, keeping American jobs at home and fulfilling his promise of giving hope to the large numbers of Americans for whom hope is a distant aspiration?

The problem with Trump is that he has never been in politics. No one knows what he stands for. Is he like the most fervent of Brexiteers, a man who wants to virtually seal off his borders to immigrants?

What sort of foreign policy would he adopt apart from the platitudes in his acceptance speech of seeking accommodation rather than confrontation? He has been critical of NATO, has praised Vladimir Putin as a strong leader, and has suggested that Japan and South Korea should have nuclear arsenals to reduce their reliance on America.

From a parochial point of view, what will his presidency mean for Northern Ireland which has punched well above its weight in relationships with the US for nigh on two decades? As one report in our newspaper today says, Trump's protectionist policies could be bad news for our economy as not only would it make it more difficult to woo new US investors here, but we could possibly lose existing ones.

But Trump is above all a businessman and if he thinks Northern Ireland - which he knows quite well through his connection with the Paisley family - could offer business opportunities, he is likely to seize them.

And he showed in his gracious acceptance speech that perhaps the campaign vitriol was mere bluster to rally voters. However, his biggest problem - even though Republicans control the Senate and Congress - is avoiding becoming part of the political elite he so soundly trounced.

Donald Trump has made history.

Only time will tell what history makes of him.

Belfast Telegraph


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