Make no mistake a political earthquake took place in America when they voted in Donald Trump; an earthquake that has already sent shock waves across the globe.
As a former Foreign Office Minister travelling through America leading up to the election one got a real sense of how the political establishment was distrusted and how the Clintons were failing to offer a compelling vision for the future. Like Brexit here, the people wanted change, they quickly responded to the simple message that Trump would make America great again and they voted for him in their millions. Although I think that is where analogies with Brexit end. Brexit’s prospectus was about a global Britain rather than a Little England, it was a debate about encouraging trade, lowering tariffs and restoring sovereignty and reducing net immigration. I would say Trump’s agenda is quite different to our own.
We might as well get used to it. We now live in a world in which fellow populists from France to the Philippines feel emboldened while those used to governing are left reeling. Enabled by a new ecosphere of social media, crowds can be mobilised in an instant, even mobs, real and virtual. My fear is that people will start to feel let down by the undeliverable promises made by the populists and that anger and frustration will replace optimism. It is why all Governments need a new approach to managing the forces of globalisation, one that ensures that people are not left behind. It means targeting big business, controlling immigration, and spelling out the hard truth that isolation and nationalism will not necessarily enhance living standards. This is the new politics and mainstream parties cannot be complacent; a surge for populist and nativist movements threatens the prosperity, values and collective security of the West. And oddly enough it is the radical right rather than the radical left that is recruiting.
On a personal level I, like many, have been appalled by Trump’s misogyny and racism and I’m equally worried about his desire to re-engage with Moscow. But its not all bad, Britain is now well positioned; Trump has said that Brexit Britain will be at the front of the queue for any trade deals. The Clintons would have put us at the back!
For those that are scared of a Trump presidency I say this; Washington’s checks and balances are still in place. Much of what Trump wants to achieve requires legislation and Congress will not lie down. The Republican majority is wafer thin and includes many senators who do not share Trump’s vision. As for advisers in the Treasury, State Department and the Pentagon, these people are all politically experienced and will not endorse irresponsibility. Trump meanwhile has vowed to govern for all Americans, including those depressed by his victory. His first job as President will be walking that delicate tightrope which always exists for politicians, the one that has to please supporters and draw in the detractors. From where I sit now, Trump is already ditching, finessing and rethinking his campaign pledges.