We congratulate Mr. Donald J. Trump, the Republican winner in the November 8, 2016 American presidential election, on his inauguration today as the 45th President of the United States. His victory was emphatic: 306 electoral votes to the Democratic candidate’s 232. On the popular vote, he won only 46.1 per cent of the votes to Mrs. Hillary Clinton’s 48.2 per cent and, in effect, he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. The decisiveness of the electoral vote is a centuries-old American constitutional stipulation, a product of history now under severe criticism.
When Trump began campaigning 18 months ago, no one gave him a chance, having never been in politics or in the military. It says so much for his creativity and sagacity that he was able to emerge from a crowded field of 17 Republicans, including former and serving state governors and popular US senators, whom he literally overwhelmed by casting himself as the anti-establishment candidate.
Trump’s victory secured for the Republican Party all the institutions that control the levers of power in Washington DC, as the GOP would now control not only the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, but it would now be in a position to also fill the vacancy in the US Supreme Court. This means, in effect, that the high court would remain a bastion of conservatism for a long time to come.
Trump has promised a repudiation of trade agreements. This, he hopes, will lead to economic growth and higher paying jobs, end US companies moving jobs abroad and ensure substantial reduction in taxes for the rich and the middle class, though he never showed Americans his own tax returns. He also has threatened to impose 35 per cent border tax on automobiles produced outside US borders. Among some of his controversial election promises is a wall to check illegal immigration in the southern border of the United States and to have Mexico pay for it. He also said he would embark on a massive deportation programme against illegal aliens and stop Muslims from entering the United States as a measure to check terrorism. Trump’s life history, his business records, and his style brought him into conflict with many Americans, especially minority groups and some special interests. Most blacks and Latinos are certain that he is a racist. His numerous racist remarks, his appointment of racists in the White House, his inability to find space for non-whites in the new America he is promising to build in his campaign slogan “to make America great again,” have created serious divisions within the American society. His disdain for women and women’s rights brought down to the Washington Mall 200,000 angry women who have come to protest against Trump’s treatment of women, and his indifference to women’s health.
At last count, nearly 50 Democratic members of the House of Representatives are boycotting Donald Trump’s inauguration in protest against his attacks on John Lewis, the Civil Rights icon, who earlier in the week dismissed the Trump presidency as illegitimate for the reason that it came about through the help of Russia.
The role of Russia in the US election is still unclear and is now the subject of a Congressional investigation. The fear that Trump may be under some form of blackmail by Russia may be wrong, but it has been difficult to explain Trump’s persistent profession of love for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, at the expense of America’s intelligence chiefs and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Putting Putin at par with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, in his preference of leaders was such a shock to Europe, even the outgoing US Secretary of State, John Kerry, could not resist chiding Trump for describing Merkel’s refugee policy as “catastrophic.”
We congratulate the United States on its seamless transition and transfer of power. Every participant in a democracy knows that elections have consequences. Voters must live with the choice they have made and Americans must adjust to the contrasting presidential style that is discernible between outgoing President Barack Obama and incoming Donald Trump. It is cold comfort for Americans that two days to inauguration, it has been found that Trump’s approval rating is 40 per cent, compared to 84 per cent for Obama, 61 per cent for George W. Bush and 67 per cent for Bill Clinton.
Yet, the new president is unlikely to change his style, a style which has served him well through the campaigns and the transition. But, the greatest guarantee of freedom and liberty remains the tested US institutions which are likely to smoothen the jagged edges of Trump’s style, and the active participation and vigilance of the American voter, which are necessary to secure the public good.