The post mortem on the Clinton campaign has barely started and will likely go on for months, if not years. However, with one of the biggest upsets in US election history there is plenty of blame to go around and there will be as many explanations offered as there are failed pundits. But seen from a European perspective it all seems oddly familiar. Brexit felt as a shock to the system, the Trump win just seems to neatly fit into a pattern.
I can’t pinpoint the exact time the protest vote first made itself heard outside the fringes in Europe, but at some point around the turn of the millennium it went exponential. In country after country the old political order has been challenged and in many places permanently replaced by a new order. If you look past the labels and the ideological pigeonholing, the common denominator is mistrust. It is the erosion and collapse of trust in the established political order, the institutions and the isms being peddled by the political class. Like dominos Continental European voters have rejected the establishment time and time again, reaching a temporary zenith with Brexit. With this backdrop a President Trump is only a hop and a skip across the Atlantic and not the ocean it seemed when Trump first announced.
How a Trump presidency will unfold is anybody’s guess, but based on the European experience there are two observations.
One, it is likely not going to play out like anyone thinks, the doom criers are going to be wrong and the rose tinted supporters are going to be wrong. What will happen instead is the unexpected. When you diverge from the familiar path you find yourself in uncharted territory.
Two, it will not quell the protest. Inherent in the protest vote is a voraciousness that will not be satisfied with morsels. When the hunger and the promises are not met the protest will turn elsewhere or take on a new form, be it left, right or something entirely different. The genie, once released, will not go quietly back into the bottle.
So, to those about to go into a depression following yesterday’s events – don’t. You probably won’t like what is going to happen, but it is not going to take the form you fear. To those who believe that yesterday’s events mean that their wishes will come true – don’t. You will be sorely disappointed and the distrust and disillusion you have felt will return.
The only thing certain about this election is the increase in uncertainty. This uncertainty could lead to a longing and return to the old order or to the creation of something completely new. Or you do as the Italians and just learn to live with it.