Please view the main text area of the page by skipping the main menu.

Editorial: Global concern over Trump's victory

It was a stunning win.

Republican Donald Trump has been voted president of the United States. Trump, who had been viewed as a fringe candidate during the primary contest, overwhelmed his rivals to win the Republican presidential nomination, and defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 election.

Many U.S. newspapers expressed support for Clinton and questioned whether Trump was qualified to serve as head of state. Before the election, most U.S. media outlets had predicted a Clinton victory. However, the opinion polls that news organizations conducted were unable to accurately measure public support for Trump, who became stronger whenever he faced criticism. Trump had numerous closet supporters, and the more adverse challenges he faced, the more closely his supporters bonded together.

Trump addressed the American people in his victory speech, saying, "I will not let you down." He also revealed that Clinton called him to congratulate him on his success. The chaotic 2016 presidential race has thus come to an end.

The popular will of citizens in the United States should be respected, but changes in such a superpower will also have a huge impact on the world. Trump had said a wall should be built along the border between the United States and Mexico to block the influx of illegal immigrants, that entries by Muslims into the United States should be restricted, and that "Obamacare," President Barack Obama's affordable care act aiming to ensure universal health care coverage in the country, should be scrapped immediately. Moreover, Trump voiced stiff opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement and the Paris Agreement on countermeasures against global warming. These policy measures that Trump pledged to implement if elected have made the future of the United States and the world uncertain.

Trump's election could also affect Japan-U.S. relations. Trump has demanded that Tokyo fully cover the expenses of stationing U.S. troops in Japan, or defend itself on its own if it is unwilling to foot the costs. Trump even mentioned the possibility of Japan going nuclear. He also demanded NATO, in which the United States is the leading power, foot more of the U.S. military's expenses, and urged the bloc to defend itself on its own if it cannot comply.

Trump's victory follows the huge shock after Britain decided in a referendum to leave the European Union. The United States has become predominant in the world following the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. In other words, the world order has been formed in past decades based on U.S. ideology.

If that ideology was to weaken and Trump's "America First" policy was to advance, international relations would become volatile. It is no exaggeration to say that Trump's election heralds the changing of the world without any clear prospects, as international economic and security systems could drastically shift.

However, it is not true that the United States has established its current position in the world on its own. It is fine for Trump to use the slogan "make America great again," in a similar manner to former U.S. President Ronald Reagan. But the United States cannot continue to be a great country if it were to make light of its relations with its allies and international cooperation. Trump apparently does not understand this.

One cannot help but wonder how Trump won the election. In a Trump rally held in Florida in late October, a man in his 40s, who was previously a member of the Democratic Party, lamented that Bill Clinton's administration was tainted by a scandal involving the then president's inappropriate relations with a woman. He also pointed out that the call for "change" by President Obama ended up as an empty slogan. He then said he no longer has expectations for the Democratic Party. This is apparently a typical opinion shared by Trump supporters.

In addition to voters' weariness of the Obama administration, the fact that the FBI publicly reopened its investigation into Clinton's emails undoubtedly influenced the outcome of the presidential race.

The decisive cause of her defeat was, however, that she underestimated the anger of people suffering from the widening income gap. Clinton might have been elected if she had won in Midwestern states, a region called a "rust belt" where local coal, automobile and other industries have declined. These states had been known as Democratic strongholds.

The fact that many votes were cast for Trump appears to reflect the anger of people, particularly working-class whites, whose wages have not risen and who have tended to lose their jobs to immigrants. Among white Americans, who are slowly becoming a minority in the country, there is a desperate feeling that they are supposed to be the center of America, but even if they received a higher education, it would be difficult for them to find well-paid jobs that allow them to repay their student loans. Trump's assertions were attractive to those who feel hopeless and who believe that the "American Dream" is a thing of the past.

Trump, who has no political experience and calls himself an outsider, has gained support from low-income earners by blaming the political establishment for the widening income gap, though he himself is a billionaire. He takes the position that there is no choice but to destroy the established order and system to eliminate irrationality in U.S. society and that Clinton, who previously served as the first lady, a senator and secretary of state, is a representative of such a political establishment. In other words, he has been pursuing populism.

Trump has failed to clarify how he will build a new order after destroying the past one. This election was called one of the ugliest in U.S. history as debates between presidential candidates ended up being just low-level mutual criticism. Trump should show the specific policy measures he intends to implement.

Top GOP officials did not proactively support Trump during his campaign because of Trump's hateful remarks, including those discriminatory of women. However, the Republican Party, which has attached importance to tradition in the United States, has lost its sense of direction while joining hands with neocons who attempted to use the U.S. power to change the world and the Tea Party grass-root movement calling for small government, among other forces, giving birth to a "monstrous" candidate.

The latest presidential election was still a form of democracy even though it showed that one of the two major parties became dysfunctional. Questions remain as to whether Trump can fully cooperate with the GOP and whether he can reconcile with Clinton supporters. True democracy in the U.S. is being put to the test.

Also in The Mainichi

The Mainichi on social media