What Trump’s Win Means: a View From Cuba


At the onset of the 2016 presidential elections, the elites of the Democratic and Republican parties did not think the issue would be anything but business as usual. The next president of the nation would inevitably have the surname of one of the families who had ruled before: Bush or Clinton; and life in the superpower would continue to be neoliberal capitalist, without changes, as in the last three decades.

But it did not work out that way. It has been consistently shown that, despite the fact that all other elements of power remained the same, the population of the country did not want more of the same. They wanted something new and different in the nation that presumes itself to be a model of democracy for the planet.

Since the previous stage of the process, it became clear that “the oven was not ready for baking” when, within each of the traditional parties, differences were highlighted by unexpected dissent. That made it clear that the phenomenon was not a matter of cosmetic adjustments but of deep surgery. According to the US political qualification patterns, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were identified respectively as “the right of the Right” and “the left of the Left”. They had the support of the Republican and Democrat majorities.

Bernie Sanders’ campaign fell victim to the Democratic party machinery. Insensitive to the expressed tendency, it insisted on the figure of Hillary Clinton who later lost in a fight where she represented the discontented past. The alternative was the billionaire, populist and demagogue Donald Trump. He lacked the determined support of the Republican establishment. Together with many of the main figures of that machine against him, he was elected despite his proven status as racist, sexist, abusive and systematic target of media mockery.

Although in appearance the bipartisan system of Democrats and Republicans survives, Trump’s victory represents a disaster for the system. The direct and populist style of the now President-elect, appealing to the lowest instincts of certain sectors of society –very different from the usual tone of US politicians– gave him a touch of authenticity in the eyes of the most disaffected sector of the right-wing electorate.

The Republican candidate was able to identify the presence of what can be called a “grassroots rebellion” and the growing gap between the political, economic, intellectual and media elites, on the one side, and the foundation of the conservative electorate, on the other. His rhetoric against Washington and Wall Street captivated the less-educated white voters and sectors impoverished by the effects of economic globalization, which benefited the corporations.

Trump went as far as to say that he was not competing against Hillary but against the dishonest media. This confrontation with media power antagonized the journalistic sector but rallied the support of voters exhausted by corporate media outrages.

Better than anyone else, Trump saw the widening gap between the political, economic, intellectual and media elites, and the base of the conservative electorate.

Trump is not a conventional right-winger. He defines himself as “a conservative with common sense”. He does not oppose the political model, but the politicians who have been running it. His speech is emotional and spontaneous; it appeals to people´s instincts, not to their brains or reason. He speaks for that part of the American people where discouragement and discontent have taken root. He addressed people tired of traditional politics and promised to bring honesty to the system and renew names and attitudes.

The media have given a lot of publicity to his most extreme statements and proposals, such as that he would prohibit Muslims from entering the country, expel the 11 million Latin American undocumented immigrants, and build a three thousand kilometer (1864 miles) border wall –whose $20 billion cost would be borne by the government of Mexico– to prevent the entry of Latin American immigrants.

Criticizing the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the constitutional right to same-sex marriage, Trump stated that the marriage of a man and a woman is “the basis of a free society”. He supported so-called “religious freedom¨ laws promoted in several states to deny services to LGBT persons. He said that climate change is a concept “created by and for the Chinese, to make the US manufacturing sector lose competitiveness “.

In truth, it could be said that Trump did not win; instead that it was Hillary Clinton and the Democrats who lost.

A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.

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Manuel E. Yepe is a lawyer, economist and journalist. He is a professor at the Higher Institute of International Relations in Havana.

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