Opinion: Will Trump satisfy his populist meme?


Our long national nightmare is over. Or so we hope. Donald Trump emerged early Wednesday morning as the 45th President of the United States in a contest that exposed a nation deeply divided racially, socio-economically, and ideologically as well as throwing both the Democratic and Republican Parties into an identity crisis that will change the landscape of American politics.

For Donald Trump’s middle-class supporters who pinned their hopes of reclaiming an American dream that has slipped from them, they must trust that he will deliver on his promise to level the playing field that has been tilted to the powerful and elite in Washington. If he proves cavalier, it will be regarded as one the greatest betrayals of the American people.

The campaign exposed clashes on many fronts. Trump supporters overlooked his political incorrectness, nearly exalting in it and remained invested in his promise to be a change agent in what they saw as a corrupt and elite Washington, where Mrs. Clinton was seen as a ringleader.

There were also deep class divisions marked by those on Trump’s side seeking restoration of a provincial, 1950's version of America. Comprised primarily of Protestant working class whites, this successful voting block was not satisfied with the cultural direction of the county, stagnant wages and porous borders. On the other side, Mrs. Clinton sought to make the country stronger through its diversity with an eye to 2050 when census figures project that white Americans will be in the minority. She also sought immigration reform but did not view it as anathema.

The outcome of the election has left both parties questioning their respective bases. The Republican Party’s failure to be more inclusive, a prescription that came out of the 2012 loss allowed Trump to galvanize his right-wing base that virtually hijacked the party from its out-of-touch establishment. Now, Republicans in both the House and Senate will have a difficult balancing act in trying to placate Trump but yet seek middle ground and expand their constituency.

The loss has left Democrats shell shocked as well. Criticism that it had chosen as its standard-bearer an elitist with no interest for the searing economic concerns of the middle class (a position contested by primary challenger, Bernie Sanders) translated into underwhelming support at the polls. To lose Michigan, a traditionally blue state was a political indictment of the party’s aloofness.

For now, U.S. citizens and its allies will try to guess what a Trump presidency will look like, one that has been short of substantive economic, security, and domestic policies. Financial markets worldwide are already reeling from the uncertainty. For over half the country that did not vote for Mr. Trump, they woke up Wednesday morning like siblings being led into a car by the authoritarian parent who has just won custody of them; filled with anxiety as to what uncertain road they will now travel guided by a Trump administration.

Mike Bernos is an award-winning journalist, having written for among others, ABC News, Gannett News, USA Today, Florida Trend and Christian Science Monitor. He is the author of three books and a songwriter whose works appear on Pandora, Sirius XM, and Spotify. He lives in Riverside.