Jack Tame: Trump's victory legitimises bigotry

Obama bailed out the auto industry. Photo / AP
Obama bailed out the auto industry. Photo / AP

I'm oddly soothed by the thought of Armageddon.

It'd be nice if the Earth and a few tuatara or Amazonian oddities were to survive, but if mankind were to cause its own total demise, it wouldn't be so bad.

You couldn't say we didn't have it coming. And the last thing any of us would see before 6.5 billion people were wiped out would be a popular opinion poll putting the chances of annihilation at something below 10 per cent.

"Can you smell it?" Journalist Lisa Owen stood next to me on the enormous riser at Hillary Clinton's election night party. Florida had fallen and Clinton's supporters had fallen quiet.
"Hmm?" I said.
"Rome is burning."

It'll take some time before I digest the reality of a President Trump. I gladly concede, in spite of Brexit's precursor and the increasing anti-establishment global movement, I expected on the balance of probabilities that Hillary Clinton would be President.

I was wrong. I put too much faith in traditional institutions and measures of electoral likelihood. This was a most unconventional campaign so why would the election result meet conventional expectations?

Those who so wanted a President Trump will claim this as a victory for the working man. It is. It's a victory for the guy I met from rural Illinois, whose only source of employment is delivering luxury campervans to other parts of the country.

His income works off the mileage he covers. He gets paid a set number of cents for every mile he drives. The faster he delivers the vehicle, the more he makes. He said a trip from Illinois to Los Angeles - 3000km - might net him a profit of $250. He doesn't have a contract, leave or protections. He has to pay for his return trip. He told me to make more money, he drives for 18 hours a day. Trump's victory is his.

A two-party election system should be a fight for the political centre. But really, it's a battle between the coasts of America and all the stuff in between. It would seem neo-liberalism benefited those who can see the ocean, and failed those landlocked in America's flyover states.

Memories, too, are short. Barack Obama bailed out the auto industry in the face of widespread Republican opposition and in the end the rust belt states repaid him by delivering Trump the White House.

But Trump's campaign had two parts, and I will not accept any person's celebration of Trump's victory and the rejection of the establishment status quo, while ignoring the relevance of race.

I've attended many Trump rallies in the past 18 months, in states from Iowa to Florida, New Hampshire to Texas and New York. Anyone who denies the explicit racism of benefited populism might as well describe the world as flat.

Trump's victory legitimises bigotry.

We will know in January what policy Trump prioritises as President. He denies climate change. He opposes gay marriage. Abortion rights could be limited.

But I don't fear Trump's presidency so much as I lament what it represents.

For me, it represents a rejection of America's single greatest quality: diversity. For that I'm very sad.

- Herald on Sunday

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