16th November 2016America enters the Trump age

Whilst Hillary Clinton had polled the most votes, due the quirks of the Electoral College system that operates in US elections, Trump secured the presidency. The polls had been proved inaccurate yet again; the disadvantaged mid-west states had swayed the vote, with many former Democrats choosing to vote Republican in order to make their discontented voices heard.

A softening of the rhetoric
The man who during his election campaign threatened to build the wall and make the Mexicans pay, deport illegal immigrants, remove Obamacare, and get tough on trade with China became more conciliatory in his acceptance speech the day after the election.

Whether this will be the tone he will set for his presidency remains to be seen. Trump’s dampening down of campaign trail promises may become a feature of his presidency and this could cause problems amongst his followers. He has already softened his attack on Obamacare, the health insurance provision that gave more than 20 million Americans access to medical care, saying that there were aspects of the policy he liked. However, just a few hours earlier, in a move that might presage further clashes within his own party, a senior Republican spokesman had told the BBC’s Today programme that the Republicans intended to remove every policy that President Obama had introduced, one by one.

On the stump, Trump made much of his business experience, and many voted for him for this reason alone. However, he has no experience of the machinery of government. He and his administration may find that, having come to office on a tide of popular anger and disillusionment, in office they have far less scope for manoeuvre than they had hoped for.

On the world stage, he may face problems of a different kind. International diplomacy requires a fine understanding of detail, judgment and in-depth experience of how complex events are best handled. Trump is known for his knee-jerk reactions and volatile temperament, traits to be feared in the man who holds the codes to the nuclear weapons arsenal.

The new agenda
One thing Trump does know a lot about is building and construction. In his election campaign he spoke of pushing through $500 billion of spending on new infrastructure projects, which if implemented would create thousands of jobs and boost the fortunes of industrial and construction companies across America. He also plans to cut corporation tax from 35% to 15%. Many economists see these policies as likely spurs to faster economic growth, higher inflation and an increasingly strong dollar in the short term.

All major trade deals are likely to come under scrutiny. The North American Free Trade deal with Canada and Mexico has long been in his sights for renegotiation and his manifesto plans for international trade included cancellation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And then there’s China. He had pledged to force China and other countries to pay for the privilege of selling their goods in the US. Where trade with a post-Brexit Britain would figure in all this can only be a matter of conjecture at this stage.

Trump won because he tapped into the growing popular view that America was badly broken and needed fixing. The people voted for a new order and an end to the business-as-usual approach to government, so it is hard to see at this point how he can keep his promises to his followers and be the sort of leader the rest of the world might want to do business with. We could all be in for a bumpy ride.

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