Donald Trump speaks at his election night rally in Manhattan.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Now that the bitterly contested 2016 election is finally over, a much surprised world must take a deep breath and pause to consider the future. A hint of the challenges that face president-elect Donald Trump – and would have faced Hillary Clinton had she won the election – may be seen in what each candidate chose as a campaign slogan – catchy but meaningless phrases that promised no concrete solutions to the many urgent problems that the so-called leader of the free world must deal with.
An electorate was called upon to decide whether in fact America was not great anymore, but could be made so again, but without any serious plan to do so.
The same voters, bombarded with the most acrimonious exchanges by candidates in memory, were encouraged to be stronger together, as if in a great kumbaya moment. Reality is strong stuff and such slogans do not capture it.
Many people throughout the world are virtually holding their breaths to see what a Trump administration will do. They are in doubt regarding Trump’s qualifications for the untested role of political leader, not to mention commander-in-chief. But this is not the first time in American history that an unknown quantity reached the White House. John Kennedy’s election in 1960 was followed by the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. His introduction of American “advisers” led to the tragic folly of the Vietnam War, while his showdown with Russia in the Cuban missile crisis flirted with an atomic Armageddon.
Ronald Reagan’s ascension in 1980 was the first time an actor was called upon to take up the reins of government – now a TV “reality show” star is being forced to confront the real thing. He has his work cut out for him. As Jerusalem Post
columnist historian Gil Troy wrote: “In a land where history is last week’s most-forwarded YouTube video of cats playing or babies drooling, memories are short and malleable.
And in a nation that still represents the great ideals of liberty, democracy, and equality, the possibilities of redemption remain, like prosperity in yet another slogan, just around the corner.”
Redemption will not come easily in an American electorate so polarized during the election campaign, especially when much of the Trump campaign was associated with fears of growing antisemitism. Americans of the antisemitic persuasion are not alone in the world, and polarization between the extremes of the Right and the Left is reflected in the growing antisemitism of both camps.
Throughout Europe, neo-fascist parties are gaining strength and influencing governments. In the United States, the so-called “alt-right” has been bolstered by the Trump candidacy, while the Ku Klux Klan has been shrugged off as just another expression of the freedom of speech.
As president, Trump will have to prove he is indeed the leader of all the people, particularly the many segments of the population he maligned during a campaign that revealed some deeper issues. The world will continue to move away from the center and toward the extremes on both the Right and the Left. In many parts of Europe – from Poland to Hungary to Greece – neo-fascist parties are strengthening their influence in their governments.
In the United States the alt-right has been considerably strengthened by the Trump candidacy, without regard to whether Trump himself won the election.
As legal scholar Alan Dershowitz wrote, “The hard Right and the hard Left have more in common than either has to centrist liberals and conservatives. They both hate America, distrust government, demonize Israel and promote antisemitic tropes.” He concludes that the election of Trump would exacerbate the problem.
While many voters are worried that President Barack Obama might try to tie the hands of his successor regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict by sending it to the United Nations during the interim before Trump’s inauguration, the incoming president has promised to be Israel’s best friend. Trump should insist that the lame-duck president not do so, and reiterate America’s commitment to the direct negotiations that Israel continues to demand as the only way to achieve peace.
The day after the election is the time for healing to begin. Abraham Lincoln expressed the concept concisely at a time America was shattered by the Civil War. “With malice toward none, with charity for all.”
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