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BY BOB FRANKEN
There are two ways of looking at this: Donald Trump’s astonishing victory was a devastating repudiation of the status quo, an angry demand for change in a system that average Americans fervently believe is “rigged” in favor of the wealthy and corrupt establishment. But Trump’s strength came primarily from the resentment of white American men, less-educated ones. So, the other way of looking at the startling result is that it was an acceptance of bigotry, misogyny, religious intolerance and the leadership of a cruel man who has conducted his business in shady ways. He certainly was uncharacteristically gracious in victory: “Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division,” he declared. “It is time for us to come together as one united people. It’s time.”
The only thing is, he and his campaign magnified the gaping wound of division. It worked.
Perhaps it wouldn’t have had he run against a different opponent. But Hillary Clinton was uninspiring, even though she represented history in the making. She was done in by the distrust of so many in the nation, who were worn down by the perception that she was truthful only when it suited her purposes. They were turned off by her obsessive demand for privacy, even secrecy. She was never able to sell herself as genuine, even with a massive campaign operation awash in money from the same contributors who had financed her six-figure paid speeches that constructed a Clinton family fortune. She never was able to get past the whiff of scandal that has fairly or unfairly followed the Clintons since forever.
So now it turns out that the nation has chosen as president of the United States the man who simply won the battle of the undesirables. The race has been like an earthquake that has left our foundations in rubble. The aftershocks are just beginning. Financial markets tanked. They hate uncertainty, and the future is uncertain.
The best hope for the U.S. is that Donald Trump, as he takes office and is forced to recognize its awesome power, will modify his approach to issues, and more importantly, will rely on aides who understand how government and geopolitics work -- and even more importantly, will somehow be able to rein in his vindictiveness. In his all-powerful position, hair-trigger impulses can mean calamity on a worldwide scale. Terrorists are not intimidated by the threats of a blowhard. Adversaries like Russia and Iran are certain to exploit Trump’s naivete -- certainly his bud Vladimir Putin will.
Meanwhile on the home front, his passionate supporters elected him to change everything, to restore hope for those who feel left behind, whose downward mobility is a threat to their survival. That explains his appeal to the working-class white guys who are scared that they’re obsolete. They feel like they are stuck and are looking to Donald Trump to unstick them. “Make America Great Again” was a slogan that resonates with them. Not only that, but he has a full Congress of his own party. The question is, How will he/they turn back the clock? As he takes care of his white constituents, does he reverse the hard-fought progress of everyone else? Will his agenda be that of his alt-right patrons? That won’t be all right with those who are the objects of his scorn -- the African-Americans, the Latinos, the Muslims, all the others. How long will they tolerate losing what they achieved at such cost?
Now that Trump has won by attracting those who didn’t care how offensive he was and simply wanted to blow up the system, will he blow up everything? This campaign and Donald Trump’s election leave a nation that is bitterly divided. The question is whether it is hopelessly divided. The problem with democracy is that the voters must live with the consequences of their choices.
© 2016 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.