It is a fortnight since Donald Trump was elected U.S President and Gerard Ball's opinions of him have not gotten any better.
As I went to sleep at 6am Irish time on November 9th, I was so tired I could barely process what I had just bore witness to. A man with a litany of debacles around him and whose campaign was unprecedentedly light on policy specifics would become the 45th president of the United States of America. This couldn’t have happened. Surely my exhaustion in staying up until a horrendously early time had made me delirious. It couldn’t have really happened, could it? Indeed, it could, and it did.
As I awoke at a similarly bizarre time of 2.00pm the following day, I was instantly hit with a feeling of emptiness; Donald Trump had won and I and so many of my peers had been suckered into the same false sense of security that the legacy media had in the States; we put too much heed into the polls. Indeed, a man that is the butt of all the jokes, a man with little policies other than to do ‘great’ things, a man who has managed to insult women and almost all minorities has become one of the most powerful individuals in the world – it was, and nearly a fortnight on remains, hard to process.
Now before I continue, I feel I need to make this clear; I hold no particular liking for Hilary Clinton, far from it. In fact, Bernie Sanders would have been my choice – but that’s for another day. I have, however, noticed, during this election that one cannot hold dissenting opinions about one of the two primary candidates without being accused of ‘ignoring the other candidate’s flaws’.
This piece is about Trump, and at no point should you simply assume that I think Clinton’s ‘great’. However, that being said, I would have picked Clinton 100 times without a second thought when the alternative is so hopelessly devoid of substance, spouts populist rhetoric at an alarming rate, has a never-ending loose relationship with truths whilst being in a love-fest with blatant falsehoods and of course, there is the issue of his misogyny, racism, xenophobia and homophobia. But having said all that, he’s the man now – that’s the reality for us all, especially for Americans
There’s little point in rehashing already recycled talking points pertaining to dissecting why exactly this result came to fruition. We know Trump managed to receive less votes than the previous two Republican nominees – John McCain and Mitt Romney - who themselves lost relatively handsomely to out-going president Barack Obama. We know this, so he didn’t ‘mobilise’ people to any great degree at all, far from it – Hillary just failed miserably in that regard.
All ifs and buts, but we will never know if a candidate such as Sanders would have ultimately beaten a brutally-effective showman such as Trump. Trump’s victory, as far as this student is concerned, proved one thing; political populism delights the less – educated masses and in picking Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, the Democrats signed their own death notice.
A fortnight has passed since Donald Trump became 45th President Elect of the United States, and my opinions on the man have, perhaps, worsened if possible. However, as an aspiring journalist, I am always keen to hear other opinions and as part of an assignment, DCU instructed final year journalism students to attend the 16th Cleraun Media Conference held in Dublin over the weekend of 11th of November. This conference is scheduled to take place every two years, with the agenda being that it acts as a forum where media practitioners can address and discuss ethical and professional issues which arise in the course of their work in a positive and constructive way.
Sounds boring, perhaps? Well as an aspiring journalist, yes, even I would say a bit, yeah – however one speaker caught the attention of my journalistic eyes. Carol Leonnig – the American Pulitzer Prize-Winning journalist working with the Washington Post. She was scheduled to give two talks over the three day conference. I just knew she’d have valuable insight on the elections and Trump in particular, so I went – and she didn’t disappoint.
She spoke with an assured confidence whilst her face was constantly delighting at the notion that she was in a room full of like-minded people that had nothing but respect for all her accomplishments and endeavours. This is the same woman that won the Pulitzer Prize for revealing that President Obama’s security had been compromised by the misconduct and failures of the Secret Service. She also works for a publication that was banned for much of Trump’s campaign trail.
Carol went on to say how Trump broke with tradition last Thursday by heading to Washington DC. Without a ‘protected pool’ of journalists, she believes Trump spells bad news for the media. I tend to agree. You have to remember, this is the same man who blatantly lies and refuses to accept said lies even when mounting evidence is put forth that shows him doing just that – so for him to suggest that he’s treating the ‘lying media’ this way for all their supposed lies, would be, sensationally hypocritical.
An example of Trump refusing to acknowledge his past statements and actions in the face of damning evidence would be his insistence that he was never for invading Iraq and that he never mocked a disabled reporter – to name but two. There are recordings of him expressing favourable views with regards to invading Iraq whereas there’s video evidence of him imitating disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski. He denies this, despite the aforementioned facts. It seems that either facts are often wrong, or his base aren’t too pushed by his actions – I’m unsure what’s more terrifying.
So, most of the time – not all, of course – the media has portrayed him exactly the way he’s acted. Whether you believe the media has been light on Hillary comparatively speaking is a fair question and one that is perhaps due consideration – however, most of what the media have said about Trump is irrefutably correct. Trump doesn’t have distain for the media because he questions their ability to be arbiters of truthfulness and objectivity, no, it’s because the media acts as his mirror which relentlessly reports every senseless, bigoted and utterly stupid thing that he utters.
The real question is why do people support someone who unashamedly lies and has mocked a shockingly high number of people who also seems to be making it up as he goes along? These are just facts. Those pesky facts are always getting in the way. Is the only reason that these people simply believe Clinton was worse? That she’s an ‘establishment’ candidate? That her emails are simply ‘disgraceful’ whereas his past misdemeanours are so often excused as ‘it was a long time ago’ or ‘because eh Hillary is the devil’. Again, I’m not a Clinton fan, but I do find it strangely hilarious when certain people love to ridicule her for all her apparent failings but are less so inclined to do so with his – I wonder why that is?
As an on-looking student, I couldn’t help but feel disgusted with Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s words following his phone-call with conversion therapy advocate and Vice-President Elect Mike Pence. Apparently, Pence ‘really knows Ireland and the issues that matter to our people’ according to the Taoiseach. Well, given his staunch opposition to anything LGBTQ-related, I sincerely doubt that.
Now, I know the Taoiseach doesn’t want to alienate Ireland from the new prospective leaders of the most powerful country of world, that’s understandable, but less of how well they understand Ireland and the issues that matter to us would be appreciated given some of the comments these men have made.
So, as I mingle with my friends and discuss world matters, there is still a feeling of shock resonating with us – for two reasons. Firstly, we were very surprised that Trump won and secondly, we are simply flabbergasted that such an openly offensive candidate who is devoid of any meaningful plans and who compulsively lies could take office. Indeed, we truly are living in a post-factual world.
What now, though? Trump has recently made interesting remarks about Obama-care and same-sex marriage to name but two. Could it be that all this talk of wholesale changes was pure bluff in order to pander to the extremes of the US? Surely not, surely…. The next four years will tell all in that respect. Anyway, I sincerely hope President Elect Trump isn’t impeached as the man who would succeed him, would be even worse.