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You’ve been Trumped. Now what?

With Trump’s ascent to the most powerful office in the world, it seems America has entered a new dark age. But his anti-establishment rhetoric has now placed him in a compromising situation. How does the ultimate non-politician handle the responsibilities of the highest political office in the land?

Gutter politics

Trump’s victory will likely be a surprise even to himself. His talk of a rigged system, association with conspiracy theorists such as Alex Jones and calls to ‘drain the swamp’ of so-called establishment politics positioned him as a protest candidate, rather than a serious contender. Associate Professor of Philosophy Matthew Sharpe, from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Deakin University, says Trump’s victory is historic, for all the wrong reasons: ‘Donald Trump’s election represents a decisive before-and-after moment in American life. Never before in the nation of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln has a man won office while threatening to imprison his opponent, and to not accept his own electoral defeat,’ he says.

The first 100 days

Assoc. Prof. Sharpe says it’s impossible to predict exactly what Trump will do next. If his campaign ads are to be believed, at the top of his list of priorities are building a border wall with Mexico (and somehow making Mexico pay for it), going to war with ISIS, tearing up crucial climate legislation and taking an extremely provocative and protectionist approach to trade with China. Never before has America been defined by such an extreme isolationist mindset, that advocates so enthusiastically for increased war (including the possible use of nuclear weapons). These policies will radically reshape how America is seen in the world for years to come, according to Assoc. Prof. Sharpe. One can only hope that American democracy will not be fundamentally harmed by his administration,’ he says.

'Donald Trump's election represents a decisive before-and-after moment in American life.'

Associate Professor Matthew Sharpe,
Deakin University

Poisoned chalice

How Trump treats Clinton will be a clue to the tone of his presidency. Associate Professor of Politics and Policy Benjamin Isakhan, from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Deakin University says that Trump was lucky to have Clinton as an opponent: ‘Hillary’s problem was that she was widely distrusted and perceived as corrupt. If Trump had come up against someone like Obama, he would have been wiped out’. Trump has previously said that if he was president, Clinton would ‘be in jail’ and there’s every chance he’ll seek to follow through on this threat to make an example of her.

But this might be more about exerting authority than seeking revenge. Trump does not come to the White House with the full backing of his party, let alone the country. Rather, his nomination and candidacy has ruptured the Republican Party. Many predict that behind the scenes, Republicans are getting ready for the 2020 election; knowing that Trump’s presidency will be a disaster, and that the party will need to be redefined if it is to hold on to power. ‘Any Republican who supported Trump in the election will now be tarred. He’ll become a pariah. This paves the way for a younger, more politically centred, socially progressive candidate who can unite the party, and the country, rather than divide it,’ says Assoc. Prof. Isakhan. ‘His victory may ultimately be his downfall,’ he concludes.

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Benjamin Isakhan
Benjamin Isakhan

Associate Professor of Politics and Policy, Deakin University
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Matthew Sharpe
Matthew Sharpe

Associate Professor of Philosophy, Deakin University
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