World·Opinion

Get used to saying 'President Trump,' no matter how weird it sounds: Neil Macdonald

America being America, there will now be a mighty effort to close around the new president-elect, out of the nation’s unique respect for the office if nothing else, and to pretend he’s not an offensive fool.

Despite his assertion of a gigantic conspiracy, the system was not rigged

Supporters of U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton react at her election night rally in New York. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

America being America, there will now be a mighty effort to close around the new president-elect, out of the nation's unique respect for the office if nothing else, and to pretend he's not an offensive fool — that somehow, the acquisition of the title nullifies all he's said and done over the years.

That's probably a good thing; it's part of the peaceful transition of power Americans rightly take pride in. 

People will stand and applaud when he walks into a room, including the mainstream media he loathes and who, let's be frank, return the sentiment.

But let's be clear: Americans have elected someone most of the world regards as ridiculous — Vladimir Putin being the big exception — and whom even the establishment of his own political party holds in contempt, or did, until he schooled them so thoroughly in winning.

All that, of course, only makes him more beloved to his partisans. To them, it's morning in America again.

Last night was sweet redemption for men who believe groping women is a birthright privilege, or just a little masculine horseplay that the damned femi-Nazis make way too much fuss about. 

It's a purely delicious moment for American whites who believe that immigrants are mongrelizing their Judeo-Christian nation, and for conspiracy nuts who believe, partially because of claims by their incoming president, that their outgoing president was an African-born Muslim socialist.

Their world is righted today, their champion has triumphed. It was a great big wonderful middle finger to the smarty-pants mainstream media, overeducated elites and whining, politically correct lefties. 

Let them eat crow. And they are. I certainly am. 

Trump supporters react to reports that he had won North Carolina while watching results in Times Square. (Seth Wenig/Associated Press)

System was not rigged

There'll be all sorts of rationalizing, of course, by people who simply don't want to believe Americans willingly voted for a fellow who talks about grabbing women by their genitals, who stiffs his creditors, stretches the law to avoid taxes and lies so shamelessly, and with such flourish and volume, as to render fact-checkers, and indeed conventional journalism, simply unable to cope.

Those people will claim it wasn't a vote for Donald Trump, it was a vote against Hillary Clinton, and that it wouldn't have happened to Bernie. They will say a lot of people only voted Trump because they thought he wouldn't win, and that that's largely the media's fault, or the fault of those supposedly brilliant pollsters, for having convinced everyone that Clinton was a lock. 

Or the FBI's fault, for having declared there was no basis for criminal charges against Clinton last summer, then announcing it was considering new email evidence a week ago, and letting that fester until 48 hours before the election, then declaring there was nothing to it after all. 

It can reasonably be argued that FBI director James Comey's behaviour was grossly inappropriate, although his new president will no doubt be grateful. 

Ultimately, though, this was a legitimate expression of the will of the American people. Despite Trump's assertion of a gigantic conspiracy, the system was not rigged. America's system is one person, one vote, and Donald Trump won fair and square. 

Just exaggerating?

In a democracy, voters get both what they want and what they deserve. Say it, and get used to it, no matter how weird it sounds: President Trump.

That said, there is the little matter of what he promised, and what a majority of Americans now presumably expect.

Either Trump intends to deport the 12 million or so people who are living and working in the United States illegally, something that would rupture the national workforce and trigger economic chaos, or he was just kidding, folks.

Either he's going to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement, ripping out the guts of business models that employ millions of Americans, Canadians and Mexicans, or he was just exaggerating.

Either he seriously intends to bar Muslims from the United States until he "figures out what the hell is going on," or that was just baloney he dreamed up.

Either he intends to have "Crooked Hillary" arrested and locked up, as he promised, or that was just foolishness.

It might actually have all been just foolishness.

A woman passes burning garbage during a demonstration in Oakland, Calif., following Trump's election, early on Wednesday. (Noah Berger/Reuters)

Clinging to hope

There is, after all, an order of things, a stability that must be preserved, and even a president with a majority in both houses of Congress is constrained by reality.

And Trump is, after all, a fellow who's changed his mind plenty in the past. In fact, the main complaint of all those prominent Republicans who publicly repudiated him was that he's not a real conservative.

But if it was all just bombast and nonsense and hubris, there's a sadness to it, too.

Because among the people who handed Trump the presidency are millions of Americans clinging to the hope that he will do what he promised, and bring their jobs back from overseas.

These are people who lost their jobs to the voracity of deregulation, to the "creative destruction" of unfettered free-market capitalism, which is sort of Trump's thing.

They are also people who lost their wealth and their homes to the systemic fraud perpetrated by Wall Street, which nearly wrecked the world economy, and from which black Americans, among others, have barely even begun to recover.

The financiers behind that awful corruption were people who, like the new president-elect, believe that only suckers follow the rules, and that the smart play is to take as much as you can without contributing, either to your neighbour or to your government.

And now he's president, and a good chunk of the nation is turning its lonely eyes, and trust, to him. Because they believe what they want to believe: that he'll make it all better, and everything will be like it was before.

Well. We shall see, won't we?

This column is part of CBC's new Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

About the Author

Neil Macdonald

Opinion Columnist

Neil Macdonald is an opinion columnist for CBC News, based in Ottawa. Prior to that he was the CBC's Washington correspondent for 12 years, and before that he spent five years reporting from the Middle East. He also had a previous career in newspapers, and speaks English and French fluently, and some Arabic.

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