Sitting in a room full of Americans dreading “Armageddon”, the result of the election came as no surprise to me. Finger pointing is rampant and social media has found another hot topic that will keep the servers busy – for perhaps 2 days. Yet, for me, we need not look far to find a major culprit: our very screens. Despite his many flaws, Trump pitted himself against the establishment very early on. He recognised himself as an outsider who would be rejected by the mainstream media, and took every opportunity to heighten this effect. The media, the engine of the “establishment,” were relentless with their coverage, and often in very obvious ways were unbelievably biased. Initially it seemed like this was the only response we could give. Was this seriously a candidate for the presidency? Anyone who viewed themselves as free-thinking had to be sure to let the world know that they could not support this kind of candidate. His messages incited hate, he didn’t give us the political-sounding spiel we were used to in response to our questions, he seemed unabashedly ignorant about world issues – let alone how to solve them. Despite the fact that people soon came to realise that Clinton was not much better, she at least played the game well and would surely not do anything as rash as building a wall (which is, by the way, mostly already built). The point, then, is this: the kind of coverage Trump was getting only played into his hands. It gave him the attention he needed, and it confirmed the suspicions of bias against him. Whilst all were busy waving Clinton’s CV and pointing to her experience, this only cemented the idea that she was indeed very much a part of the very system that many believed to be failing their country. In America there is a fear of the government gaining too much power and restricting freedoms – of the political establishment turning on its inhabitants. This has been a fixture of American politics since time immemorial, and to guard against this perceived risk, every man and his dog is entitled to a gun so that if such a thing ever comes to pass, they can resist. Furthermore, the idea that the reigning establishment, in Democratic hands for 8 years, did not want change and would do anything to protect its own was reinforced every time coverage of Trump’s mistakes were treated as much worse than Clinton’s.
Both candidates were weak in many areas, but instead of a divide amongst the liberal world as to which mistakes mattered more, or as to the manipulation of the people and the misuse of power as opposed to ignorance and an inability to mask one’s negative opinions, we were fine with picking the most obvious weakness. If Hilary ever did hold opinions that the world would frown at, it can be certain she would find a way to avoid expressing them, whereas Trump – oh Trump. I am not in support of Trump, I never was. However, after a while even I could not help but look at how one-sided this was all becoming. I also came to the conclusion that he would not deliver on most of his promises but was simply playing their game the only way he could. His main message was that the system has been failing its citizens, those in power have done little to help, and those same people are solely bent on keeping their power. Social media treated the bashing of Trump as if it were the next ice bucket challenge. Trump quickly took on the role of a victim, and the sheer support Clinton was getting from celebrities and world figures did more to make the common American empathise with him than endear them towards Clinton. This was not an election about political theory, policies, or even likeability. For many this was a chance to support the underdog and frustrate the establishment that had tried so hard to put him down.
For those that disagree, look at the reactions to this election. The hyperboles continue. The world is not going to end – in fact for the middle class militia, most things will probably stay the same. If this is a monster, it is one we made in our own lab, then cast away only for him to return and haunt us. The only thing our characterisation of Trump supporters as racist or stupid did was send into hiding those who agreed with his less polemical ideas, or the principles that the Republican party stand for. We should have learnt this lesson from Brexit. Negative characterisation doesn’t change people’s views; it just means we are grossly misinformed as to who really does support who. It remains to be seen how this will all end. As with Brexit, I believe that the overwhelmingly one-sided support, whether deserved or not, ultimately did more damage than good.