Our hearts broke at around 10pm. Condolences came in over WhatsApp and text, little beeps of confusion in a huge and silent hall packed with cardboard cut-outs, inspirational quotes about achieving the impossible, and cupcakes decorated with shards of boiled-sugar “glass.”
Three thousand women, including myself, had traveled from distant states and countries to watch the Nov. 8 vote count at Wellesley College, in suburban Massachusetts. Balloons marked gathering points for those who’d graduated from the women-only college in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Younger alums buzzed around them in awe, trying to imagine making a life in America before the Civil Rights Act or Title IX. Now everyone sat in shock or wandered red-eyed outside and into the dark, as state after state turned red for Donald Trump.
Hillary Clinton was perhaps the most qualified US presidential candidate to ever run for office. Her experience in the White House, State Department, and US Senate remains unparalleled, and her political acumen dates all the way back to her senior year at Wellesley, in 1969. Just 21 years old then, Clinton made national headlines for an improvised commencement address that rejected political quiescence and called for courage from her embattled generation. And the American public gave her chair in the Oval Office to a reality television star.
As the idea of a Trump victory set in amongst the Wellesley women watching the exit polls, everyone seemed to be thinking the same thing: If Clinton isn’t good enough to break the highest and hardest of glass ceilings, what woman is?
“What more do people want?” exclaimed one alum from the class of 1976, who’d flown in from San Francisco just to celebrate.
For some, it already had felt like an indignity to see the former US secretary of state share a debate stage with Trump, a man with no relevant experience who had openly rejected one of the basic tenets of American democracy: the unquestionably peaceful transfer of power. What was there to compare?
“Nothing comes easy for women. Everything that is worth doing takes work,” Madeleine Albright reminded the nervous audience via Skype on election night. It was meant to be a hopeful message. Albright, a 1959 Wellesley alum, was the first woman to become US secretary of state. She had done the work. At that time in the evening, no one really believed that sexism—with racism, nativism, and good old-fashioned fear—would ultimately obscure the difference between a seasoned legislator and a showman.
I went to Wellesley for college because I was curious what a world run by women would be like. I don’t know if I will have the chance to feel that again. But I can tell you that it did feel different to be at the center instead of the margins for those four years—and for a brief, bright few hours on election day. The college’s government and president have always been women, and the experience is designed specifically for women, from the syllabi to the steps of the science center, which are scaled to a woman’s stride. It’s a bubble, but one that sends a disproportionate number of women into real-world C-suites.
Like many alums, I believed a Clinton presidency would create a similar experience for all American women. I hoped she would set a standard in which women were expected to compete vigorously, to ask for the best jobs and salaries, and to demand accommodation for their basic needs.
“I tear up thinking about what it will be like if/when she wins, because it will be a validation of everything Wellesley inculcates in us—to lead, to serve, to think,” ’06 alum Pam Hill told me, before the vote came in. “A part of me dreams that a Hillary presidency would be an extension of that Wellesley bubble, the one in which women learn to be unapologetically themselves.”
You don’t have to go to a special school to understand the importance of having a place where your body fits in, your ambitions make sense, and your abilities are taken seriously. It’s telling that American parents and educators frequently refer to the US presidency as a sort of shorthand for America’s heralded equality of opportunity: “Anyone can be president,” we promise kids of all genders and colors, as long as they work hard enough, try hard enough, and manage to line everything up just so. We should never stop telling kids that.
But there’s a widespread feeling now that this meritocratic promise is less true than we thought.
When this race became a referendum on what it means to be an American, Hillary Clinton thought she had victory in her sights.
But voters had a different idea than the wily veteran of over four decades of American political life. In far greater numbers than expected, voters rejected her in favor of Donald Trump, an erratic tycoon whose mean-spirited campaign attracted unprecedented criticism for a major-party nominee. In the end, Clinton’s fraught history—symbolized by the baroque investigations into her private e-mail server—overcame whatever advantages her centrist agenda, critiques of Trump’s outrages, and well-funded, professionally run campaign could give her.
Soon after Pennsylvania’s 20 votes in the electoral college were called for Trump by the Associated Press early Wednesday (Nov. 9), it was clear the path for a Clinton victory had disappeared.
Indeed, Trump’s bet that white voters would turn out and surprise the pundits seems correct: Rural white voters in states that Democrats were counting on turned out to deliver for Trump, while Clinton could not find the language to win them over. Fears that she had not campaigned hard enough to defend the Democratic firewall late in the race proved true, as Trump outperformed the polls to win a series of close victories in the midwestern states, in addition to taking the key swing states of Florida and North Carolina, where Clinton failed to do as well as president Barack Obama did in 2012.
Trump owes his victory to the polarization of American politics—the final difference in the vote will likely be less than two percentage points. But enough voters ignored warnings about Trump’s threat to US democracy to propel a man who embodies some of America’s most deep-set historical vices to the presidency. Why? He promises a return to a fantastic past where the social and economic turmoil of the 21st century can be avoided.
It does not seem likely he can deliver on those promises, but voters appear all too used to politicians who don’t keep their promises. White Americans heard Trump’s voice, not Clinton’s, and came out to make him president.
Eight months ago, in Michigan, Clinton lost the Michigan Democratic primary, a surprise defeat that pollsters hadn’t been expecting and one that today seems even more telling. The victor was Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, an independent whose primary challenge would highlight Clinton’s electoral weaknesses among white voters.
Before she became the standard bearer for a movement against Trump, Clinton’s campaign—a multimillion-dollar effort with the most talented operatives and innovative tech available—had a problem explaining what she stood for. Not in terms of the issues, where Clinton’s wonky record set the tone, but in terms of, “why her, why now?”
The primary electorate was shaped by Democratic frustration with the Obama administration’s turn into deadlock. Voters were looking for something more strident than Obama’s incrementalist agenda.
The rifts in the Democratic coalition that had been mostly subsumed during the past eight years broke to the surface, as the capital-loving wing of the party with its branches on Wall Street and in Menlo Park clashed with those to whom economic recovery came less swiftly: Students and young graduates with their accompanying debt loads, and middle-class workers confronting wage stagnation.
Though Clinton carefully cultivated the influential progressive senator Elizabeth Warren to forestall her potential challenge from the left, Sanders was dead set on mounting what he thought of initially as a protest candidacy. He channeled American frustration with his endless criticisms of “the millionaire and billionaire class.” He called for major expansions of the US government to help students with their debt and workers get a fair shake. His unpolished presentation couldn’t have been more of a contrast with Clinton’s poise.
Sanders made hay of Clinton’s retreat on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a landmark free trade agreement she had backed in theory while working for Obama but rejected after its full details were made a public. Even more so, he went after her as an ally of Wall Street whose judgement was compromised by her time among the US elite, giving paid speeches to bankers that she wouldn’t share with the public. Clinton, he said, was the establishment, and what was needed was a political revolution.
Yet Sanders faced several limitations as a candidate. Despite his own history in the civil rights movement, he found it difficult to speak directly to minority voters’ concerns about racism. At a time when Black Lives Matter and police violence dominated the news, he was hampered by his overwhelming focus on economic disparities. While his rhetoric would improve over time, his inability to pull black voters from Clinton allowed her to dominate voting in southern states.
And Sanders could never quite land a foreign policy critique against Clinton despite her fraught record as US secretary of state, in part because any criticisms of her would naturally reflect on the popular president she had served.
Perhaps most notable, Sanders famously declined to make Clinton’s handling of the e-mail server she used for official and personal business during her tenure as secretary of state an issue early in the campaign. The server become public in 2015, during a series of obviously politicized Congressional investigations into the Benghazi attacks on US personnel in Libya. In June, an FBI investigation would determine that Clinton had not illegally mishandled classified material.
Sanders, unable or unwilling to deploy the most telling arguments against Clinton, soon found himself in a losing position. Despite raising more money than her campaign for several months, he could not win over enough minorities or women to break Clinton’s growing lead in convention delegates.
The Clinton team’s disciplined strategy—reflecting lessons learned during her loss to Obama in 2008—gave her a lead she would never relinquish until the final day of the race. By the time the primary cycle ended in June, she was the Democratic nominee. But critics and journalists alike, noting Clinton’s high unfavorable rating, would continue to wonder whether Sanders, a relative outsider who out-polled her with white men, could be a stronger nominee in an unsettled electorate.
Donald Trump, erstwhile Clinton supporter, emerged from the wreckage of the Republican primary as the voice of a growing nationalist movement. Rather than a conventional GOP politician, Clinton faced an undisciplined builder who had begun his campaign by insulting Mexican immigrants and hadn’t stopped since. He had no qualms about launching attacks directly at Clinton’s weak points, whether the email server or her ties to Barack Obama, still anathema among Republicans.
There was no shortage of predictions that Trump would be easy pickings for Clinton, but that belied both the strength of Republican loyalty to their party (antipathy to Clinton) and his particular strength: He emboldened a hard core of enthusiastic conservatives to express racist and sexist sentiments the Republican establishment had previously limited to dog-whistles, channelling the political voice of Pat Buchanan and building on the Tea Party and the racist backlash spurred by Obama’s historic presidency. His willingness to abandon the party’s free markets orthodoxy in favor of a welfare-for-whites approach allowed him to reach across party lines more effectively than past Republicans.
Before the two party conventions in late July, Clinton and Sanders were still repairing their relationship, and the party along with it. A haze of official sanction still trailed in her wake. When the FBI recommended no charges against Clinton for mishandling classified information on her email server, FBI director James Comey still held an unprecedented press conference to call her behavior “extremely careless.” Journalists, meanwhile, pored over the contents of the server, which showed the sometimes unsavory side of a philanthropic operation that relied on access or the illusion of access to raise money for good causes around the globe. While her critics called it corruption, there was never any evidence of a quid pro quo with any donor or associate.
The media’s obsession with the scandals and the party’s slow reunion allowed Trump to stake early leads in key polls. His raucous nominating convention in Cleveland, Ohio, was a mad four-day paean to the candidate that included the spectacle of plagiarized speeches, intra-party rivalry, controversial gay billionaire endorsees, and the truly terrifying scene of scandal-tarnished governor Chris Christie leading the crowd in chants of “lock her up.” Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, was a sop to a nervous Republican establishment, and brought with him one of the most conservative records in the country. The event culminated in a quasi-fascistic speech wherein Trump, accepting the party’s nomination, promised, “I alone can fix it.”
He would never have a better chance of winning the election, according to poll aggregators like FiveThirtyEight, until it was clear that victory was in his hands.
Clinton’s convention was scheduled to begin just days after Trump’s ended, and organizers feared that Sanders holdouts would take over the floor to force protest votes. Emails stolen by Russian hackers and made public showed Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz had worked to back Clinton, the party’s favored nominee, over Sanders. She would resign over the conflict, adding to the pall over the convention. (Ironically, her replacement, Donna Brazile, would later be forced out of a job at CNN when further hacked e-mails revealed she shared debate questions with Clinton and Sanders ahead of time.)
The moment seemed poised for some kind of 1968-style tearing apart of the party by faction, age, and class. It didn’t happen. Sanders protesters made themselves heard on the floor from time to time, and took over a media filing center to underline their complaints about the primary. Mass conflict was averted by careful concessions made to Sanders’ camp on the party platform and in his role at the convention, a marquee first-day speech in prime time that allowed Sanders to endorse Clinton on his own terms.
But Clinton’s team took a risk: Rather than focus entirely on uniting their own party, as Trump did at his convention, Clinton’s team would adopt the more traditional tactic of using the nationally-televised spectacle to highlight the broad appeal of their candidate.
Her vice presidential pick was the moderate governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine, not a darling of the progressive movement. Bernie Sanders’ valedictory on the first night of the convention, intended to put a stamp on their rivalry, was followed by Michelle Obama, the standout rhetorical star of this election, who delivered a widely hailed speech that made the case that Trump was simply too offensive to be president.
“This election, and every election, is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives,” the US first lady said, echoing a message that Clinton’s team would spend millions to broadcast around the country.
This convention was the ultimate big tent: New York Republican-turned-Independent mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose backing of stop-and-frisk had not made him a favorite of the Democratic base, appeared to assure moderates that Clinton was by far the better choice than Trump, even as the Mothers of the Movement, women whose children were lost to police violence, told black voters that Clinton understood the perils of systemic racism.
But this chorus of elites and minorities and progressives coming together seemed to be less than the sum of its parts on election day. Clinton underperformed Obama’s 2012 numbers with minorities, while only moving college-educated white voters toward her by a few percentage points. But more importantly, the convention seemed to miss one key constituency: White voters, especially in rural areas, who felt left behind those same elites and convinced that those minority groups were getting ahead of them in line for the American dream. Clinton’s convention appeared to have something for everyone, but very little left for working-class white voters.
The first presidential debate in late September was a final chance for Trump to change the game, the first time he would appear next to Clinton and have an opportunity to prove arguments about his erratic behavior and angry persona false.
Clinton was once again in the midst of deepened scrutiny. She left a 9/11 memorial event after feeling faint, leading to a wild surge of internet rumors about her health. She hadn’t given a proper press conference in months, leading to a barrage of press criticism (which was never matched when Trump began avoiding the press in the final two months of the campaign). Her campaign chairman, John Podesta, had his e-mail inbox hacked, and his messages leaked by Wikileaks, revealing embarrassing internal deliberations and casting more light on Clinton’s connections to wealthy individuals and corporations.
Trump, sensing his improving position, declined to prepare for his debate, beyond holding bull sessions with a coterie of disgraced politicians, generals, and even media executives, once ousted Fox News chief Roger Ailes briefly found his way into the camp. On his third set of campaign leaders, Trump became ringmaster of his own destiny.
The most important moment came at the close, when Clinton mentioned Trump’s treatment of women, citing a former pageant star named Alicia Machado, who Trump had mocked as fat. Trump’s blustery response was hardly elegant, and he spent the next several days attacking Machado in late-night tweets and falsely saying she had appeared in a sex tape.
That would come back to haunt him days later, when a video tape of Trump on Access Hollywood was published by the Washington Post. The tape featured Trump talking about his treatment of women, how he kisses them without asking and boasting he could do anything, even “grab them by the pussy.” At the next debate, pressed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper on whether he had ever done those things, Trump said no. Soon, more than a dozen women would come forward to allege that Trump had sexually assaulted them by kissing or fondling them without permission. One woman is currently suing Trump in a civil case, alleging that he raped her when she was 13 years old.
Through it all, there was no sign that Trump would change his approach to the contests. Each time he would start with a subdued mien, speaking a husky undertones, before rising to issue a soundbite—”Nasty woman!“—that would echo for days on social media. He doubled down on the alt-right influences in the campaign, now managed by CEO of Breitbart Media, Stephen Bannon. He paraded a line of women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual harassment at the second debate, and promised that he would put Hillary Clinton in jail if he were president. In the third debate, he refused to say he would accept the results of the election if he lost.
His sheer intransigence frustrated elites in both parties, and left many women baffled at his ascent. But another segment of voters appear to see him hectored by these women and, by extension, a victim of Clinton’s political attacks. Some clearly saw hypocrisy in Clinton’s criticism of Trump given her own husband’s past behavior. As Trump gave voice to resentment against new social codes that denigrate casual sexism, Trump won the overwhelming support of male voters in the 2016 election. Clinton’s name on the ballot was a red flag that attracted a bull.
A final dramatic interlude would give ulcers to her supporters. Twelve days before the election, the FBI’s Comey sent a letter to Congress saying that the investigation into the sexting habits of disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner led to the discovery of e-mails from Clinton’s server, likely sent or received by Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, Clinton’s closest personal aide.
The letter shocked the media and launched a breathless reassessment of her chances. Though the announcement contained no real content, and a week later, Comey would come forth to say that no new e-mails were found, the news provided traction to fears that Clinton’s continued political career would continue to be a never-ending parade of investigations and leaks. Republican-leaning independents and outright partisans came home to Trump, perhaps experiencing flash-backs to the 1990s and the media’s public obsession with Clinton scandals.
Indeed, Comey’s role in the campaign underscored how little attention traditional policy issues received compared to hyped-up scandals. Trump’s agenda promises little real help to those voters who backed him, but plenty of assistance to wealthy Americans. Yet there was a single issue in this race that dominated everything else, and it was this: Who is an American?
Trump’s flirtation with white supremacists, the anti-semitic nature of his campaign rhetoric, his constant bashing of immigrants generally and specifically Mexicans, his treatment of women and vision of their role in society, all made him a throwback to a time before the US debate over the virtues of social diversity.
In his criticisms of political correctness and depiction of an apocalyptic America, Trump found a constituency—of white voters in communities threatened by the all too real changes facing the United States—that Republicans had represented before but never with such alacrity. Their reaction to a changing America, catalyzed by Trump’s demagogic appeals, generated an electoral firestorm that few foresaw. Clinton’s more optimistic vision that emphasized the new picture of America clearly didn’t resonate with working class white voters who once reliably pulled the lever for her party’s previous nominees.
For all the demographic changes the United States has seen in recent years, white voters remain the largest single constituency and now, in the words of one electoral analyst, they are voting like a minority group. Trump’s ability to drive them out echoes the leverage of enthusiasm used by Obama to deliver his majorities in 2008 and 2012. The question that will haunt Democrats, at least into 2020, will be whether a different candidate—one without Clinton’s unique and overbearing history—could have held the center.
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What does China want the most from a Donald Trump presidency? Stability.
China-US relations won’t go through any major change under president Trump, because the world’s two biggest economies must ensure “healthy development” in economy and trade to fulfill their interests, predicts a commentary (link in Chinese) published today (Nov. 10) on the front page of the overseas edition of the People’s Daily, China’s state mouthpiece.
“In today’s world, it is a fact that China and the US must ‘cooperate or perish’,” Wen Xian, former chief correspondent of the newspaper’s North America bureau, wrote. He explained that “a typical embodiment of the blending interests” of the two sides is increasing bilateral trade volume, which is expected to reach $1 trillion in 2024.
Trump’s China-bashing remarks during his electoral campaign, which include labeling China a currency manipulator and threatening a 45% tariff on exports to the US, could now translate into actual policy. Markets are watching what pain Trump could cause to China, and the rest of the world.
Beijing seems to be trying to set some ground rules. President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory telegram to Trump that emphasizes (link in Chinese) the two sides should uphold the principles of “non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” and “control differences in a constructive manner.” In contrast, back in 2012, then president Hu Jintao offered his congratulations to Barack Obama noting the “positive progress” in bilateral relations over the past four years. “You and I have reached consensus in…exploring a new type of major power relationship,” Hu said.
State media have warned Trump against starting trade wars with China. “If Trump wants to target bilateral trade, he should first weigh the consequences of China’s countermeasures,” reads an Nov. 9 editorialfrom the nationalistic state tabloid Global Times, which sometimes echoes the government officials’ unspoken views.
In a separate piece published on Nov. 10, the Global Times cited analysts saying Trump’s policies may cause headwinds to China’s economy, but could also “help ease the pressure on yuan depreciation and capital outflows and help with ongoing efforts to upgrade China’s industrial sectors.”
State media also argued that China could be a winner under a Trump presidency, because it is likely to focus more on domestic issues. Beijing has criticized Hillary Clinton’s “pivot to Asia” strategy raised under her tenure as Secretary of State. Trump is not likely to embrace the same idea as he is “more practical and flexible in foreign policy, compared to his rival,” said state broadcaster CCTV said on Nov. 10.
“Trump may not be as strongly adverse to a ‘win-win’ scenario with China as the previous US political establishment,” read the Nov. 9 Global Times editorial.
The US political system, after all, is “chaotic and split,” and both Trump and Clinton were just “rotten apples” in the election, according to CCTV’s 26-minute documentary (link in Chinese, registration required), which was aired in China as the US election results came in. The film interviewed Chinese scholars, US citizens, and former state officials to criticize the electoral college system and “so-called US democracy”.
Donald Trump’s election to the US presidency undermines a vision of the new global economy that was already in crisis. Those of us who believe in a more connected world must make an urgent and compelling case for it.
In his campaign, Trump vowed to restrict the movement of people and goods into the United States, discarding trade agreements, raising tariffs, curtailing immigration, and constructing walls around the nation’s perimeter. His vision for a protectionist and nativist America is in line with the United Kingdom’s vote to abandon open borders with Europe and an anti-immigrant backlash throughout much of the world. There’s more of this to come, as national elections in Europe next year will surely bring leaders into office who have built their careers by demonizing free trade and pluralistic society.
In the face of this tide, it’s important to speak up for open movement of people, ideas, and commerce. Fortunately, the facts are on our side.
- Freer trade—and trade agreements—are net contributors to economic growth and prosperity.
- Immigrants are a net contributor to a country’s economic growth. This is true on a macro level, and powerful individual examples are easy to find: Alexander Graham Bell, William Procter and James Gamble, Andy Grove, Elon Musk, and Sergey Brin.
- Relatedly, being the world’s best training ground and most sought-after home for skilled talent has made the US a model for vibrant companies and job creation. By one count, immigrants have founded one-quarter of all US tech startups.
- Money spent on building a security industrial complex to police borders yields negative returns compared to investments in education and infrastructure.
- Companies with more women leaders are more profitable.
Freer trade and liberal immigration policies can have downsides. Some US voters are justifiably upset that the benefits of open trade accrued to big multinationals at the expense of blue-collar workers. A policy of openness needlessly hurts individuals when it’s not accompanied by an honest and compassionate approach to addressing dislocations, and when proper regulation doesn’t prevent wealth from being concentrated in the pockets of a few.
Trump and other politicians have exploited these issues to great effect. In this climate, it’s hard to imagine people will be receptive to arguments that a more open world is for their own good.
But there is hope. Digital communications and decentralized financial platforms offset the ability of any individual leader to block the movement of ideas and trade.
Some countries already understand the arguments for an open global economy or will be receptive to them. And some will see advantage in pursuing a globalist, pluralistic agenda. Many businesses understand, and some will see advantage, in pressuring their governments against a retreat from the new global economy. That’s especially true for the biggest US companies that generate the bulk of their revenue outside the country and rely on an ability to recruit top talent from around the world. And many people, perhaps starting with the young, understand the richness of a culture that’s not defined by national borders.
For much of this past year, Canada’s government under Justin Trudeau has been the loudest voice embracing this vision. Anxious about a possible Trump presidency, US business leaders have been quietly highlighting the risks to a retreat from that vision.
Quartz was founded, in part, to champion the values of a new global economy. Today, as in June after the Brexit vote, we are feeling wary but emboldened.
There is a risk that this movement becomes increasingly quiet and lonely. Now is the time for us to make sure that’s not the case.
Following a tumble yesterday as Donald J. Trump clinched the US presidency, Asia stocks are up.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index made the strongest rebound, and rose nearly 6% as of 9:45AM Hong Kong time, almost erasing the drop it experienced yesterday. Other indexes also rose.
The general volatility reflects a larger trend in other markets around the world. The Mexican peso and the S&P 500, for example, both took hits as news of Trump’s victory emerged before recovering slightly.
“There will be short-term volatility following the Trump victory but this is going to be short-lived, much like Brexit,” said Joshua Crabb, a Hong Kong-based analyst told Bloomberg. “This outcome isn’t as bad as people think.”
Americans weren’t the only ones who aspired to the American dream. Africans did too.
For decades, many across the continent have looked to America, with its promise of opportunity and success for hope. Young Africans grew up hearing tales of relatives who had moved across the Atlantic with meager resources but, enabled by welcoming and tolerant immigrant policies and years of hard work, had achieved success. Despite Trump’s generic and disparaging views of immigrants, Nigerians-Americans, the largest African immigrant group, are among the most educated groups in America with nearly two-thirds holding college degrees and higher levels of education have brought with it higher household incomes. African immigrants in fact outperform most other ethnic/racial groups in general as Bloomberg writes:
African immigrants are also very likely to hold advanced degrees, many of which are earned at US universities. By many measures, African immigrants are as far ahead of American whites in the educational achievement as whites are ahead of African-Americans.
And there has been an upside. Overtime, a well-established diaspora population has proven important for African economies. Remittances to Africa totaled $35 billion last year. But the good times may be over. 2016, the year of Brexit and a Donald Trump presidency has brought with a message for Africans: you’re no longer welcome.[“source-smallbiztrends”]