Trump won – what will change?

The presidential election in the USA took many strange turns which will be the topic of much debate far into the future. Donald Trump took everyone by surprise, from experts to opinion polls.

The results of the presidential elections cannot be discussed separately from the elections for the House of Representatives.

 “The Republican winner of the election will no longer be obstructed and will thus be able to move forward on major changes to domestic policy in the fields of industrial and energy policy, public health and the targeting of taxation and social transfers," says Research Director Juhana Aunesluoma from the University of Helsinki.

According to Aunesluoma, Donald J. Trump is positioned to initiate some radical changes.

 “Of course, we have practically no knowledge of the kinds of political or legislative measures he will take to attain his goals as president.”

 “Trump’s supporters have given him carte blanche.”

In terms of foreign and security policy, structural factors and trends will continue to move the United States to a more reserved attitude, focusing on Asia and the Pacific, regardless of the outcome of the election. The major shift happened during Obama’s terms in office.

 “However, Trump’s America may be a more unstable partner for Europe and Finland,” says Rani-Henrik Andersson, Academy of Finland research fellow and docent in North American studies, who followed the presidential election from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Another key question is how Hillary Clinton will instruct her supporters to act after her defeat. There is a great deal of tension at the moment.

A dirty campaign

Andersson thought Trump’s unconventional style would cost him the candidacy.

 “It’s confusing that Trump prevailed despite all his controversial statements. It seems like he managed to create a core group of true believers among his supporters, who will trust him through hell and high water.”

However, Juhana Aunesluoma was surprised at how loyally established Republican supporters positioned themselves behind Trump, despite the highly polarised political system prevalent in America.

 “The mistrust towards Clinton was deeper than anticipated,” Aunesluoma estimates.

 “Polarisation has increased intensely in the United States over the past two decades. Now we will see whether the political atmosphere is reaching peak polarisation, or whether the divergence of the different groups will continue as before.”

The negative campaigning and the defamation of the candidates came as no surprise, but the events of the days leading up to the election day certainly did.

Academy Research Fellow, University Lecturer Hanna Wass is baffled by the relaunch of the investigation into Clinton’s emails and its rapid conclusion.

 “The whole process is difficult to understand. Why would the FBI interfere with the campaign so close to the finish line? The media has asked why the investigation wasn’t conducted covertly and the results announced only if something was discovered."

An emotional election

This presidential election was characterised throughout by the dislike many feel for both candidates.

 “Even though Clinton’s strength is her experience and expertise, they became a burden for her. The Democratic candidate was seen as a distant, corrupt emblem of the political establishment for a significant segment of the American population," says Wass.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has managed to skilfully harness the sense of betrayal many feel after being failed by the American Dream. This election was about more than discrepancies between the two parties. Key issues were financial inequality, dissatisfaction with the federal government and a sense of injustice.

 “There are many angry people, most of them white middle class or lower middle class men, who feel that they have lost their prosperity and jobs to immigrants and to other countries. At the same time, white people no longer constitute a clear ethnic majority in the United States. It is this fear that Trump used to propel himself to the presidency," Andersson continues.

A night of change

A deciding factor was that Trump managed to get his “silent” supporters to the polls. Votes from registered Republicans would not have been enough. However, detailed information about voting behaviour will probably not be revealed before upcoming analyses.

 “The biggest surprise was Michigan and Wisconsin going to Trump. Latino, black and female voters did not rise to guarantee a Clinton victory as expected. The white population outside major urban centres believed in Trump’s promise of change and came to cast their vote,” says Andersson.

 “To paraphrase well-known local election commenter Van Jones, this was a protest against the political elite in Washington, but also a ‘whitelash’ against changing demographics in America. We’ve had an African-American president for the past eight years, the Latino population is growing, and other minorities are refusing to stay silent.”

 “All in all it’s very difficult to predict what is to come. Americans wanted change, and now they will get it.”