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The players responsible for Trump’s rise to power: the media, the Republican Party and the people

The players responsible for Trump’s rise to power: the media, the Republican Party and the people

Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts

Election Night at UCM

Many UCM students will wake up with a hangover Wednesday morning, and not just because the US Election Night at UCM turned out to be quite a party. Nobody, including speakers sociologist Kai Heidemann and political scientist Roberta Haar, expected a Trump victory. It was Dutch first-year Hanne Creijghton’s greatest fear. “He is someone who sows hatred, who reinforces inequality, who will suppress people as a world leader. And what exactly is his policy vision? That, he never made clear.”

That being said, there weren’t many Clinton fans in the audience either. Most students said they would vote for her, but as the “lesser of two evils”. Even German second-year Miriam Siemes, whose t-shirt reads ‘A woman’s place is in the White House’, isn’t as big of a supporter as you might think. “I’m rooting for Clinton, but not as enthusiastically as the t-shirt may imply – it was a gift.” She considers Clinton capable of doing the job, “but not the best nominee. What scares me about Trump is that there are so many grey areas about the office – what can or can’t a president do?”

After everyone has filled up on burgers and fries and the American anthem has been sung, Kai Heidemann’s speech ‘How right-wing populism shaped the 2016 presidential election’ answers the question everyone is asking: How did this happen? How did Trump get nominated in the first place? Heidemann points the finger at three players. First off: the media. “Trump managed to get €2 billion worth of free advertising”, whereas Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz all managed only a couple of million. “The media love spectacle and sensation, and Trump is media-savvy.” Second, the Republican Party. “The far-right elements had a great influence on the nomination due to the disunity within the party.” Also, Heidemann feels, the other candidates weren’t strong enough to push Trump aside. And third, the people. “It’s not just what they’re selling; it’s what you are buying. There is a renewal of right-wing movements, which have gained voice and recognition.”

Populism is a part of democracy, says Heidemann, and will always be there. “That’s often healthy: it challenges the elite.” The forces behind the Trump campaign, however, have taken it to a new level. “It’s challenging the political norms and procedures – the language and grammar of politics have changed, period. And it’s generating increased forms of violence and conflict in US society.” Heidemann fears this will “stifle dialogue and debate, therefore undermining democracy.” He also feels that even if Clinton had become president, this wouldn’t have gone away. “Trump keeps flying, even when he’s not in the White House.”

After the UCM band plays Greenday’s American Idiot, Roberta Haar points out the continuing influence of insurgents on foreign policy, such as Trump and Sanders, “especially in times of political cynicism and anti-establishmentism.” She points out how the ideas of insurgents in the past influenced their parties for years to come, even though they never won. Now that Trump has, the rosiest scenario, in Haar’s view, is that he will get quickly bored. “He doesn’t seem interested in the presidency apart from winning. An executive branch of the cabinet, led by Vice President Mike Pence, could take the lead in domestic and foreign policy.” But this is unlikely to happen, Haar thinks. “Will he be able to take a step back? Even in the debates Trump disagreed with Pence on several issues.”

The evening at UCM is brought to a close with a segment from Michael Moore’s show Michael Moore in Trumpland and the latest CNN news in the background. Unaware of what will happen later that night, the students talk cheerfully amongst themselves, enjoying a beer or singing along to Pink’s Dear Mr President, performed by the UCM band: “How do you sleep when the rest of us cry?”

Public discussion: TRUMP WON. NOW WHAT?

On Sunday 13 November there will be a public discussion organized by Debatcentrum Sphinx about Trump’s victory: what does it mean for the world, and how is it telling about the (non)functioning of today's democracies? Moderator: George Vogelaar. The floor will be open to all voices and opinions.

Sunday 13 November, 16:30 - 17:30 hrs., Bookstore Dominicanen Maastricht, free entrance, English spoken, www.debatcentrumsphinx.nl

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