Opinions - 09.11.2016 - 00:00 

"State of Disunion": waking up to Trump

Contrary to all forecasts, Donald J. Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States and is calling for national unity. In view of the polarised political landscape and the gaping chasms in society, such unity is unlikely to materialise soon. An opinion piece by Dr. Claudia Franziska Brühwiler.

The eve of the presidential elections coincided with the 100th anniversary of the first woman being elected to the House of Representatives. Jeannette Rankin, a suffragette from Montana, said that she was the first but by no means that last woman to join Congress. Many people would have liked to celebrate this anniversary by toasting Madam President and to tell their daughters that they could stop playing with President Barbie – and that the highest glass ceiling of them all had crashed.

Surprise after a turbulent campaign period

After an election campaign which exhausted all the negative epithets from "bitter" to "mudslinging", Clinton followers and Trump opponents hopefully awaited the decisive ballot: all the surveys put Hillary Clinton in the lead and granted her a winning chance of 70 per cent. The only question seemed to be how Donald Trump would react to his seemingly inevitable defeat. Yet now it was not he who had to pick up the phone and congratulate his opponent, but Clinton. Finally, he had won 290 electors – with only 270 required for victory. This triumph raises questions rather than bringing the turbulent campaign period to an end.

The questions are aimed at several camps: at the industry of the polling agencies, all of which got it wrong and are now puzzling over whether their interviewees often did not want to out themselves as Trump supporters; at the Democratic Party and its representatives, who were incapable of taking the fears of the white working class, the majority of their opponent’s supporters, seriously and of taking them on board; at the Republican Party, whose old recipe of conservatism combined with libertarian economic policies is rejected by its own successful candidate; and finally at the triumphant real-estate tycoon, who has made countless promises, many of which are regarded as unfeasible.

Call for national unity

"We are all Federalists, we are all Republicans" was Thomas Jefferson’s appeal to the population after he had been elected the third President of the USA – what counted was what unified the country rather than what divided the political parties. He had been involved in one of the dirtiest election campaigns in American history in 1800. Now the 45th President is also appealing to people to heal "the wounds of division" and to stand united as a nation. How quickly the country’s "bad hombres" and the "Miss Piggies" will be willing and able to do so remains to be seen.

Dr. rer. publ. Claudia Franziska Brühwiler is a political scientist with special focus on American Studies.

photo: Delphotostock /

Discover our special topics