United States’ elections: Rise of a maverick

On November 9 the unthinkable happened after the most polarised election in US history. With the so-called swing states – Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania -choosing Donald Trump, the so-called Clinton Firewall was breached and, despite a lower share of the popular vote, Trump convincingly won the presidency.

His victory divided the US and impacted global public opinion, including among Washington’s allies. Protests continue in California and a petition calling on the US Electoral College to dump Trump and select Hillary Clinton as president, based on the larger share of popular votes she won, has already picked up 3.2 million signatures. Some ugly racist incidents have already occurred in the US and one can expect the extreme right to try to exploit this victory.

Trump has started backing away from his more extreme position such as repealing Obamacare, putting “crooked Hillary” behind bars, and walking out of trade pacts and international agreements to which the US is a party, including the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

What are the implications for India and the bilateral relationship? Much would depend on his choice of Secretary of State and whether his governance style would be decentralised with the President depending on a team of dedicated technocrats. This would be the best option, given his ignorance on global issues.

Early trends are not encouraging. His transition team includes four members of his family as well as corporate consultants and lobbyists with little knowledge of global challenges for US interests worldwide.

Trump’s approach to India has been contradictory with much doublespeak. During the final presidential debate he referred positively to India, its high growth rate and spoke of his business relationships. At a rally, in front of a large gathering of Indian media, he originally described himself as an admirer of “Hindus”. When the anchor pointed out that all Indians were not Hindus, he side-stepped and spoke of being a big fan of India.

Early in the campaign, he complained of outsourcing, about jobs being “shipped out” to India and alleged misuse of H1B visas. He voiced strong criticism of call-centres being outsourced to India and Indians.

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