Divided States of America? The US after the election

Saturday 19 November, 17.30 - 18.30 , Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, Stockholm Battle of Ideas Europe


This session is one of five debates at a special one-day Battle of Ideas event at Kulturhuset Stadsteatern.

Whatever the result of November’s presidential election, this year’s race has been very different from previous ones. Most obviously, the rise of Donald Trump as a divisive figure with a serious chance of winning the presidency has caused consternation. Trump appears willing to lie with impunity, suggest outrageous policies like the infamous wall on the Mexican border, and appears relatively unshaken by statements and actions that would have forced any other candidate’s resignation. Even the leading figures of his own party are keen to disown him.

Trump’s popularity is surely a sign of deep-seated disenchantment with American politics. The fact that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, is the very epitome of the political establishment has only helped Trump’s cause. Clinton is viewed with deep suspicion in many quarters, a politician who seems entitled to her place in the White House on the basis that it is ‘my turn’. Though she is clearly better informed than her main opponent, she has still had to resort to appeals that it would be a historic moment for a woman to become president, rather than appealing to genuine affection for her. The fact that a socialist-leaning outsider like Bernie Sanders could run her so close for the nomination is an indication of her lack of personal popularity.

Voters themselves are said to have become more ‘tribal’, supporting their favoured candidate for reasons of identity as much as political agreement. It appears that what a candidate says now – no matter how inaccurate – is easily ignored, with many claiming we now live in an era of ‘post-factual’ politics. Have voters really given up on politicians telling the truth?

And what does the election say about the big political parties in America? While the Democrats finally chose the ultimate insider, Clinton, the decision was in doubt for months. Meanwhile, the Republican establishment failed to find a mainstream candidate to rally around, allowing the populist Trump to easily win the nomination. With voters looking more seriously at third-party candidates than for many years, or motivated narrowly by disgust with one big-party candidate or the other, are the big US political machines looking shakier than ever before?

What happens next in American politics? Is there any possibility of the country rallying around the president or is politics there hopelessly divided? And what does it mean for the rest of the world?