Shock result in US presidential election: Trump triumph a sign of the times

This election, it was said, was Mrs Hillary Clinton's to lose. Seems it turned out that way all the same.

Pollsters had called it for her. With a tonne of money at her disposal, a charismatic husband who continues to be loved by most Americans, vast experience in government as an active first lady and later, secretary of state, Mrs Clinton was uniquely positioned for the top job, never mind that many found her chutzpah hard to swallow.

Beyond all this was what was thought to be favourable demographics.

America's gender ratio is tilted in favour of women, Hispanics are about a fifth of the population and African-Americans a shade above 12 per cent.


Republican president-elect Donald Trump acknowledges the crowd during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of Nov 9, 2016 in New York City. PHOTO: AFP

Given Mr Donald Trump's attacks on Hispanics, and the discomfort blacks feel for the blonde giant and the overt sexism and crudeness he displays that put off large sections of women, this should have been a cakewalk for Mrs Clinton.

It didn't happen quite that way, even after the controversy over Mr Trump's boasts about groping women at will because of his star power.

Like the Brexit vote, which was meant to be for Stay with a slim margin, the American presidential election too has defied the forecasts of predictors and poll modellers. Instead, a mystic monkey in China seems to have been more accurate in predicting the outcome.

Democrats, whose party symbol is a donkey, will probably joke that despite their loss the nation has nevertheless elevated an ass into the White House.

But the US election results are no laughing matter. The world, Asia included, will have to get used to dealing with a US president described as a "revolting slug" unanimously by New South Wales Upper House legislators not so long ago.

Asia would have preferred a more familiar figure in the White House. Mr Trump's victory leaves most of the region stunned and worried, reflected in the crumbling financial markets.

The alarm will be particularly severe in countries like Japan and South Korea, where the US security yoke will come immediately into question. Big nations like China and India have reason to be nervous about his anti-globalisation stands.

Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore will be disappointed that the US elected a president who is so opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, the economic plank of Mr Obama's Asia rebalance. Just last week he named the Republic for stealing American jobs - because the healthcare company Baxter put down less than 200 jobs here.

The incredible victory that Mr Trump scored to take the presidency owes as much to the anti-globalisation move sweeping the world as White America's deep-seated fears of the "other".

Between 1980 and 2010, the proportion of non-Hispanic whites in America dropped about 17 percentage points to a tad over 63 per cent.

It also is clear that having smashed one glass ceiling by electing a black as president, America is not ready yet to break a second - to elect its first woman commander-in-chief. Indeed, Mrs Clinton did not get the women turnout many had expected, partly because many of her gender blame her for tolerating her husband's marital infidelities.

Beyond, cultural factors were at play. Americans love an underdog. They also tend to look favourably on people they consider "outsiders" to what they feel is a weary, corrupt and manipulated system.

Mr Trump ticked those boxes. He is the first outsider to become president since America elected Dwight Eisenhower to that high office.

Unlike General Eisenhower though, who came with vast military experience in World War II and as Nato commander later, Mr Trump was neither in politics nor the military.

Still, what he has pulled off is breathtaking.

He prevailed even after vast sections of his party distanced themselves from him, including the influential Bush family.

At one point Mr Jeb Bush, who dropped out of the race early on, said on the stump that he doubted Mr Trump is "serious about his candidacy" - such was the image of a clown that he carried.

Having secured the nomination his endurance was on display and the long campaign often looked like a baseline game between two doughty tennis stars, as he and Mrs Clinton traded insults in unending rallies.

And he prevailed even as the three presidential debates were mostly seen to have gone Mrs Clinton's way and newspapers that had never endorsed a presidential candidate came out in support of her.

Clearly, none of that affected Mr Trump's optimism. Or enthusiasm. In the land of the free, Mr Trump was notably free with untruth, perhaps picking lessons from across the Atlantic pond where those who led the movement for Brexit had exaggerated massively.

It proved a winning formula: Mr Trump's consistent proclivity to lie, obfuscate and make misleading statements only helped, not hindered his chances ultimately - even when each of his lies was called out.

Towards the end the winner gained by staying "on message", including stoking fears of job losses among the white working class despite more than six years of continuous economic growth and near full-employment. Mr Trump also relentlessly raised other insecurities, particularly about Muslim immigrants making America unsafe.

Other key elements of the strategy were to attack Mrs Clinton as "crooked Hillary" - hammering home lurking doubts over her integrity-- and to raise doubts about the electoral process itself. Wherever he went, he talked of a "rigged election".

It did not help Mrs Clinton that she came off poorly in comparison with the departing Democratic President Barack Obama, whose approval ratings are currently at 64 per cent, almost inversely proportional to the negative image she carries with the electorate.

Black voters, a strong constituency for the party, were less enthusiastic to vote this time, costing her dearly even though many Americans like to affectionately refer to her husband Bill Clinton as the first black president of the nation, thanks to his popularity with that group.

In the end, Americans held their noses and voted for what they considered the best of a bad bargain.

"Nobody said it was going to be easy for us. But we will never be stopped," Mr Trump said in Reno, Nevada over the weekend, words that summed up his self-belief and stamina. For once, accurately.