PARIS — The reverberations of Donald Trump's upset-for-the-ages victory in the U.S. presidential election spread quickly. Reactions ranged Wednesday from shock and chagrin to a certain wonder at that unique thing called American democracy.
For so many onlookers around the globe, despite the relative unpopularity of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, there was just no way it would happen. American voters couldn't really, in the end, turn the White House over to a real estate tycoon and reality television star who'd never run for office before. Hand over the keys to White House and the nuclear codes to "The Donald"? Could they "succumb to collective political suicide," as John Carlin wrote in today's issue of Madrid-based El País.
Pundits were split between focusing on Trump's strengths or Clinton's weakness. The former First Lady and Secretary of State may have been "the wrong person at the wrong time" who represents the "political elite" just when voters are demanding a different kind of leadership, writes Pascal Jalabert of the French newspaper Le Dauphiné.
Arguing along a similar line, The Guardian's Dan Roberts faulted the former secretary of state for failing "to articulate a convincing defense of modern American capitalism." Clinton was also outdone but trust concerns: "Paid speeches to Goldman Sachs and a murky web of business connections to the family charity left many Americans doubting Clinton's sincerity on matters of money and much else," Roberts wrote.
Canada's Globe and Mail, in a Wednesday editorial, called the New York-born president-elect "a marketing genius" who "targeted the frustrations of a certain segment of the population — call them Middle America, call them the Silent Majority, call them whatever you will — and understood how to reach them." He's not "the ideal candidate for the job," the daily argued, and yet he pulled off the "impossible," first with a "hostile takeover" of the Republican party, and then by beating the Democrats "on the electoral battlefield."
Paula Lugones, Washington correspondent for the Argentine daily Clarín, also wrote about Trump's appeal to so-called Middle America voters, people who've lost jobs due to outsourcing of manufacturing, or because they've been replaced by machines. "They see immigrants as enemies, as â€˜the other,' who steal their jobs and American identity," she argued in an analysis piece titled "Why Donald Trump Won."
The other big question, of course, is what all of this means looking forward. Most observers agree that a Trump presidency launches the U.S. and the world as a whole into uncharted waters. And few see reason for optimism. Like the Brexit vote in Britain, and the rise of authoritarian leaders in Russia, Turkey and elsewhere, Trump's victory shows that "we've finally entered the age of populism," argued Florian Harms, executive editor with Germany's Der Spiegel, in a video posted Wednesday morning. As a consequence, "international politics are going to be wilder, harder, more unpredictable, and that's bad," he said.
It could also mean more electoral surprises to come. A victory next year by Marine Le Pen of France's far-right National Front, for example, suddenly seems less far-fetched. Not surprisingly, Le Pen was quick to take to Twitter and congratulate the U.S. president-elect.
There are also the infamous "wall" to be built in Mexico, Iranian nuclear deal to be scrapped, NATO and other longstanding alliances to be questioned and free trade to be tightened. Time will tell on all fronts. For Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi, what matters is the next administration's "actions and executive policies," not "campaign declarations."
And what can the United States itself expect? With both houses of Congress in Republican hands, Trump has the opportunity to pull the plug on "Obamacare," as the political right in the U.S. has been hoping for years, along with any number of other Obama administration accomplishments. He can knock down what Obama built "block by block, brick by brick," journalist Rita Siza of the Portuguese newspaper Público wrote. He's "like a powerful hurricane," she added. "A political earthquake of incalculable magnitude with overwhelming aftershocks."
But Trump may also come to realize that there are inherent limitations to job. His lack of experience could also be a handicap, Moisés Naím, a Venezuelan economist and political analyst, told the Chilean daily La Tercera. "I can easily imagine that some of initiatives, the promises Trump has made, will be challenged by the courts and end up in the Supreme Court," he said. "Many of the things he promises he won't be able to do."
Others are more wary, and fear the impact a Trump presidency could have not just on policy, but on America's basic governing institutions. "The danger, going forward, is what Trump will do with the sitting members of the Supreme Court," Australian analyst Manjit Bhatia wrote in the South China Morning Post. "He could fire them for being unsympathetic towards him, for being part of the Democratic establishment … If he does, then every democratic principle that America has stood for will fall to one man who would behave like a corrupt Third World dictator or another despicable thug like Russian President Vladimir Putin."
Courrier International (France)
Maurizio Molinari, editor-in-chief of Italy's La Stampa, offered a mix of marvel and fear that captured the dropped-jam view from abroad: "Trump's victory is a confirmation of the vitality of American democracy, capable of continuously transforming itself even as it unleashes both inside and outside the United States a flood of uncertainties linked to the unpredictability of the winner," Molinari writes. "It's now up to Trump to the explain what he wants to do. In the meantime, the rest of the world must digest what happened last night: the people of the revolt are knocking at our door."