The election of Donald Trump as President of the US shook the world as people realized that we have entered a new very unpredictable era. Never has someone with the prejudices of Mr. Trump entered the White House. He has suggested a ban on Muslims entering the US and has given the green light to a new nuclear arms raise.
Trump has objectified women, has glorified sexual assault, and more generally the mistreatment of women, calling them ‘fat pig’ and ‘sheet’. He has been boasting about grabbing women between their legs and kissing them without their consent.
Reasons for Trump’s election
In order to be able to understand what should be done to meet the challenges of the coming era, one has to try to answer why has Trump been elected, what are the reasons behind his triumph, why women have voted for a misogynist?
Neo-liberalism is the ideology behind Trump’s triumphal election. His election was enabled by the policies that overlooked the plight of the most vulnerable citizens in the US. It was a desperate and xenophobic cry for a way out of a devastating neo-liberal order.
White working and middle-class citizens out of anger rejected the economic neglect of neo-liberal policies. Yet these same citizens supported a candidate who appeared to blame their social misery on minorities, Mexican immigrants, Muslims, black people, gay people, and women.
They have lost jobs, pensions, and much of the safety nets that used to make these losses less frightening. They see the future for their children being even worse than their precarious present.
Donald Trump has spoken directly to the hearts of these people. So do all the rising far right parties in Europe. They answer it with anger at remote bureaucracies, Washington, the EU, the World Trade Organization etc. They answer it as well by degrading immigrants, people of colour, Muslims and women.
What are the characteristics of neo-liberalism?
Neo-liberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It maintains that the market delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.
Attempts to limit competition are considered as attempts to limit liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimized, public services should be privatized. The organization of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is considered the highest value. Efforts to create a more equal society are considered as counter productive. The market ensures that everybody gets what they deserve.
Neo-liberalism means massive tax cuts for the rich, the crushing of trade unions, deregulation, privatization, outsourcing, and competition in public services.
Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means the freedom to suppress wages. Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty. When neo-liberal policies cannot be imposed domestically, they are imposed internationally through trade treaties.
Impact of neo-liberalism in the political field
Perhaps the most dangerous impact of neo-liberalism is not the economic crisis it has caused but the political crisis. As the domain of the State is reduced, the citizens’ power of voting also contracts and with it their ability to change the course of their lives.
When governments lose the authority that arises from the delivery of public services, the only thing they can do is to threaten and coerce people to obey. If the dominant ideology stops governments from responding to the needs of the electorate, then the electorate turns instead to anti-politics in which facts and arguments are replaced by slogans, symbols, and sensation.
The backlash against neo-liberalism’s crushing of political choice has elevated Donald Trump.
Why have women voted for Trump?
What has happened with women votes? How could women vote for him?
A quite plausible explanation is the one that says that in a culture in which one’s self worth is measured primarily by one’s desirability to men then women’s energy is consumed into this horizontal competition with other women that can never be totally won. One way to be desirable to men may be to align oneself with their interests in the hope they might protect you.
The majority of black women and a large number of Hispanic women voted for Clinton. The problem has been with white women.
What is positive about the misogyny of Trump is that he has injected new life, new awareness into the demands for equal treatment for women everywhere. His attitude towards women has shed light on the everyday, pervasive sexism. The good news is that young women have realized that there is a long way to go. Trump has reinvigorated feminism by reminding everyone, but especially women, of the serious violations of their human rights that they experience all over the world.
What should be done?
We should work for a development model that prioritizes people over profits. We have to demand at the international level a global economic development system that protects, respects and fulfills human rights, particularly women’s human rights.
We have to demand changes at the national and international level that promote accountability mechanisms for governments, in particular for the corporate and private sector that is focused on profits at the cost of people’s welfare.
We have finally to do away with the pursuit of gendered global economic strategies using the neo-liberal economic model that are deepening poverty and inequality within and between countries, between women and men and marginalizing women even more.
We should build a radical movement that is based on a genuine re-distributive agenda. This agenda should also include policies that fight institutionalized racism, economic inequality, climate change and gender inequality and violations of women’s human rights.
We should work for an answer to the hate and fear represented by extreme right, xenophobic, and anti-feminist forces.