NEW YORK: Donald Trump has stunned America and the world, riding a wave of populist resentment to defeat Hillary Clinton in the race to become the 45th president of the United States.
The Republican mogul defeated his Democratic rival, plunging global markets into turmoil and casting the long-standing global political order, which hinges on Washington’s leadership, into doubt.
“Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division,” Trump told a cheering crowd of jubilant supporters in the early hours of Wednesday in New York, pledging to work with Democrats in office.
“I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans,” he declared, in a conciliatory address in which he paid tribute to his defeated opponent and thanked his staff.
“Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country,” he said of Clinton, whose hopes of becoming America’s first woman president were brutally dashed.
During a bitter two-year campaign that tugged at America’s democratic fabric, the 70-year-old bombastic tycoon pledged to deport illegal immigrants, ban Muslims from the country and tear up free trade deals.
His message was embraced by a large section of America’s white majority who have grown increasingly disgruntled by the scope of social and economic change in the last eight years under their first black president, Barack Obama.
Many Americans from minority backgrounds expressed dismay at Trump’s victory, which some saw as the result of what some observers said was a backlash against multicultural America.
Trump openly courted Russian leader Vladimir Putin, called US support for NATO allies in Europe into question and suggested that South Korea and Japan should develop their own nuclear weapons.
Ominously for Washington’s European allies, one of the first world leaders to congratulate Trump was Putin himself, in a rapid Kremlin statement
Putin expressed hope for “bringing US-Russia relations out of their critical condition” and said “building constructive dialogue” would be in the interest of both countries.
The businessman turned TV star turned-politico—who has never before held elected office—will become commander-in-chief of the world’s sole true superpower on January 20.
The results prompted a global market sell-off, with stocks plunging across Asia and Europe and billions being wiped off the value of investments.
Mexicans, fearing Trump’s vow to build a wall to cut America off from its southern neighbor, were dismayed and the peso fell to historic lows.
And as Europe awoke to a stark and unwelcome reality, London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index shed 1.87 percent, Frankfurt’s DAX 30 dived 2.9 percent and the Paris CAC 40 index slid 2.8 percent.
America’s allies have been dumfounded by Trump’s rise, but European Union foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini insisted: “EU-US ties are deeper than any change in politics. We’ll continue to work together, rediscovering the strength of Europe.”
Although he has no government experience and in recent years has been as well known for running beauty pageants and starring on his reality television series “The Apprentice” as he is for building his property empire, Trump will be the oldest man to ever become president.
Yet, during his improbable political rise, Trump has constantly proved the pundits and received political wisdom wrong.
Opposed by the entire senior hierarchy of his own Republican Party, he trounced more than a dozen better-funded and more experienced rivals in the party primary.
During the race, he was forced to ride out credible allegations of sexual assault from a dozen women and was embarrassed but apparently not ashamed to have been caught on tape boasting about groping women.
And, unique in modern US political history, he refused to release his tax returns—leaving a question mark over how much, if any, tax he has paid while running a global empire.
But the biggest upset came on Tuesday, as he swept to victory through a series of hard-fought wins in battleground states from Florida to Ohio.
Legacy of ashes
Clinton had been widely assumed to be on course to enter the history books as the first woman to become president in America’s 240-year existence.
Americans repudiated her call for unity amid the United States’ wide cultural and racial diversity, opting instead for a leader who insisted the country is broken and that he “alone can fix it.”
Trump has an uneasy relationship with the broader Republican Party, but it will have full control of Congress and he will be able to appoint a ninth Supreme Court justice to a vacant seat on the bench, deciding the balance of the body.
So great was the shock of defeat that the normally robust Clinton did not come out to her supporters’ poll-watching party to concede defeat, but instead called Trump and sent her campaign chairman.
“We are so proud of you. And we are so proud of her,” chairman John Podesta told shell-shocked supporters. “She’s done an amazing job, and she is not done yet.”
The campaign confirmed Clinton herself would speak early Wednesday.
The election result was also a brutal humiliation for the White House incumbent, Obama, who for eight years has repeated the credo that there is no black or white America, only the United States of America.
On the eve of the election, he told tens of thousands of people in Philadelphia that he was betting on the decency of the American people.
“I’m betting that tomorrow, most moms and dads across America won’t cast their vote for someone who denigrates their daughters,” Obama said.
“I’m betting that tomorrow, true conservatives won’t cast their vote for somebody with no regard for the Constitution,” he added.
His bet appears to have been flat out wrong, and America’s first black president will be succeeded by a candidate who received the endorsement—albeit unsought and unacknowledged—of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan.
Trump’s shock victory is just the latest evidence that globalization has eroded faith in liberal political leadership
From Britain’s vote to leave the European Union to the rise of far-right populists and nationalists in continental Europe, opposition to open trade and social and racial tensions are on the rise. AFP