America and the world watched transfixed as the roller coaster 2016 U.S. presidential campaign finally came to its conclusion on November 8. The surprises and revelations continued right up through election night when billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump shocked the world by winning the presidency.
Perhaps not since Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860 has a U.S. election laid bare the deep divisions among Americans. It became, more than any other election in recent memory, a contest between two visions of America. Supporting Mr. Trump were those who saw him as a political outsider not beholden to the power elites, a candidate with a new vision for America that rejects the overreach of a hyper-liberal agenda that attacked traditional Judeo-Christian values.
Hillary Clinton, a social activist since the late 1960s, campaigned on a promise to continue the Obama vision of federal government solutions to most of America’s problems at home and subordination of U.S. interests abroad as a recipe for peace and stability while continuing his progressive social agenda of government health care, support for gay rights, and open door immigration policies.
The clash of values escalated tensions between the heartland’s traditional values and the progressive vision popular on both the East and West Coasts. Liberal progressives even admitted as much. “We have two cultures in this nation,” said MSNBC political analyst Nicole Wallace. “Millions of Americans feel alienated by the cultural elites on both coasts. They are tired of being talked down to.”
Donald Trump tapped into the anger and frustration of millions of Americans fed up with a progressive, socialist, ever-bigger-government path and growing government hostility toward traditional American values.
For much of his campaign, Mr. Trump did not sound “presidential.” And his repeated attacks on the prevailing philosophy of cultural progressives enraged the mainstream media, who in spite of their claims of objectivity could not resist bashing the Republican candidate at every opportunity.
Many voters took note of the media piling onto Mr. Trump mostly for things he said, some of which were indeed egregious, while largely ignoring Mrs. Clinton’s actual misdeeds. Afterward, some mainstream journalists admitted as much. “We in the media considered his remarks worse, but it is obvious the average voter did not see it this way. They saw her email scandals as equally incriminating,” admitted MSNBC’s Wallace the night after the election.
In the election post-mortem, some observers pointed out how the Democratic Party, long seen as the friend of the working class, appears to have turned on its base of voters by promoting economic policies and regulations that effectively closed American factories, moved millions of jobs overseas and imported millions of immigrants to compete with American workers for scarce jobs. Mr. Trump campaigned on a platform of building a wall along the southern border and bringing jobs back to American shores.
With personal wealth of more than $3 billion, Mr. Trump was able to self-finance his primary campaign and much of his presidential campaign. His disavowal of financial allegiance to any political party or interest group proved intoxicating to millions of voters disgusted at the huge campaign contributions to both Democrats and traditional Republicans from special interests.
How will he govern? What is his agenda?
With his election accompanied by Republican control of both houses of Congress, Mr. Trump is seen to have at least a two-year window of opportunity to bring about the changes his administration seeks. Leading U.S. conservatives are urging him to act without delay.
“The historic opportunity he and the Republican Party have been given by his stunning victory of November 8 will not last long,” wrote conservative commentator Pat Buchanan in a Nov. 10 column. “His adversaries and enemies in politics and the press are only temporarily dazed and reeling. This great opening should be exploited now.”
Reinvigorating the economy?
As has been the case in most recent U.S. presidential elections, economic issues were again at the forefront of concern for most voters.
A return to strong economic growth is at the core of Mr. Trump’s economic plan. Through a program of tax cuts on corporations and individuals, regulatory reform and other economic incentives, he wants to increase the growth rate of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product to 3.5 percent per year from the present rate of 1.5 and create 25 million new U.S. jobs over the next decade.
His tax cut plan, outlined on his website, would focus tax cuts on working and middle-income taxpayers. According to his plan, a married couple making $75,000 a year with two children would see their annual income taxes drop by 30 percent. His carrot-and-stick approach to corporations would cut corporate tax rates from 35 percent (one of the highest rates in the world) to 15 percent (to encourage corporations and jobs to move back to the states), but hit American companies operating overseas with a 10 percent tax on repatriated earnings—strong coercion for them to move back.
Mr. Trump also placed the blame for the loss of American jobs on globalization policies that he says have “pushed American jobs out of the country.” He has pledged to protect U.S. jobs and create new ones with policies that encourage new business formation while encouraging existing businesses to maintain their U.S. workforces. His plans also include rolling back unnecessary regulations that cost corporations and their customers billions of dollars.
In campaign speeches across the industrial heartland, he severely criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and its ideological cousin, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), as job killers. He has vowed to renegotiate trade deals on terms more favorable to America, while also threatening stiff tariffs on companies that move jobs overseas and bring their products back into the United States.
Could these plans reinvigorate the stalled U.S. economy? Some conservatives have spoken against protectionist measures. Others point to how bad things have been, with economic growth averaging an anemic 1.55 percent the last eight years and tens of millions of Americans being out of work or underemployed.
Resurgence of traditional values?
In his presidential campaign, Mr. Trump spoke to the concerns of millions of Americans who feel their traditional values have been trampled by a wave of progressive thought over the past several decades. Even many who saw him as morally objectionable nevertheless voted for him as what they considered the better alternative.
By all accounts, left-leaning judges and the U.S. Supreme Court have been the ideological ally of the progressive movement. President-elect Trump’s administration will have the opportunity to change that with the immediate appointment of a conservative to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016. Mr. Trump may have the chance to increase the conservative stature of the court with the replacement of three other Supreme Court justices over age 80, two of whom take liberal stances. But it remains to be seen what he will do.
In the national debate over abortion, pro-life advocates see hope for the eventual overturning of the infamous 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that has led to the murder of some 60 million unborn children in America. Proponents of traditional values will work to find just the right case to again bring the issue before what they hope will be a more conservative, pro-life court.
“We are going to appoint great Supreme Court justices … These will be justices of great intellect … And they will be pro-life,” Mr. Trump said at a gathering of Christian conservatives in June 2016. During the campaign he released a list of 21 conservative judges he could nominate for the court.
Mr. Trump has voiced a strong commitment to the Second Amendment right to bear arms. His campaign platform calls for “national right to carry”—legalizing open-firearms carry in all 50 states. Using familiar Trump-style language, his website says, “Law enforcement does a tremendous job, but they can’t be everywhere all the time.”
Rebuilding national defense
On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump pledged to put American interests first, a position dear to millions of Americans but anathema to the left and those who feel America should simply “play nicely in the sandbox of nations.”
His platform calls for a resurgence of the U.S. military, reversing a trend that has seen a gradual reduction of U.S. Army forces from about 550,000 when Barack Obama took office in 2008 to a projected 460,000 by 2017. He has called for an immediate 85,000-troop boost to the Army, rebuilding the U.S. Navy to 350 ships, and growth of the Marine Corps to 36 full-strength battalions. He plans to pay for this by eliminating wasteful defense procurement practices and unnecessary federal programs.
In foreign policy, Mr. Trump has said that his administration would end current policies of regime change and nation-building, while working with Arab allies in the Middle East to erase the ISIS threat. He wants a new approach to Russia, thinking that he can work with Russian President Vladimir Putin to ease tensions. (However, some are quite troubled at the idea of a Trump-Putin friendship.)
Mr. Trump made illegal immigration a central campaign issue, focusing especially on illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America. While many observers are skeptical of his plans to build a wall along the border with Mexico to prevent illegal immigration, most see his call for stricter vetting of immigrants as gaining traction under his administration.
It is his position on the immigration of Muslims into the United States that has drawn perhaps the greatest fire. In the face of recent terrorist attacks by Muslims in Europe and the United States, Mr. Trump has called for tougher background checks on immigrants from predominantly Muslim nations. President-elect Trump sees his role as commander in chief as doing what it takes to maintain national security, both internally as well as around the world.
Strengthening of Europe?
While not as widely reported, Mr. Trump has argued that America’s NATO allies in Europe and such Asian allies as Japan and South Korea shoulder more responsibility for their own defense, including paying what he terms their fair share of military costs.
His rhetoric has European leaders worried. Coming on the heels of the late June 2016 vote by the United Kingdom to exit the European Union (see “Brexit: What Does It Mean for Your World? ” in our September-October 2016 issue), European leaders have stepped up their calls for a European defense force, one composed of soldiers from all or most of the EU nations.
This has prophetic implications. For nearly half a century, Beyond Today and its predecessor publications have predicted the rise of a major power in Europe, one formed as an outgrowth of the present European Union.
With a population in excess of 450 million and a larger combined economy than that of America, this superpower could act as a roaring lion on the world stage, exerting power and influence across the globe. Bible prophecy reveals, in Revelation 17, that such a power would be mainly controlled by 10 national leaders who “give their power and authority” to a strong dictator the Bible refers to as “the beast.”
Interesting times ahead
One thing is for sure: Interesting times are ahead as America struggles for its identity and future in a population divided between fiercely opposite and contradictory visions. Will the new president follow through on his promises? Will the nation make real changes for the better, or continue its pattern of decline?
The nation and the world will be watching the new Trump administration. In turn, you also need to be watching Europe and the world, taking particular note of how the American people and other nations and leaders react to potential major shifts in American policy. The future of the nation—as well as your personal future—could depend on it!