Editorial: Shock as Trump wins US election

And so he did. Donald Trump’s tumultuous 18-month presidential campaign finally secured him the coveted key to the White House yesterday, ushering in a period of amplified global uncertainty.

With no public service record, the property tycoon and former reality TV star defeated former US senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton in an election outcome that shocked the world and ended eight years of Democratic rule in America.

Predictably, global financial markets immediately went into a tailspin, indicating heightened anxiety over a Trump presidency that had been sold to Americans and the world as one premised on populist politics of polarisation.

To many it was simply inconceivable that a man who had shamelessly come to symbolise racism, misogyny and homophobia would rise to hold a powerful seat at the pinnacle table of world politics.

Trump’s win could be indicative of an American body politic that is increasingly anti-establishment – one that identifies with his assertion that Clinton is part of a corrupt elite that ruled America and stripped it of its greatness.

More disturbing, it could suggest a populace that identifies with his politics of hate and segregation.

In his victory speech, Trump pledged to unite Americans.

“For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country,” he said.

Whether this is achievable in the context of a deeply divided nation, to which he contributed, remains to be seen.

For South Africa, this election is significant.

Not least of all because of the potentially far-reaching implications for trade agreements, in particular those such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act – designed to open US markets to Africa – an idea towards which America’s president-elect has always displayed nothing but contempt.

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