Michael - Thursday
I am currently in Australia en route to a birding trip to Northern Queensland. Hopefully in two weeks' time I will have things of local interest to show and tell, but yesterday I spent in Melbourne drinking wine with an old friend and Trump supporter and watching the results come in. Our consumption increased as they did - he was toasting success while I was drowning sorrows. I'd had no intention of writing about the election, which, like most people outside the US, I thought was going to be predictable and not very exciting. I still don't want to write about it, but it's really all I've been thinking about.
First those polls. Mostly they were on the right side. They predicted a majority of the popular vote to Clinton and that's what happened. Most of them predicted, say, a 3% lead with an error margin of 3%. A few were the other way around. But assuming the results distributed with the 3% margin around the truth, we would have expected around a 1% - 2% margin for her. It was nothing like that much. Then, many ignored the other two candidates in their questioning. I have no idea how that could have affected the results. As the saying goes, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.
As I wrote in an earlier lighthearted piece when Trump still appeared to be a bigoted, ignorant, narcissist - as opposed to the 45th president of the United States of America - its up to Americans to decide how they want their democracy to run and who they want leading their country. However, no one much cares who runs the Philippines or South Africa. Everyone cares who runs the world's largest economy and superpower. So what will a Trump presidency mean for the rest of the world. It's pretty clear what Mexico thinks. While Trump supporters like to brush aside comments their candidate has made that they don't agree with - saying he'll never do it in reality - wiser heads reckon that the best way of predicting what someone intends is to listen to what he says and read what he writes. Mexico obviously thinks so. The peso crashed and stayed down while other currencies and stocks rebounded almost at once, thinking no doubt about those juicy tax breaks. Mexico and its investors believe in the anti-Mexican isolationist rhetoric. Indeed, both candidates were against free trade deals; I think we can expect a much more isolationist America. That will hurt world trade. Maybe lead to a global recession. Or maybe not. The leaders of the EU would like to know - inviting the president-elect to a summit at 'his earliest convenience'. Next week is fine if he has a slot...
As for foreign policy, I can't even hazard a guess. Obviously the stage is set for the Russians. I'm not a supporter of American intervention in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan. I think much of the disappointment of these ventures is because Americans are generous people, starry-eyed about their own political system - except on second Wednesdays in November when a significant majority of the voters wanted someone else as president the day before - and believe that every country wants to emulate exactly that model if only they have the chance. Al Qaeda watches from the wings with glee as more and more Muslims are alienated.
From my perspective we must wait and hope for a Reagan-style presidency where more or less sensible and knowledgeable people are given the reins while the president sticks to speeches and state visits. Best case.
As the Chinese curse goes: we live in interesting times.