In the run-up to the US presidential election, pundits proclaimed that the outcome would be “historic”. What they meant, invariably, was that they expected Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to shatter precedent by becoming the country’s first woman president. Instead, Washington DC now prepares for the inauguration of president-elect Donald Trump. But the New York businessman’s victory was also historic. While both his candidacy and his impending presidency call to mind some features of the Republican party’s recent history, they also represent a significant departure from the country’s past political patterns.
Trump’s win was one of the greatest upsets in American political history. But it was far from the landslide that Trump claimed and marked only the fifth time that a presidential candidate won the electoral college while losing the popular vote. Trump also will enter the presidency with the lowest favourability ratings in modern history.
The controversies of recent weeks, from Trump’s social media battles against film stars to the sensational (and unsubstantiated) intelligence reports about his putative financial and carnal dealings with Russia, have vaporised the “honeymoon” that incoming presidents traditionally enjoy.