I’ve watched The Apprentice and its Celebrity version for many years now, and I can’t lie in saying I’m a big fan of the format. Dare I say it, I even enjoyed Donald Trump when he was in charge of hiring and firing the prospective candidates during his run as head of the series since its inception (he has since been replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger). While The Apprentice is marketed as a serious business show and raises a lot of money for worthwhile charities, it is at its heart just another reality show, a vehicle for light entertainment just like all the others. And Trump was the perfect pantomime character to pull in the ratings. Someone to fill an hour or two with before bedtime, never to be taken too seriously in relation to real life issues.
But never in a million years did I think the day would come that I would witness this man swap the boardroom for the White House, by becoming America’s 45th President. I, like millions of people across the United States and the world, was in disbelief this morning as I was driving to college and the news broke over every radio station that Trump had claimed victory in a historic and controversial result. I started the day with a two-hour Media Law class that barely registered with me, as my mind refused to contemplate anything other than the fallout from this result across the world.
The long running election campaign that brought us to this point was frankly ugly, no one can deny that. Often, policies and issues affecting the American people were cast aside in favour of name calling and mud-slinging. There was no hope, no positivity being generated. Compare it to the 2008 election that saw Barack Obama take office. It was hugely historic having a black president for the first time given the countries past troubles with slavery, and seen as a positive step forward for the world as a whole. Fast forward to this election. When Trump was announced as the Republican candidate to run against the Democratic Hillary Clinton, you would have thought she had it in the bag, easily.
Say what you like about Hillary, but of the two, there is no denying she was the better choice. She has a long political career behind her, is married to a former President, has served as Secretary of State during Obama’s reign, and been First Lady herself. The woman is practically president in everything but title. You would have thought that running against Trump would have spurred the American people to take another huge step forward and elect a female president for the first time in the country’s history. But instead she has been branded as “unlikable”. Neither was Margaret Thatcher, but the British public still ended up electing her as Prime Minister back in 1979. Whether you are likeable or not shouldn’t take precedence over whether you are qualified for the job or not. And no, I’m not excusing some of the controversies surrounding Hillary, such as the Benghazi debacle and the mystery surrounding her emails. She definitely should have some tough questions to answer. And maybe it could be argued that she is only the lesser of two evils by comparison to her rival. But aside from that, her experience should have been enough to see her elected over Trump in this instance, who let’s be honest, is nothing more than a women and minority hating reality TV star, with zero political experience behind him.
From an Irish perspective, I think what I am most worried about, is the effect this could have for my country and it’s citizens. There are of course issues relating to trade and Trump’s plans to lure multinational companies that have benefitted from low corporate tax rates in Ireland back to America, which could spell disaster for our economy. But I’m also thinking of things on a more human level. He also plans to abolish the J1 Visa programme that many Irish students take part in every year to travel to America for the summer, to broaden their horizons and find work in a foreign environment. Trump believes that the programme is taking jobs away from American citizens. He seems to conveniently forget all the years he has used the programme to find workers for his hotels over the summer months. Hypocrisy at its finest.
Not to forget the 50,000 undocumented Irish people who are currently living and working in America, and have lobbied for years for green cards for their and their family’s future security. They like so many others travelled to America in pursuit of the “American Dream”, where anybody could achieve anything if they worked hard enough. Well, they worked hard, they set themselves up, and now that could all come crashing down if Trump follows through on the immigration policy plans he has used to win this election. Again, hypocrisy at its finest, as it is well-known that the famous Trump Tower was built by mostly undocumented Polish workers.
And as for the poor Mexicans, not only has he implied that all they contribute to America are drugs, crime and rapists, he appears now to be pushing ahead with those plans to build a wall along the Mexican border. To stereotype a group of people in such a way is horrendous, as we all know that every group or race of people has good or bad within it, and they shouldn’t all be tarred with the same brush.
I leave you with this. On this day 27 years ago, the Berlin Wall, a symbol of division and oppression in Germany finally came down. Now, the President of the supposed great leader of our planet, who has been elected by the people, is proposing to build another wall. Obama’s election signified a huge, progressive step forward. This election has resulted in a huge step back.