A towering concern: Uncertainty lingers in the aftermath of Trump’s election

Posted on: 5th December, 2016

Category: The History Corner

Contributor: Patrick J. Mahoney

Patrick J. Mahoney studied cultural history at NUI Galway's Centre for Irish Studies, and now teaches in the department of history at Sacred Heart University, Connecticut. He is interested in the study of emigrant narratives, and the Irish historical experience as it relates to those in the United States and Britain. This column highlights the stories of significant people and places with West Cork connections, throughout the world.

The drab, grey sky hung like a morose fog over the hustle and bustle of New York City, reflecting the mood of the day below. The usually upbeat, rhythmic ebb and flow of midtown Manhattan appeared more sluggish than any other normal day in the concrete jungle. However, this was not just any other day. This was the scene a few weeks back, in the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump’s stunning victory in the recent United States Presidential Election. In years past, the city might have been jubilant following the victory of one of its most well-known native sons, whose high-style and business savvy often made him a quintessential figure in the metropolis’s depiction in pop culture. However, the days of ‘The Donald’ reflecting New York’s image and values have long since passed.

On the day in question, my girlfriend and I found ourselves traversing the gloomy city streets, trying to enjoy the many sites while avoiding the mix of angst, disappointment, and uncertainty that had undoubtedly enveloped the majority of those that we encountered. After grabbing dinner a few blocks from Rockefeller Plaza, it seemed like the mood had lifted. The Christmas lights, though perhaps a bit too early for the season in fairness, were out in abundance. The accompanying festive garland and bows decorated many of the storefronts, and one would nearly expect to see shades of Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl, God rest her, harmonically arguing away, singing about a ‘fairytale’ in these very same urban environs.

However, far from the waxing sounds of the Pogues’ holiday classic, we were met with the words of a very different tune on our stroll back to Penn Station: “Donald Trump, not OK, racist, sexist, anti-gay!” These, and a number of other like-messages were the ditties chanted by hundreds of protestors, mostly young students, who had taken to the streets in thronging waves to voice their frustration at the values espoused by the new President-elect over the previous months. Their destination lay uptown, at the lavish, emblematic Trump Tower.

We stood for a while, gawking at the spectacle and remarking about what was truly a historical moment, before continuing on to catch our train. However, after observing Trump’s recent cabinet appointments in the past few weeks, and chatting about both the protest and the nature of the impending Trump presidency with Cormac Ó hEadhra on Ráidío na Gaeltachta, I began to revisit the scenes of that evening, and think back upon the nature of the many issues that had driven such a diverse group to take to the streets of not only New York, but all of the major cities across the breadth and width of the country.

Donald Trump became a pop culture phenomenon in the United States as the host the ‘The Apprentice’, a show in which aspiring moguls competed for his approval. Each episode ended with Trump dramatically telling one low-performing contestant, “You’re fired”. Now that Trump has been ‘hired’, what kind of country will he lead, and how will he lead it? His popular support stemmed mostly from Americans who wanted a change from the status quo. Some are driven by a belief in limited government, others by a desire for conservative morality, economic reform, or tougher polices on immigration and terrorism. Meanwhile, opponents challenge these positions, and argue that strong policing in the name of immigration and terrorism will also severely curtail the rights of native-born non-white Americans in the name of safety. As reports of neo-Nazi meetings, swastika-laden graffiti and verbal and physical attacks on everyone from women to immigrants pour in day by day from around the country, I sit here wondering what this means moving forward.

In a recent sit-down interview with the New York Times and on the television programme ‘60 Minutes’, Trump was challenged to comment upon such claims, and in particular, the despicable acts carried out by some supporters in the name of his campaign. In the latter interview, seated atop a gold, throne-like chair amidst the other members of his family, the President-elect noted, “I am saddened to hear that”. He then looked directly into the camera, making a stern plea to anyone engaged in such intimidation to “stop it”. But is this message too little too late? Trump couldn’t really be that out of touch with the reality of the situation, could he? He’s not a clueless guy. In fact, he is quite clever. Therefore, there is no way that while out on the campaign trail in recent months, the billionaire businessman turned politician could have been unaware that his rhetoric had been fueling intimidation and attacks upon immigrants, minorities, and Muslims. Seen in this light, Trump’s order to “stop it” seems more like a calling off of the dogs, or an acknowledgement that, “it’s OK. The fight is over, we won.” However, assuming for a moment that his plea was genuine, this presents a larger issue. The fact that such acts have continued, and in some cases heightened, even after Trump has so clearly distanced himself from some of the more sensational elements of his campaign rhetoric, indicates that he has perhaps opened a Pandora’s box with regard to race relations amongst subsections of the population in America. Unfortunately, such cannot be stopped now by simply issuing a command on network television, as might have worked on his previous gig.

Further criticism has come from those who claim that Trump’s election may threaten the rights of those Americans whose lifestyles seem dangerous to the conservative Christian values of some of Trump’s closest allies, including vice president-elect Mike Pence. Pence’s outspoken views on homosexuality, which in the past have included the proposed diversion of public funds to provide ‘conversion therapy’, appeared to be amongst the central motivations of many of those that we saw marching on the night of the protest in Manhattan. This has remained a popular talking point. In light of last year’s marriage referendum, it was such views held by Pence that recently drew the ire of the public after Enda Kenny, following a conversation with the former Indiana governor, tweeted that he “certainly knows Ireland and the issues that matter to our people.”

For his part, Trump has stated in the past week that he will not challenge the legality of gay marriage, and will not seek to prosecute his former opponent, Hilary Clinton. The distance between his campaign rhetoric and the reality of his administration remains unknown, but tellingly, those protestors who took to the streets the night of his election continue to march. What’s driving their steps might be Trump’s selection of controversial figures to serve on his staff and in his cabinet. Steve Bannon, editor of a far-right newspaper known to publish anti-Semitic, misogynistic, and racist views, will serve as Trump’s chief of staff. Jeff Sessions, a Senator from Alabama, whose 1986 nomination for federal judgeship was rejected because of racially charged comments and actions, will serve as his Attorney General. However, perhaps most concerning is Trump’s appointment of Myron Ebell, a noted skeptic of climate change, as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Such an appointment falls in line with Trump’s noted desire to dismantle many of the environmental policies put in place by the previous administration.

Ultimately, Trump will have many campaign promises to keep to his supporters, and fears to allay among his opponents. A Trump presidency will likely continue to inspire controversy, and will present an (at least four year) answer to a question posed by ‘The Apprentice’ itself. What happens after you’re hired?

Latest News Articles:

Fundraising underway for new playground in Innishannon
Enibas commemorative pendant for Colin Vearncombe to raise funds for Brú Columbanus
Dunmanway tackles food waste
Doors open in newly revamped Schull Community College
West Cork aid worker forced to wade through snake-infested swamps to help support civilians fleeing war
New community building in Ballydehob nearing completion
Castletownbere Fisherman’s Co-op wins overall ‘Green Business of the Year’ award
Trinity exhibition honours West Cork botanist
3,000 people to attend events throughout Local Enterprise Week
€1m in funding sought for a new Air Ambulance

Join us on Facebook

WHALE WATCHING AT THE OLD HEAD OF KINSALE
Have you ever wondered how you can see whales and dolphins from the headlands? This is your opportunity to learn. Cork Nature Network are delighted to be able to offer an exciting event at the Old Head of Kinsale. All levels welcome. The event will be guided by Emer Keaveney, who will explain what to look for and which species can be seen from land. The event will include an optional tour of the lighthouse which costs €10 payable on the day. Those not wishing to avail of the tour can attend the whale watching event at no cost.
To book a place contact events@corknaturenetwork.ie
... See MoreSee Less

22nd May, 2017  ·  

Excellent speakers are lined up for the Dyslexia Assoc of Ireland's Information evening in Inchydoney on June 1st from 7pm. See poster for more.... ... See MoreSee Less

19th May, 2017  ·  

Visit Cork ARC's West Cork centre on Thursday 25th May between 10am and 2pm for a special Open House and Coffee Morning in aid of the Cork's 96FM Radiothon.

This special day will give supporters and sponsors an opportunity to visit the West Cork centre, explore the therapy rooms and drop in areas and meet members of the team who together make real difference to the lives of those affected by cancer.

Please call in for a friendly cuppa and some delicious home baking. The house is located quite near the Bantry Bay Golf Club & there will be plenty of parking and an open door for all.
... See MoreSee Less

19th May, 2017  ·  

Jump to:

Top