As many regard Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential campaign as an “earthquake” for the US political history, such a result was actually historically inevitable.
Trump’s win represents the triumph of populism over elitism, and America’s political ecology and social structure may see a fundamental change since the independence of the country.
While the US presidential election has always been about the battle between the conservatives and the liberals, this year it turned into the fight between the political elites and the ordinary public. And the political elites have for the first time lost their most important contest, which is the presidential campaign. This has created uncertainties about the future path of American domestic politics, raising questioning about whether America will get rid of the traditional meritocracy or adopt a more civilian politics.
The foundation of America’s political system involves two parts: one is the meritocracy which is responsible for the overall social governance; the other is the electoral system which aims to help the ordinary public to check and balance the power of the ruling class.
While political elites from Democratic Party generally uphold the liberal principles and Republican Party conservative principles, the masses make their choice through the four-yearly presidential election and the biennial Congressional elections. America’s politics can maintain a balance based on such a system, but when the rich and poor gap widens to a certain point, contradictions in the society are bound to emerge.
Besides, the opposition between the political elite and the civilians during this presidential campaign also resulted from an ailing social distribution and social justice system, as well as a widening rich-poor gap. Such problems will hardly disappear after the election and even get worse, unless someone solves them.
The American elite class needs to understand such a reality, respect the public’s yearning for democracy and justice, and reach a consensus with them in terms of social governance and political system reform.
The elite class has noticed that there is a profound ideological and social reason behind Trump’s win. But after Trump officially runs the White House, there must be a compromise between the traditional political elites and Trump, otherwise the original political system will come under strain, not to mention social governance. The problem is which side will make more concession.
As meritocracy is challenged by populism, it cannot just follow the old track and do nothing any more. It has to reform, but the problem is how.
The key to whether America’s political system can keep running, maintain social stability and make sure a smooth economic recovery is whether the elite class can tolerate and accept populism.
He Yafei is former Chinese vice foreign minister and deputy director of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council.
(Opinions expressed in the article don't represent those of the Sino-US.com.)