REPORTED BY KALAHAN DENG
Republican Donald Trump scored a stunning victory in Tuesday’s U.S. presidential election, but the political neophyte has yet to face his biggest task of bridging the nation’s deep racial, economic and political divides that he himself fed throughout his campaign.
Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic-Relations, called on Trump to respect the rights of all American citizens in a Wednesday statement. “We are not going anywhere, and will not be intimidated or marginalized,” he said. Recurring attacks by Islamic State terrorists have fueled Islamophobia in the U.S. Trump tapped into the growing anxiety, capturing the conservative, white vote with his call to ban Muslim immigrants.
The U.S. is often described as a melting pot of cultures. Its diverse population, which together speaks over 350 languages, is key to the country’s dynamism. But the influx of immigrants has caused a rapid demographic shift, triggering resentment among the white majority.
The proportion of white Americans has fallen from 84% in 1965 to 62% in 2015. They are expected to become a minority by about 2050. More than a few are losing their tolerance for immigrants amid the growing presence of Hispanic- and Asian-Americans.
But the U.S. is not only divided along racial lines. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, household income for the top 10% of earners rose 20% in the two decades since 1995. The bottom 10% suffered a 1% drop in income over the same period. The growing gap between rich and poor, caused partly by the global market economy, will be difficult to bridge.
Some pundits describe Trump’s shocking victory as a “White Revolution” — that medium- and low-income whites, frustrated with the increase in immigration and the growing income gap, rejected a career politician for an unfettered businessman in hopes of change.
But Trump’s xenophobic, protectionist campaign drove a deep wedge into the country. “Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division,” he said in his victory speech on Wednesday, calling on Americans “to come together as one united people.” But the price for his discriminatory rhetoric, which split the people into an “us” and “them,” will be high.
The election also highlighted the rift between conservatives and liberals. A Pew Research Center poll this year found that 58% of Republicans and 55% of Democrats had a very unfavorable view of the opposing party. The figure has risen dramatically since 2008, from 32% and 37%, respectively.