A year ago Trump spoke of bind the nation’s wounds- so what happened next?

A bruising campaign and a shocking outcome was followed by a presidency championing a border wall to a travel forbid and empathy for neo-Nazis

It was one small step for a man, one giant leap into the political unknown. Just before 3am, moved to the microphone at the Hilton hotel in Midtown Manhattan as an amazed, euphoric mob chanted:” USA! USA! USA !” The president-elect gave a thumbs up, spoke graciously about opponent and made a promise:” Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division .”

As the first anniversary of that wild night approaches, Trump’s victory over Clinton in the US presidential election has lost none of its power to shock advocates and adversaries alike. The jubiliation in the hotel ballroom with its red, white and blue lighting, Air force One theme music and red ocean of” Make America great again” baseball caps was matched by grief- and genuine fear- at Clinton’s funereal election watch party and in millions of homes.

The billionaire businessman’s acceptance speech, with its nod to Abraham Lincoln( who once pledged to” bind up the nation’s meanders “), was an uncharacteristically conventional attempt to unify following the most brutal of campaigns. It created said that he hoped Trump the would differ from Trump the candidate. Today, however, many of those hopes have been dashed. Critics say he has divided America more profoundly than ever, driving wedges between black and white, female and male, rural and urban- perhaps as a deliberate political strategy.

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Supporters cheer results at Donald Trump’s election night party at the Hilton hotel in Midtown Manhattan. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/ Getty Images

” Looking back to that moment, they were just terms on paper because there has not been mending , no binding of the wounds from the campaign , no return to American tradition in that sense ,” said Michael Steele , former president of the Republican National Committee.” He has weaponised some of the tools in politics. He’s fascinating to watch because he’s able to manipulates messages, people, situations. It astonishes me that people are still dumbfounded by it all .”

As a candidate, Trump had broken every taboo, from a launch event where he described Mexicans as rapists and medication smugglers to his attack on the parents of a fallen Muslim soldier to the revelation of an old videotape in which he bragged about groping girls . Despite huge, raucously enthusiastic mob, it was assumed he could not win an electoral in the America of Barack Obama. Indeed, he did lose the popular referendum by 3 million yet took the electoral college to became the oldest US president to enter the White House in history and the first with no prior political or military experience. Whether his campaign knowingly colluded with Russia along the way is the subject of ongoing investigations.

Two weeks before election day, a New York Times front page headline read:” Victory in sight, Clinton presses beyond Trump .”

Trump supporter Benjamin Marchi, a healthcare service franchise owned and Republican platform committee member in Maryland, had, though, begun 8 November 2016 with cautious optimism.

Then at around lunchtime he spoke to a friend who had watched exit poll: the outlook was bleak.” As hopeful as I was, there was no explaining away the margins in those polls ,” he said.” I thought that’s that .”

Marchi then got a call from the Trump campaign inviting him to the official watch party at the Hilton in New York.” My wife said,’ Does he have a chance? I said no , not really .” Even so, they drove up from St Michaels in Maryland and observed an event that, by Trump’s standards of showmanship, was relatively low key.” It was obvious when we arrived at around 8 or 9pm there was not the level of excitement or expectation ,” Marchi recalled.

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The Women’s March on Washington on 21 January 2017 in Washington DC was one of the biggest protests in US history. Photo: Kevin Mazur/ WireImage

But as the night wore on and Fox News beamed outcomes into the room, the mood changed and the crowd swelled, like sports fans going from resignation to curiosity to giddy laughter.” A lot of people made a big deal about North Carolina and holding close in Virginia but what did it for me was Wisconsin. When he won Wisconsin, he wasn’t going to lose Pennsylvania and I knew there was no stopping him .”

A year later, Marchi, 39, can still barely believe it.” I haven’t stopped thinking about that night since it happened because it was awesome .”

He believes Trump has lived up to his promises during the course of its first nine months in office, despite constant criticism.” He delivers tough medicine and, when people don’t want to take their medicine, they’re going to squeal. He has pursued exactly what he said he would seek and it shouldn’t be a shock or surprise to anyone .”

The celebrations at Trump HQ contrasted spectacularly with the tears across township at the Javits Center, where Clinton’s speech was abruptly cancelled, and among Democrats and progressives across the country. Many conservatives were shaken too. Charlie Sykes, a broadcaster and writer, said:” I believe I was numbed by the enormity of it .”

Sykes was unimpressed by Trump’s election night pitch.” He can read a speech written by others that may have some grace notes but his presidency has prospered on division, stoking acrimony and inflaming the culture wars. No one who paid attention during the campaign should be surprised but it’s still shocking to consider a US president behave like that. Division is a business model for much of the conservative media and it is central to the political strategy of the president .”

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Thousands gathered at Terminal Four at JFK Airport to protest against the detention of several travellers under Trump’s first travel forbid on 28 January. Photo: Press vi/ Rex/ Shutterstock

After a concert short on stars at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Trump took office on 20 January. It was his inaugural address , not his election night speech, that disclosed his true colourings:” Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out mills scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation … the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives … This American carnage stops right here and stops right now .”

Sidney Blumenthal, a former senior consultant to President Bill Clinton, said drily:” I don’t recall his inaugural address being similar to Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address in which, on the eve of civil war, he appealed to’ the very best angels of our nature ‘. With Trump we got’ American bloodbath ‘.”

Just a week afterward the president issued an executive order banning entry for 90 days by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. The order also indefinitely halted admission of refugees from Syria. It triggered immediate confusion at airports as well as widespread protests. The forbid was knocked back by judges and Trump has been wrangling with the courts ever since.

It was a sign of the divisiveness to come along the fault lines of class ,~ ATAGEND culture, gender, firearm ownership, race and religion. Blumenthal, a biographer of Lincoln, added:” Trump seeks polarisation whenever he can. It’s his life raft. He cannot survive without dividing. All he has is his base, such as it is, and it can only be held together through constant alarms, emergencies and appeals to its instincts. Instead of the better angels of our nature, he appeals to the demon instincts of his base .”

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A protester is surrounded by members of the group Bikers For Trump during a’ Make America Great Again Rally’ in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on 29 April. Photograph: Alex Wong/ Getty Images

Trump pursued the construction of a wall on the Mexican border and discontinued the Obama-era programme that protects the so-called Dreamers from expulsion. He pardoned Joe Arpaio, a sheriff in Arizona who defied a court order to stop racially profiling Latino people. He set up a voter hoax committee, which many insured as an attempt to disenfranchise black voters. He championed a law and order crackdown and casually suggested to police that they should handle suspects more approximately. He condemned professional football players who” take the knee” during the national anthem in protest over racial injustice.

His response to the hurricanes in Puerto Rico appeared slower than in Florida or Texas, he sparred with the mayor of San Juan and earned scorns for lobbing newspaper towels at citizens there. He effectively accused an African American war widow of lying. And perhaps most infamously of all he described moral equivalence between white supremacists and anti-Nazi demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, suggesting that “both sides” was set to blame for deadly violence .

Julissa Arce , a former undocumented immigrant from Mexico, was at a party in Los Angeles on election night.” It was the first time I’d voted in a presidential election and I was super-excited that I got to vote for what I guessed would be the first female president of the United States, so I strolled into the party with a smile .”

But after insuring Clinton defeated in Pennsylvania and Ohio, she left and watched the remainder in her apartment.” I was stunned. I merely couldn’t believe how disappointed I was in the United States for electing person like him, who operated on such divisive rhetoric and who was not qualified .”

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Members of the Ku Klux Klan arrive for a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on 8 July that ended in the death of a counter-protester. Photograph: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/ AFP/ Getty Images

Arce, a board member at the National Immigration Law Center added:” He continues to be incredibly divisive and, with every tweet, he divides the country more and more. The problem with it is that he dedicates permission to other people to be divisive as well. I see it in my Twitter feed: people are constantly saying,’ go back to where you came from’ or’ we need to build a wall and you should be on the other side of it ‘. Trump did not create anti-immigrant sentiment but he made a ripe environment to say things that were unacceptable to say in public before .”

Arce, a former vice-president at Goldman Sachs and now a naturalised US citizen, is convinced that Trump is a white supremacist.” I think he’s become that more and more. He wasn’t always but as he’s embodied this persona to get election he can no longer tell the difference .”

Trump get elected partly by bolting together a powerful coalition of conservative pressure groups such as Christian evangelicals, anti-abortion campaigners, Tea Party anti-tax advocates and, above all, the National Rifle Association( NRA ). In Atlanta in April he became the first sitting chairman to address the annual NRA convention since Ronald Reagan and that” bind the meanders of division” speech in New York felt like a different universe as the crowd booed and jeered images of Clinton, Obama and Hollywood actors.

Trump has also continued to fire up his core support with an average of one rally per month, seeking to delegitimise institutions through” us against them” rhetoric and claiming to back the common man against the elites. In Huntington, West Virginia, he told advocates that the Russia investigation was an attack on them; in Phoenix, Arizona, he spoke of” damned dishonest” journalists who” don’t like our country “. The mob chanted:” USA! USA! USA! … CNN sucks! CNN sucks! CNN sucks! … Build that wall! Build that wall! Build that wall !”

Neil Sroka , communications director of Democracy for America, a liberal advocacy group, watched the election results with colleagues in Seattle. He had pre-written one press statement for a Clinton victory and another for a Trump surprise.” We figured Secretary Clinton would win and were trying to work out how the left could keep up the pressure ,” he recalled.

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Houston Texans players kneel during the singing of the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks on 29 October. Photograph: Elaine Thompson/ AP

But as it dawned on them that Clinton would lose, they threw out the” Trump wins” statement and started a new one.” I sat in a corner and rewrote it entirely in 20 minutes because the mood had changed instantly. There was a need to change our entire stance and outlook: we got very early that resistance would become central to this presidency and we haven’t let up .”

Indeed, Trump’s election night plea for unity cut little ice with Sroka and colleagues.” There was not a moment of reluctance for us in the room: we knew he was lying ,” he said.” This is a man who has spent his life saying what he needs to say to get ahead. In a few moments of shock for him, somebody handed it to him and he read it .”

The scale of the catastrophe came home to Sroka the next day when a Muslim co-worker called him to express anxiety over his future in America.” That was when the feeling made me directly. As hard as we’d worked, there was the realisation that we hadn’t done enough. There was a deep, profound anxiety of what Donald Trump’s administration might do in office, some of which has been realised and some of which hasn’t because of his ineptitude. He has proved to be one of the worst directors we’ve ever seen in the Oval Office .”

A year on, polls suggest that merely about a third of the country subsistences Trump. But he continues to energise the anti-anti-Trump base in a common disdain for liberal America and could yet retrace a narrow route to victory in 2020.” There has never been a chairman more focused, more dedicated and more committed to split the country against itself over and over again ,” Sroka added.” The only style he wins again is by dividing us further. It’s our job to unify the country specifically against his divisive kind of politics .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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