Early this morning, Capital Club Dubai members and media representatives were looking for a much needed dose of caffeine through event-sponsor, De’Longhi. They shuffled into the breakfast event at the Dubai International Financial Centre. The projector screens should have been displaying results that Hillary Clinton would be the first woman president of the United States. But someone stole the script and his name is Donald Trump.
The speakers at the event were Bill Wechsler, Professor and Dean of Arts and Sciences at the American University in Dubai (AUD), and Frank Kane, Senior Business Correspondent at The National in Abu Dhabi. Most of the 150 people in attendance were not engaged in conversation. Early on, Mr Kane announced that “Trump is doing better than the polls predicted. His likelihood of victory is 53%.” What followed were gasps, some muttering in the background, a few sarcastic jokes, but the room was mostly dead silent with a tension that was palpable.
Bill Wechsler provided his expert opinion:
“I’m a bit surprised this morning because this is not what the polls suggested. At this point we can say that Trump is doing much better than expected. It depends a lot on North Carolina, Michigan, Nevada, and Florida. We assumed that the Hispanic vote would be supporting Hillary based on Mr Trump’s disparaging remarks about Mexicans, but it does not appear to be the case.”
The polls appear to have not counted on the so-called ‘silent Trump vote’, undecided voters who did not openly announce that they will be voting for the controversial figure.
The two speakers agreed that there were parallels between Brexit and the undercurrents within the United States, specifically, the dissatisfaction of the lower and middle classes with an establishment that has become too far removed from their economic concerns. A few Capital Club members objected to the idea that the race was over, saying, “It’s still early. Let democracy run its course.” Another declared that there was “No way Trump can win” despite all evidence to the contrary.
As Donald Trump looked set to win Ohio, Michigan, and Florida, Mr Wechsler explained the phenomena:
“There are a lot of disaffected voters who don’t like either candidate. The FBI’s announcement of continuing its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails may have also had an impact. But it is clear that Trump has managed to energise millions of Americans.”
As Hillary Clinton went briefly ahead when she won California, Frank Kane announced, “World Markets are down by 600 points. The US election is creating an atmosphere of instability in the market and Trump, who is a wildcard when it comes to global trade policy, plans to renegotiate deals with China and Mexico. Will the global markets ever recover?”
While CNN’s John King poured over the incoming results on the big screen and speakers that surrounded Capital Club, the realisation of who was likely to be the next president began to sink in. Many of the members in attendance, the vast majority of which were not supporters of Trump (but not necessarily Clinton supporters either) were concerned. Some pointed to Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, and his “belligerent, anti-Arab views, which set a precedent that these kinds of remarks will be tolerated, not just against Arabs, but also African Americans and Hispanics.”
Bill Wechsler added,
“A victory for Hillary Clinton is becoming unlikely. If she loses either Michigan or Wisconsin, she will be in serious trouble.” Similarly to Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin are states that have long been reliably blue states and did not seem like possible wins for Trump.
By the time Trump’s victory was beyond doubt and the reality of the situation began to settle in. It was clear that the majority of the attendees at Capital Club’s live breakfast event needed time to process what is surely one of the biggest upsets in US presidential history.