When hate Trumps love – America's search for a DeLorean

Many thousands of Americans looked past Donald Trump's nastiness, abuse and incompetence in search of a time that has gone, tragically rejecting a woman with the potential to have made real change

The world feels a very different place to me this morning. It is a place that leaves me disillusioned and more than a little scared. The America that voted for Donald Trump to be its president has either embraced or looked past so many values that I thought that country held dear.

I felt certain of two things. That the Americans love of the good guy was paramount; they'd never vote for the guy in the black hat. That they wouldn't, in the end, mistake bullying for strength. They that would see the fakery, hyperbole, blustering incompetence and demonisation and reject it. That America's system of checks and balances, including the media, endless campaigning and electoral college, would stop someone utterly unqualified for the job winning it. And most of all I thought America had reached its white ceiling. That is, white voters alone could no longer win elections without building a coalition with some minority group.

I was wrong. Only by a hundred thousand votes here and there, but still very wrong.

Part of this vote comes from a dark and ignorant place. It is the racism that rejects a black president (I recall the taxi driver who drove me past the White House just a day before the 2012 election and said, 'we should call it the Black House now'). It's the sexism that rejects a woman president. It's the xenophobia that wants Muslims "extreme vetted", even banned from the country. It's the demonisation of 'the other'.

That is where Trump has been able to harness fear and hate to his cause. But it is not the whole story.

Amazingly, working class women – who were so supportive of both Clintons in past campaigns – voted Trump. Almost a third of Latinos voted for Trump.

So many Americans – people not defined by hate and who one-on-one are probably very good neighbours to all kinds of people – looked past the arrogance, demonisation, lack of experience, deep insecurity and questionable temperament. They looked past Trump's membership of the one percent and the elite that they so strongly distrust. They looked past his abuse of women and past the fact he knows nothing of their struggles.

What they heard was "change". What they heard was a reflection of their own anger. It really does seem to be a victory for someone who is "prepared to say what we're all thinking". It turns out more Americans were thinking that than we realised.

We saw something of that after the Orewa speech here in New Zealand. Don Brash was almost our Donald Trump; all he lacked, perhaps was that reality TV skill and understanding of the medium.

And this is where the political class – and I use that term loosely and only because none better comes to mind – must shoulder its share of the blame. It clearly has been unable to convince enough people of the benefits of inclusion, diversity, globalisation and more. All the things that Trump voters would dismiss as "political correctness".

More to the point, those leaders have not delivered to those people the benefits that were meant to come from the social and economic revolution of recent decades. Barack Obama is the latest president to have failed badly on that front. Yes, unemployment is down. But he was too tentative, too tinkery.

As the economy and society have been liberalised, those who thought they could expect a decent middle class life have been left behind. Mostly, due to economic reform. But that's too hard to grapple with, so instead they have blamed the accompanying social reform and focused on the places where those two intersect, most significantly immigration.

This vote is an expression of a hatred of change, and a desperate cry for more of it. Those voters are worse off for all economic changes enacted (so ironically) by Ronald eagan, then the Bushes and Bill Clinton. They want their secure middle class world back. You can hear their voices now, saying that Trump is going to bring manufacturing jobs back to the rust belt. That's where he won the election and that's a big part of why.

So, as victims of change, they want more. Change back. This vote is a plea for some kind of political DeLorean, where like Michael J Fox, they can all go back to 1955 and a time now glorified in nostalgia as one of prosperity, peace and employment.

This is the Classic Hits election; a victory for people nostalgic for 'back in the day'. And in an attempt to get back there they have cast aside so many of the values their country once held dear. They have sold themselves so terribly short, embracing change for change's sake, even when offered by a wolf is change's clothing.

The one thing that links the past three presidents is that they were all perceived as outsiders; not members of the Washington elite. They were expected to up-end the system.

Yet Trump just can't do it, anymore than Obama or George W. could. That America of the 50s and 60s is gone. So, in another tragedy for the alienated working class, Trump will become just another politician to have failed them. He will not drain the swamp. He will not stop globalisation. Even if he truly wanted to, he cannot.

And his tax cuts, risk of trade wars and cuts to government programmes will only make it worse. It's tragic.

Ironically, the person best place to drain the swamp, was the woman who knows it best. She could have effected real change from within. No, not an angry revolution. But Clinton knows the machine and the game so well, she could have really got things done. And her more redistributive policies, fundamental to the strong middle class of that post-war era, are the opposite of what Trump offers. But she failed to sell that message.

So now we're left with a fake. And a dangerous one at that. I worry now about the South China Sea, about climate change, about flaming the fires of terror.

Those working class white voters so desperate for more security, have taken us all into very, very unstable times.