23 October 2016
Donald Trump’s comments on the Orlando nightclub shooting may have struck a deep chord among the grassroots. Photo: Reuters
Donald Trump’s comments on the Orlando nightclub shooting may have struck a deep chord among the grassroots. Photo: Reuters

The mood in US in the aftermath of Orlando shooting

When the Orlando nightclub shooting took place, I was in the United States, and therefore I had first-hand knowledge of the public reaction to the tragedy.

As expected, the two US presidential hopefuls immediately weighed in on the issue.

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican Party nominee, associated the shooting with Islamist terrorism as the shooter had reportedly pledged allegiance to the extremist Islamic State.

Trump also chided President Barack Obama for failing to call a spade a spade for fear of antagonizing the Islamic community.

His provocative remarks have certainly touched a raw nerve among the mainstream liberals, but they may also have struck a deep chord among the grassroots and nativists who harbor anti-Muslim sentiments.

In other words, Trump could have further alienated the mainstream liberals with his remarks, but his words have done little damage to his support base and could have drawn more support from the grassroots.

The Democratic Party’s Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, had relatively less room for maneuver, mainly due to her much more diversified demographics.

So she just played it safe and stuck to the established stance on guns, race and religion of the mainstream white liberal elites in American society.

She had to make sure every word that came out of her mouth over the tragedy was politically correct.

The problem is, history has proven time and again that when America’s national security is under threat, which was the case after Pearl Harbor and 9-11, fear is easily provoked, and as a result, most Americans would agree that safety should be given priority over freedom in times of crisis.

The rise of such phobia could put Clinton at a huge disadvantage.

As we all know, the issue of gun control is always at the center of public debate in the US in the aftermath of any shooting tragedy, and this time is no exception.

Even Trump has softened his stance on anti-gun laws and called for tighter regulation and background checks.

However, unlike what most outsiders would imagine, gun control is unlikely to be a top campaign theme in this year’s presidential election.

That’s because the American people have already heard so much of the debates on the subject and most of them no longer find the subject engaging.

As such, for the majority of American voters, the candidates’ position on gun control is no longer a decisive factor in determining who to vote for.

Besides, everyone in the US knows only too well that any debate on gun control, no matter how intense and widespread, would just come to absolutely nothing in the end.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 21.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Associate professor and director of Global Studies Programme, Faculty of Social Science, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; Lead Writer (Global) at the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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