Irish American Democrats and Republicans look ahead to Donald Trump's America. Wikimedia Commons

Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election and Donald Trump will be the new president of the United States.

It’s a simple enough sentence, but it’s one that half the US population is having a hard time processing.

“Surprise, shock and disappointment best capture my reaction to the Trump victory,” said Bruce Morrison, the lobbyist, lawyer, and former Congressman who played a pivotal role in the 1994 IRA ceasefire.  “So much for the much-vaunted ‘demographic inevitability’ of Democratic Presidential candidates.”  

 

Bruce Morrison

Bruce Morrison

He drew a parallel to Northern Ireland. “Much like peace in Northern Ireland requires finding common ground with economically and socially displaced Loyalists, political success in America requires understanding the concerns of people who fear the future as well as those who resent the past,” he said.  

“When the Democratic Party loses broad support from white working class voters, it is a triumph of division, not diversity. Big tent coalitions win elections and solve problems. Ethnic focused strategies divide and threaten the whole community.”

John Fitzpatrick, owner of the Fitzpatrick Hotel Group in New York and Chairman of the American Ireland Fund, said that he was “Surprised, but not completely shocked.”

“If you read the polls over the last week since the first FBI announcement, you knew it was tight. I thought she’d win, but I never ruled him out of it. What was hard to factor in was that many Trump supporters were not willing to publicly share their voting preference with anyone, including the pollsters. That skewed the polls, I think.”

 

John Fitzpatrick, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton

John Fitzpatrick, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton

Fitzpatrick’s Grand Central Hotel had been the scene of two jubilant Hillary Clinton rallies this election season – one on the eve of the New York Democratic primary, and one in late October, for the election home stretch.

Fitzpatrick credited Trump with tapping into a feeling and a movement other politicians have ignored. “When you break it down, a lot of voters just really wanted a change and essentially staged revolt against traditional party politics. Donald Trump heard these voters more clearly than anyone else did.”

Looking ahead, he mirrored the messages of acceptance and unity heard in Clinton’s concession speech and Obama’s White House address.

“I think that while it’s okay to be disappointed today, we have to respect the fact that the people have spoken. We have to accept it, and we have move on. Donald Trump won fair and square by democratic process. This long, divisive campaign is now over, and the American people have to come together as one and give the President-elect their support. Whatever fears you have, it would be much better for everyone if he were to be successful. We have to give him a chance.”

Morrison, who has specialized in immigration law a both an attorney and a congressman, offered words that were something of a salve to Trump’s campaign promises to immediately alter immigration legislation and begin mass deportations.

“As for immigration, the biggest certainty is that nothing is likely to change much in next several months,” he said.  “Massive deportation has no budget constituency regardless of the campaign rhetoric.  DAPA is dead and buried and DACA may well follow it to the grave. Comprehensive Reform as generally understood is not on the agenda.  Prosecutorial discretion will gradually atrophy.  If a Republican leader in Congress emerges who wants to ‘fix the problem’ advocates for a well-regulated immigration system and for relief for the unauthorized [they] need to swallow their pride and try to be part of the solution.

Fitzpatrick too expressed hope that Ireland and the Irish in America would be able to maintain a productive relationship with the Trump administration. “We’ve been very lucky as a group to have the ears of the last three presidents I’m hoping that the next administration will value Irish America, establish a dialogue with our leaders, hear our concerns, and take those concerns into consideration when establishing policy on issues affecting us.”

Trump’s previous promise for a hardline on immigration is not just a cause for concern among Irish American Democrats, however, as Republicans themselves question the possibility that he will attempt to follow through on certain worrying campaign policies.

Jeffrey Cleary, the Director of Governmental Relations for the Office of New York State Senator Kathleen A. Marchione and member of The Irish American Republicans, was not expecting a Trump win, even going so far as to say he was “quite embarrassed by an awful lot of what he [Trump] said.”

As a member of the Irish American Republican organization, he describes the group as experiencing a great divide in support throughout the primaries and so, “to keep peace,” the organization as a whole did not endorse the Republican candidate, although the State of Florida chapter gave the President-elect their support.  

Although Cleary did not vote for Trump in this election, he now believes his vote to be available for him to win over the next four years, if he does the right thing.

“One of the things we're obviously concerned about is his immigration statements in the past,” Cleary said.

“We're going to be proposing for the first time that the Irish American Republicans form an immigration committee. We're going to sign onto a letter with other Irish organizations with our proposals, specifically dealing with Irish visas, and hopefully he's going to be receptive.

“He's said that he's got problems with certain hotspots where terrorism may come from. He may be open to doing visas for friendly, allied nations so we're going to make that proposal. Yet, if he goes overboard on immigration policy so that we feel that the immigrants in this country that was built by immigrants are mistreated, then we're going to speak out against him on it.” 

Grant Lally, an attorney and former Chairperson of The Irish American Republicans, who declares Trump's election to be “a pleasant surprise for us,” also believes we may see a path to some form of legalization or legal residency for undocumented citizens under a Trump presidency.

Grant Lally

Grant Lally

“I think the problem of massive illegal immigration is recognized by both parties and although different political leaders have different approaches to dealing with the issue of illegal immigration, I think that there is a growing consensus, certainly among the Republicans, on how to deal with it,” Lally said.

“That included stronger border security and devising some system to bring people out of the shadows so that they can register and they can legalize. 

“I believe that legalization which means having some kind of legal residency is definitely what both Donald Trump and what the congressional republican leadership have all pledged to do.” 

Both Cleary and Lally echoed the sentiments of Democrat Fitzpatrick in the realization that Trump had the outlook of US party politics with the manner in which he won this election.

“I think Donald Trump was able to reach out to ordinary working American and to appeal and provide hope for a better future and for creating jobs and hope in America,” said Lally, while Cleary believes, “He certainly had some answers.”

“He recreated the map,” he continued. “He won places the Republicans hadn't won in a long time. He took some big things away from what was typically Democrats, most importantly, Pennsylvania but there's no doubt that he won this race.” 

Although critical of Trump throughout the campaign as one of “two very flawed candidates,” Cleary is now hoping that the weight of office will have an impact on the way in which Trump presents his policies to the country.

“He said he wanted to repeal and replace Obamacare I think that's a very good thing,” he said.

“She [Clinton] was going to double down on it. He says he wants a middle-class tax cut, I think that's a very good idea. If he could do it without calling people stupid and insulting them I'd appreciate it. 

“The last couple of days, his statement on election night, his meeting with the President today I think maybe he might be starting to feel the weight of the office and hopefully, he will live up to the weight of the office and the honor of the office and the dignity of the office.

“So, I'm not as down and out and holding my head, I'm hopeful, I'm hopeful that he will get it together and he'll be a good president and we'll certainly honor and respect the office if he does good.”

Lally describes himself as “excited” for the possibilities open to Republicans now.

“First and foremost this country has been in  great recession or in a stagnant non-recovery for nearly a decade and what Donald Trump has pledged to do and what I think Republicans in Congress are hungry to do is reduce the burden of government on business and n working Americans to help get this economy going again,” he said.

I'm very excited about the opportunity as a Republican and as a former National Chairman of Irish American Republicans. I'm very excited about the possibility of enacting so many of the programs and reforms that we've wanted to do for decades but couldn't because of divided government which has, unfortunately, been the norm in the United States for most of the last quarter century.”