More than three weeks after the election, the American public remains divided over Donald Trump’s surprise victory. Six thousand miles away, however, one U.S. ally has demonstrated a far more unified response.
Egyptians, particularly those of a pro-government bent, are among the world’s happiest people about the Trump win. That may seem odd for a Muslim-majority country, given that Trump has floated the idea of a ban on Muslim immigration to the United States and even a registry for Muslims already in the country. To understand Trump’s appeal to Egyptians, therefore, it’s critical to look at the candidate he defeated.
Hillary Clinton is hugely unpopular in Egypt—a function primarily of her having served as secretary of state under U.S. President Barack Obama during the 2011 Egyptian revolution, which toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. Ten days into the revolution, Obama demanded that his Egyptian counterpart, a three-decade U.S. ally, heed protesters’ demands and immediately step down. For those Egyptians who were positively inclined toward the military-led regime—and even for much of the apolitical middle, which is concerned above all with stability—the move was a betrayal. It paved the way for the Muslim Brotherhood’s election a year later and its subsequent, bloody removal by the military in July 2013. Clinton’s close relationship with her aide Huma Abedin—whose family some critics allege is sympathetic to the Brotherhood—didn’t help her favorability ratings in Egypt.
Clinton’s actual record on Egypt is rather different from what her reputation has suggested. As she lays out in her memoir Hard Choices (an account no former administration official has contested), she warned Obama about the optics of abandoning a decades-long ally. Moreover, she told him, the country had only two institutions—the Brotherhood and the army—with large enough support bases to lead. Unlike the president, she backed not an “immediate” transition but an “orderly” one—a phrase perhaps less suited for sound bites, but, in smarter policy.
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