America decided and the world made it clear that the decision was the wrong one.
Donald Trump entered the 2016 presidential race as an underdog. His victory over Hillary Clinton Wednesday means that from a global perspective, the worst fears of this contentious U.S. election may stand a chance of being realized.
"After Brexit and this election, anything is now possible. A world is crumbling before our eyes. Vertigo," France's ambassador to the U.S. Gerard Araud tweeted as it became clear that the billionaire businessman would win the presidency.
Araud's reference to Britain's exit from the European Union — Brexit — was a nod to another vote, also fought on a populist battlefield that laid bare strong feelings about immigration, trade and identity, that confounded expectations.
"It's not just about him. It's about who he will, and has, emboldened," said Samantha Shannon, a popular British writer. "Everything about this feels identical to Brexit."
Trump has touted a vision of American foreign policy that would represent a fundamental break with decades of received diplomatic wisdom, including making U.S. military support for NATO, a cornerstone of global security since World War II, conditional on the financial support of the alliance's members.
His behavior before and during the campaign— in his speeches, statements and rants on Twitter at 3 a.m. — personify a raft of negative stereotypes about American behavior and character: Brash, impulsive, racist, arrogant, obsessed with wealth, lacking respect and understanding for the wider world.
Chinese state media were quick to cast the election as the embodiment of America’s democracy in crisis in contrast to China’s perceived stability under authoritarian rule. "The majority of Americans are rebelling against the U.S.’s political class and financial elites," the official Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily said in a commentary.
In Russia, where the government has been accused by U.S. intelligence officials of trying to meddle in the election by unleashing cyber-mischief and peddling conspiracy theories about voter fraud and other democracy-thwarting measures, Muscovite Alexei Anatsky, who works in the IT industry, said "real life is turning out far less funny than it seemed a while ago. We had an idea of how people think in New York and San Francisco. Now we are seeing how more than half of the country thinks."
Global markets expressed shock at Trump's win. Dow stock futures on Wall Street plunged more than 4% before recovering. In Tokyo, the Nikkei index nosedived 5.4%, its largest drop in years. European shares also plummeted. The Mexican peso started plunging as soon as it became clear that Trump had won Florida, Ohio and North Carolina. The central bank had called a Trump win a possible “hurricane” for the peso and created a contingency plan to respond.
"I never thought the American people would vote for someone who is … anti-everyone," said Jennifer Long, a teacher from Kansas who had gathered at a restaurant in Mexico City late Tuesday for what she hoped would be a celebration of a Clinton victory. Tump has called Mexican migrants "rapists" and criminals and vowed to build a border wall with the U.S., a pledge that has angered many Mexicans. "The entire country is shocked,” said Esteban Illades, a magazine editor.
Owen Smith, a British politician who lost a vote to lead the opposition Labour Party to Jeremy Corbyn, to a populist from the left, said Trump's triumph meant there would be a "racist in the White House and a human rights abuser in the Kremlin." The Kremlin is the citadel in Moscow where President Vladimir Putin has his office.
But after months of polls that favored Clinton, not everyone was hanging their head following one of the most divisive and caustic presidential elections in U.S. history.
"We regard with satisfaction that the better candidate of the two presented to the American voters was victorious," said Vladimir Zhirinovsk, the leader of Russia’s nationalist Liberal Democratic party. Russia's parliament broke into applause when the result was announced. Putin sent Trump a telegram of congratulation.
"I am for Trump because he supports India," said Anil Arora, a Delhi shop owner. "He is also clearly against terrorism. This is good for India. We need a strong man to eradicate this evil." Others in the South Asian economic powerhouse said Clinton and President Obama had improved ties between the two nations.
In Tokyo, Japan's government pledged to work closely with Trump despite being widely perceived there as harboring anti-Japanese sentiment.
Jasmine Dang, who was wearing a Trump T-shirt and a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on Wednesday said that reading Trump’s books helped her in her own career and that his business leadership would benefit the U.S. "The image of America needs to be tougher and stronger," said Dang, who manages a company that helps Vietnamese apply for business and investment immigration visas to the U.S.
Nimrod Zuta, an ardent Trump supporter in Israel and founder of the "Trump White and Blue" group on Facebook which has more than 14,000 followers, said Trump's victory would be remembered as "one of the most important dates in the history of mankind" and that he would help "wipe radical Islam from the face of the earth."
Meanwhile, Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence who helped engineer his nation's surprise vote to withdraw from the EU, said he was handing over his prediction-defying "mantle" to the president-elect. Trump was a strong supporter of Brexit and Farage appeared at several of Trump's rallies.
In Berlin, John B. Emerson, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, said strong American-German relations would not change and he hoped that Trump would start bringing together a "polarized country." Next week, Obama is due to visit Germany where he will meet Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of his closest allies.
And in France, Marine Le Pen, who leads the far-right National Front party tweeted out her congratulations before Trump had even been declared the winner. While Geert Wilders, a fellow anti-immigrant nationalist politician, in the Netherlands, struck a less mollifying tone. "Americans," he said, were "taking their country back."
Perhaps the most conciliatory tone of all came from Trump himself.
In his victory speech, the man who has never held political office and has yet to provide detailed information about how he will achieve his chief policy goal — "Make America Great Again" — said he wanted the world to know that while he would always seek to put the interests of the U.S. and Americans first, as president he would do something else as well: "Seek partnership not conflict."
Contributing: Anna Arutunyan in Moscow, David Agren in Mexico City, Petra Sorge in New Delhi, Kirk Spitzer in Tokyo, Shira Rubin in Tel Aviv, Thomas Maresca in Ho Chi Minh City