SIX months ago, I wrote that Donald Trump had a strong chance of winning the Republican nomination for president. The article received a very mixed response. Some were determined to believe the best about America, even those on the country’s conservative wing. Others simply told me I knew nothing about US politics and should stick to my day job.

Today, I’m faced with the sad consequences of being right. Trump has trounced his opponents and will almost certainly face Hillary Clinton for US President this November. In six months’ time, he could be the most powerful man in the world. Given that American politics sets the tone for world politics in general, we should brace ourselves for an alarming period ahead.

How alarmed should we be? Movie buffs may be aware of the 1983 film The Dead Zone, starring Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen, based on the book by Stephen King. This long-forgotten cinematic gem should go on re-release for the 2016 presidential campaign. That’s because the film’s antagonist, Greg Stillson, played by Sheen, is an egomaniac, a crook, a master of populist rhetoric, and a political outsider who uses intimidation and racism to worm his way into the Oval Office.

He’s one of the scariest characters King ever created. And he’s the spit of Donald Trump, as King has recently observed in a series of Tweets. Disturbingly, Stillson in power seems determined to launch World War III. “The missiles are flying!” he screams. “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” King’s portrayal of Stillson’s unlikely rise has been spot on so far. Are we heading for a new era of power-crazed American leadership?

There’s a certain irony behind that question. Once Bernie Sanders bows out, many will be forced to back Hillary Clinton for president. Yet Clinton is actually, by her actions, more belligerent and militarist than Trump. Professor Jeffrey Sachs, who The Economist ranks as among the three most influential economists in the world, recently called Clinton “the candidate of the military industrial complex” and a “staunch neocon”. And he’s not wrong.

Trump opposed the Iraq War. And, among his many confused and confusing statements, you can find evidence of him opposing American foreign policy. He has called Nato a “rip-off”, he has been pally towards Vladimir Putin, and even claimed Libya and Iraq would be “100 percent” better under Colonel Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein. Disregarding the ethics of these statements, they sound like the words of someone reluctant to project power overseas. An isolationist, in other words, who apparently just wants to build a great wall to keep the immigrants out.

However, he’s also famously obsessed with confronting China, he’s fully behind expanding America’s apparatus of torture, and he’s promised to “bomb the hell” out of Daesh. That’s Trump for you. Don’t expect him to make sense. The Republican elite certainly can’t understand him. Maybe understanding him isn’t the point.

Trump has been consistently right about one thing, though, where the world’s polite liberals have been consistently wrong. “I’m not stupid,” he recently told Piers Morgan. Various hilarious memes about Trump and his supporters have been circulating across social media for years. They all revolve around the same theme: the guy is a buffoon, his supporters are idiots. But Trump is right where the liberals are wrong: he’s a smart guy. He knows people hate the establishment (epitomised by Clinton) and they’ll take any opportunity to give the cosy elite a poke in the eye. That’s why many Sanders supporters may transfer to Trump rather than Clinton.

“I’m a unifier, unlike our president now,” Trump also told Morgan. To a non-American, this seems absurd. We experienced the Obama years as a purifying age for American power. George Bush’s War on Terror, with its rich Anglo-Saxon oil men lecturing the world about democracy, was a disaster for America’s reputation. Obama’s behaviour in practice is, of course, not that much different. But he’s allowed liberals worldwide to dream the best of the best of the American dream again. He epitomises a new masculinity, the best of American upward mobility, and a more thoughtful stance on world affairs.

For Europeans, despite his faults, Obama was a unifier. But that never applied in America. Black people remained as oppressed as ever. Meanwhile, a white backlash, aided by religious extremism, has become a mainstream fixture in their politics. This is why Trump thinks of himself as a unifier. He promises to put “minorities” in their place and restore the white-dominated moral order. He’s a unifier, yes, for a certain idea of white American masculinity.

Come November, it really doesn’t matter who wins. Clinton is a victory for Wall Street and the military industrial complex; Trump for racism and machismo. Either scenario means an end to the relative peace of the Obama era. Obama, like Sanders, gave American leftists the feel of a social movement. But America is returning to type, with liberal elites in the centre fighting off a right-wing backlash on the flanks.

Paradoxically, maybe there are upsides to this. A 2014 Win/Gallup poll asked respondents from 68 countries to name the biggest threat to world peace. America, of course, was the biggest enemy of peace according to 24 percent of people. Pakistan, with eight percent, was a distant second. Most of the world don’t have illusions of US power.

In Britain and Scotland, we’ve got used to the illusion of the Obama years. Maybe our analysis of American power has become a little too flabby; maybe we’re just a little too determined to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe we should have been paying closer attention to Nato expansion, drone warfare, and death squads.

This November’s election will be ugly, personalised, and compulsively watchable. But a new focus on the ugly side of American politics might have its upsides.