Thursday, 10 March 2016

Donald Trump: What's The Appeal?

Donald Trump cartoon, by Wendy Cockcroft
To the chagrin of the American Republican establishment, Donald Trump appears to be the front runner for the nomination for the presidency, mostly because he appeals to the majority of Republican voters, and by "majority" I mean "the poor ones." Why is this happening? I'm quite surprised by the answers.

But he's racist, right?

He is indeed a racist. Remember when the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants got dropped from American television? It was over racist comments Trump had made. Huffington Post has a whole section devoted to recording the horrible things he says, even though they know it's mostly to get attention.

The blowback

Donald Trump is a "Birther," a mad conspiracy theorist who believes that President Obama is not really an American citizen and therefore shouldn't have been allowed to become president. Some of these conspiracy theories are very funny; one of the craziest involves Obama having been in a gay marriage, who then had his partner killed so he could run for office. Others involve the Kenyan secret service working to effect a Muslim coup or the British trying to regain control of their colony. Wipe the tears of laughter from your eyes long enough to take this in: Donald's embrace of Birtherism is coming back to bite the GOP because it's being used against presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada. But Trump's own mother is Scottish. Pass the popcorn, please.

But he's popular because...

He says what dissatisfied, anxious people are thinking. He gives voice to their hopes and fears and addresses them directly. He also stands out from the crowd of identikit career politicians, who spout the party line without fail while bringing their own brand of right-wing flavoured lunacy to the table. Whether his claims of self-funding are true or not the perception is that he can't be bought. He may be an idiot, people seem to think, but he's our idiot.

The real Donald Trump

Many people have commented on Trump's economic and social views (minus the overt racism) as being to the left of accepted GOP ideological positions, but what really floored me was the discovery that he has cottoned on to a fact that I thought was only being discussed on the Left: neoliberalism doesn't work for the people and it doesn't bring prosperity to the nation. In a nation where both of the main parties are so wedded to neoliberalism they were willing to abdicate their constitutional responsibilities to fast track TPP through this is economic blasphemy.

The blowback

His clickbait headlines get him dismissed as a one-man clown car pileup whose only real function is to nuke the GOP to let the real conservatives back in to set policies that actually benefit the country, by which I mean "sane and sober stewardship based on empiricism, not ideological considerations." Even his own party elites hate him, seeing him as a loose cannon who would pull America down.

But he's popular because...

Mitt the Twit forgot the degree to which he relied on Trump's endorsement during his own presidential campaign in 2012, during which he was spouting all that Birther nonsense.
Indeed, Mitt dear. I've enjoyed watching the American right tear itself apart over this but that's where echo chamber politics and binary thinking get you, so don't indulge it unless you're taking bets or selling popcorn. The bottom line is that Trump is more interested in reaching the voters where they're at than in trying to "educate" them into accepting policies that do more to benefit the elites than themselves. He doesn't wipe the dust off of existing policies then repackage them and pretend they're new, he offers a different direction to that of the GOP establishment; a direction for the poor and disenchanted.

Should Trump be president?

His own theme song is awful, so let me suggest this golden oldie from 1986:

This is, after all, his message to the people. Whether or not it's actually true is beside the point; enough people believe it that they're willing to vote for him. I'm sure the American people would rather vote Democrat than give this boor access to the nuclear button but you never know; they're pretty fed up at the moment and realistically it's a three horse race between him, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Of the three I prefer Sanders because American politics needs to reset and he could achieve that by breaking the neoliberal consensus. I just love the idea that Trump could, too.

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