Amna sees the failure of reading and addressing the growing discontent of Americans during the last two terms of Democrat rule that has contributed directly to the incredible rise of Trump as the Presidential candidate of the USA
Donald Trump is probably the only example of a US presidential candidate whose ratings have dipped post his official nomination. Why they soared in the run-up to Republican National Convention (RNC) is in itself inexplicable, but it definitely needs to be acknowledged that he has rustled a strong support base for himself.
To understand the appeal of the man who wants to ‘Make America hate again’, one has to look beyond his anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-Hispanic and most importantly anti-Muslim rants. These arguments do make news point and expose him as a motor mouth but all these factors put together are not what attract people to him.
Trump’s biggest selling point in the campaign so far has been his ‘anti-establishment’ posturing. His projection of himself as the man who rose despite and outside the system and not due to it is what has struck a chord. Even though his ‘mistake a day’ campaign should have been long over, it still survives as he from day one pitched himself against ‘crooked Hillary’ (as he always refers to her in his tweets) who is establishment personified.
From questioning outsourcing of jobs, doubting Iraq war, Islamophobic jibes, building a wall or supporting gun culture — none of his arguments would have stood ground had he been a conventional politician. Hostile media and non-endorsement by prominent Republicans would have not allowed any scope of redemption to even the Bush family, yet Trump’s presidential bid has lived to fight another day.
Democrats too were well and truly on their way to nominating a non-establishment personality Bernie Sanders as their presidential face, till super delegates nipped that campaign in the bud. No wonder his endorsement of Hillary was ridiculed by Trump and booed by his own supporters. It it needed Michelle Obama, a non-political position holding personality to put Hillary’s campaign back on track and well and truly ahead of Trump.
The rise of Trump and the lasting of his campaign that should have been down the shredder within the first week itself is a lesson for establishments across the globe.
They need to have a nose for simmering resentment and be able to answer it rather than ignore it. All it needs for these rumblings to become mainstream discourse is a Trump. He starts spewing bigotry in the garb of a rebel and throws political correctness into the bin.
In a campaign where Trump talks crass, it is extremely difficult for the opposition to maintain class. And that’s where the likes of Trump triumph. His supremacist jibes, arrogant comments and disdain for every authority have propelled his campaign forward. He says he speaks the language of an average American and taps into their unfounded fears over job-cuts and tanking economy.
The demand for jobs and a future is at an all-time high across the globe and all it needs is one Trump to tap into the insecurities. To club the sinking economy with the influx of Mexicans and deteriorating domestic security because of the presence of Muslims is what a typical alarmist yet shrewdly opportunist like Trump would have done and he did.
Why he found resonance is something the Democrats need to answer. If there was such a feeling growing among such a huge section of Americans, did the establishment’s inaction pave the way for Trump’s triumph.
The problem with a personality like Trump competing at the top is that the vitriol will not stop at the elections. It will sow the seeds of hatred that can rise anytime again. It instils the ‘us versus them’ thoughts in the minds of people that take a long time to be done away with. This is the problem with the rise of Trump under the garb of an anti-establishment warrior. He may fail and disappear post-November to build another Trump Tower with money of some sheikh, but he would have left the common American with bitterness against fellow Americans.
The prospect of electing a first woman president should have galvanized the country into united action and sealed it for Hillary. Rather than a euphoric vote, this election is turning into an apprehensive exercise where African Americans, Hispanics and Minorities are voting Hillary to keep Trump out!
To vote to keep someone out rather than to elect someone in is not the most pleasant democratic exercise, and definitely not the purpose it was supposed to serve. As Trump trains his guns on Hillary each day of campaign, little does one realise that Trump survives due to Hillary from first day. One hopes the US looks through his Robin Hood ramblings as nothing but a bigoted attempt to seize power.
In Hillary, Trump has a perfect opposition to attack. She personifies everything he has been taking on. The surveys show him losing and the US and world heaving a sigh of relief. Yet one won’t be surprised if he wins due to Hillary. His win will be a defeat of the last eight years of Democrat rule that failed to read a growing sentiment of ‘Make America hate again.’
(Dr Amna Mirza is Assistant Professor, Political Studies, University of Delhi)