DONALD Trump. Maverick or moron, hero or Hitler? He may seem shocking to our broadly progressive and tolerant society (otherwise known as the land of the liberal losers), but to a small-town America that worships the holy trinity of freedom, firearm and foetus, Trump is just saying what we’re all saying over our TV dinners. This isn’t the first time America has elected a #RockstarPresident, a charismatic outsider who drew crowds of thousands and came with a punchy slogan; this time things are different, but they aren’t that different.
In defining himself as the game changer, the outsider, the guy who’s not just broken every rule in the book, but made rule-breaking the defining feature of his campaign, Trump fails to understand the foundations of the bridge he’s crawled out from under. The Donald, the cartoon character, the populist figure whose only values are capitalism and consumerism, has seized upon the whims of an angry minority the GOP have been priming for years. They’ve been told their Muslim Kenyan President has ignored them, taken their taxes, retreated from their prominent position on the world stage and given their jobs to brown people like him. The Republican Party has spent seven years sowing the seeds; the Donald has come along and picked the fruit.
For this group, the epitome of the stereotypical hillbilly America that thinks political correctness has gone mad, Trump is a manifestation of everything they’ve been told to think. The first rule in the dictator handbook is finding someone else to blame; the sneaky Chinese, the ‘rapist’ Mexicans, the terrorist Muslims. In saying the unsayable and playing the unplayable, the ‘race card’, Trump sets himself up as the outsider, giving a voice to the silent majority that’s really just an echo of the past seven years of Republican rhetoric. He’s saying it loudly, and more clearly, but he’s not saying anything they aren’t already thinking. As he writes in his 1987 memoir ‘The Art of the Deal’, “I play to people’s fantasies. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration – and a very effective form of promotion”.
And promotion is one thing that the Donald does better than anyone before him. His political capital is his name, plastered over business from sweatshirts to steaks, most of which have been far less successful than his ‘winner winner chicken dinner’ rhetoric might convey. Basing a campaign for most powerful person in the world on playground insults about “little Marco” and “liar Ted”, he plays the spoilt child, the brat no one else likes because he’s better than them; every retort making him stronger, feeding his self-perpetuated myth of garish success. Trump makes his lack of political knowledge a virtue; he’s flexible, he’ll do whatever it takes to win. Ask any voter and they’ll know about his name and his wall, but not a lot about what he wants to do inside it.
Despite capturing the Christian Coalition, as Ted Cruz will tell anyone who will listen, Trump is no ‘conservative’. Twice-divorced, opposing free trade, denouncing Republican leadership and past of patchy positions on abortion, gun rights and a host of other “New York values”; he’s even given money to the She Devil herself, Hillary Clinton, on no less than eight occasions. Into the void of plausible policy, Trump has seized on a distrust in the establishment, a disrespect for Wall Street, the elites and ‘politics as usual’. His outsider credentials have made for an easy, and in my opinion lazy comparison with Bernie Sanders. Where Trump has bigotry and bullying, veteran senator Sanders has decades of principled policies and viable alternatives. Bernie wants to replace the establishment, Trump wants to kick it down and dance on its grave.
How did this happen? How did the man likely to be the Republican nominee emerge from a proposition so ludicrous that a Trump Presidency once featured on an episode of ‘The Simpsons’ as a metaphor for a dystopian future? Personally, I am going to express some gratitude that, if nothing else, I’m experiencing US politics at its absolute epoch. I would have probably been this invested in John Kerry circa 2004 and people would have thought I was weird, so I’m happy to be witnessing a time of such lunacy that everyone can’t help but get involved.
In this chicken and egg debacle, Trump makes headlines as the media chase every word that falls out of his perma-tanned trap, and as the polls consequently rise so does the coverage of this front page frontrunner. Was it the panels of pundits that constantly predict his inevitable implosion, or a condescending business elite that failed to realise not everyone was laughing as hard as they were back in economy? Or the news cycles or the Facebook feeds that found their clickbait candidate to real in the ratings, making millions for adverts no one is watching because Donald just tweeted about Megyn Kelly’s period?
But despite the coverage, the media can’t create a candidate out of thin air. In a two-finger salute to everyone that thought they knew better (myself included), Donald looks likely to make it to the convention and head towards Hillary. His opponents’ meek responses to his bullying and posturing and the queues of old-school politicians lining up to denounce him, from Rubio to Romney, merely confirm themselves as the faceless ‘system’ to which Trump pretends to be the answer. Concerning itself with obstructing legislation in Congress and creating a dark paranoia around the Obama Presidency, no more liberal than his predecessors, the Republican party have authored their own demise.
In pandering to their political whims, the GOP failed to provide answers to the legitimate concerns of its core electorate; the downward pressure on low-income wages from globalisation and immigration, America’s weakening hegemony on the world stage, the Iraq War, the distorted power of Wall Street, special interests and economic flat-lining. It’s no coincidence that Trump himself rose to prominence politically through vocal membership of the ‘birther’ movement, questioning the legitimacy of Obama’s American citizenship in a farcical manifestation of the racist sentiment that flows through the veins of the Republican party. As identified by Robert Kagan, Trump is no outsider; he is, rather, “the party’s creation, its Frankenstein’s monster, brought to life by the party, fed by the party and now strong enough to destroy its maker”.