Brother Frog could not have prepared us any better than to issue his “what is joke to you is death to me” admonishment. Yet, Donald Trump may very well become the 45th president of the United States. It is not funny at all.
The likelihood of this happening is already scaring the daylights out of a lot of people. Without ascribing to sadism, it is difficult not to rub a little more salt in the wound. Read my lips: It is entirely possible and quite probable for Donald Trump to win the majority of the Electoral College and, by virtue of that, then go on to occupy 1,600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
On the night of the recent debate, but immediately following the disastrous performance by Donald Trump, I received three interesting telephone calls. One from my brother, the second from my mom, and the third from my good friend, Junior.
My friend is still searching for ways to convince me of Trump’s legitimacy; not so much as the American Trump is, but more so as a serious contender for one of the most powerful positions in the world. Hence, he teased me about the shellacking Hillary Clinton “had just received” from Donald.
As expected, my brother, who, for some strange reasons, allowed his insatiable appetite for Trump-style humour and crazy shenanigans to get the better of him, ruefully declared Donald the “hands down winner” of the debate, even as he merrily dismissed Hillary’s performance as “over-rehearsed”.
Mom and I happened to hold convergent views on the outcome of last Monday’s debate between Trump and Clinton. My good friend, Junior, like my brother, was “in his ackee”. He exulted Trump, even as I lamented the nominee’s conspicuous obliviousness to international relations and painful unfamiliarity with policy imperatives, particularly dealing with management of the complex political economy.
However, one aspect of Junior’s festival of denial continues to resonate; it speaks to the effectiveness with which Donald Trump communicates to and beyond his core base of supporters. It is that effective use of the media, combined with his uncanny ability to speak straightforwardly, albeit inaccurately, that is substantially responsible for his ascension to the top of the Republican ticket. It is true that the Republican Party’s nominee for president of the United States, Donald J Trump, is not only famous for his entertaining grandiloquence, he is also notorious for conjuring up fairy tales. Trump’s mendacity knows no bounds and is superseded only by his ability to produce more of the same.
Trump seems willing to put his own business interest ahead of the national interest and has zero compunction lying about it. He is great at verbally abusing opponents, hurling misogynistic insults at women, disparaging entire ethnic groups, filing for company bankruptcies, as well as for manufacturing foolish conspiracy theories like the one about President Barack Obama’s birthplace. All these qualities would, on previous occasions, prove disqualifying; but Trump is held to a different, but acceptable standard — nothing sticks.
Nothing Trump says or does seems to offend his most ardent supporters — supporters who otherwise would have claimed superior quotients of civility, social awareness and political sophistication. One wonders what is responsible for this sudden shift toward the politics of descent.
According to one recent
NBC/Survey Monkey online poll, a whopping 70 per cent of Americans admitted that the presidential race has brought out the absolute “worst in them…” My dear mom likes to say, “One cannot bring out something that lies not within.” Therefore, those “worst things” must have been lurking and festering inside for many years. Have events of the last year so anaesthetised the American “political flesh” that nothing Trump does or says upsets his followers and supporters? It does not stop there.
Donald Trump is very adept at playing the media, the political media in particular. Mainstream American media is largely complicit — near derelict — in their actions to promote “Trumpism” and its attendant manifestations of strife and intolerance, under the guise of the “equal time” rule. Naturally, Trump revels in his ability to con the media, and he achieves this without effort. So skilful is he at dominating news cycles and manipulating the media, his campaign has so far benefited to the tune of US$2.6 billion in earned (yes, free) media coverage.
Wittingly or unwittingly, he has used the media to further his outrageous stance on a host of issues, such as immigration, religious litmus testing, and other covert acts of bigotry, and fear-mongering. Still, not enough Americans seem to give a rat’s tail about the suddenness of their near-collective shift toward the politics of descent.
But for a brief moment his announcement and the activities that ensued were relegated to the entertainment section of at least one media house — and for good reason. The news organisation was doing its part to dampen expectations of “The Donald” ever becoming a major party nominee, let alone the remote possibility of becoming president of the US.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, the
Huffington Post, in the early days of the Republican Party’s nomination campaign, decided against giving Donald Trump’s campaign “normal” coverage in the political section of its online newspaper. According to its Washington Bureau chief, Ryan Grim, and Editorial Director Danny Shea, the
Huffington Post decided “instead to cover his campaign as part of our entertainment section. Our reason is simple: Trump’s campaign is a sideshow. We won’t take the bait…”
It was not too long afterward, however, that what was regarded as a sideshow to
Huffington was not so much of a “dog and pony show” to millions of Americans who found Trump’s unprecedented bellicosity acceptable, defensible, and even worthy of emulation. Rural and rust-belt America moved closer to “exacting their pound of flesh” from an economic system that encourages immigration and trade deals they viewed as hostile to their survival. Regardless of the
Huffington Post’s editorial decision, in Trump they saw an advocate.
Huffington Post declared in a special editorial, written by the inimitable Arianna Huffington, titled “…We are no longer entertained…” Writing under said banner, Huffington provided context for what turned out to be a massive about-turn from the newspaper’s previous decision. Here is how she summarised the decision:
“…Earlier today, the candidate currently leading in the polls for the Republican presidential nomination called for a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’. That was, of course, Donald Trump. As Jeffrey Goldberg just tweeted, ‘Donald Trump is now an actual threat to national security. He’s providing jihadists ammunition for their campaign to demonise the US…’
Arianna continued, “…On the heels of Trump’s proposed change for America, we will be changing how we cover him at
The Huffington Post. Back in July, we announced our decision to put our coverage of Trump’s presidential campaign in our entertainment section, instead of our politics section. But, as today’s vicious pronouncement makes abundantly clear, it’s also morphed into something else: an ugly and dangerous force in American politics. So we will no longer be covering his campaign in entertainment…”
It is obvious, the
Huffington Post initially miscalculated the symbiotic relationships between the sentiments of significant cohorts of Americans, especially in the deep rural south and industrial mid-western US, whose economic circumstances, fear of the spread of multiculturalism, immigration, and frustration with Washington and Donald Trump’s daily “Make America Great Again” mantra. This is a chant that promises to do unimaginably great things to, and for, America and Americans.
A ‘great’ America
Implicit in this “Make America Great Again” message is a code of “reclaiming” the past without conditionality, to put it bluntly. Ergo its instantaneous appeal to Americans who feel left behind and who believe they are losing or have lost their country to all and sundry. This populist, reclamationist message of making America great again, though strangely articulated by someone who does not seem to understand the struggles of ordinary working-class folks, caused other media houses to take note.
It is fair to say the American media has given succour to a wild and strange political phenomenon it does not fully understand or can ever manage. I am predicting a worsening of race relationships in America were Donald Trump to win. That is not all, I am predicting significant setbacks to the reversal of American insularism. Trump’s “I alone can fix it…” provides enough context of where he intends to take this country and the kind of foreign policy he would most likely pursue.
Love Trump or hate Trump, his message, although chock-full of “dog whistle politics”, continues to resonate with many inside and outside the United States. Trump even has support among people who should really fear a Trump presidency — that’s how strange things are these days.
Donald Trump understands very well the real fear and frustration of the American people. He knows that a majority of the 20th century-style, old industrial, manufacturing jobs that left places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana are never going to come back.
Trump knows that the knowledge and new energy economy are the ways of the future. He knows that he cannot renegotiate all those trade deals without starting a trade war.
He knows that climate change is real and the West Virginia coal mines pose imminent and real environmental challenges and danger.
He understands that immigrants helped build America and that they continue to do so — he, himself, having employed and exploited many of them.
He knows that, apart from the Native American Indians — natives who were enslaved and eventually killed — are the true original Americans, and that all others are offspring of immigrants the world over.
He knows, and has always known, that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and is an American by birth.
Trump knows that he will not be the best “jobs-producing president that God will ever create” — which he has said.
Trumps know that, at the time of the declaration of Independence, in 1776, black people were still enslaved.
He knows all of these things, yet he makes an ass of himself by pretending he does not know, and, sadly, he has the support of people who ought to know better than to subscribe to “Trumpism”.
Must be more to it
What kind of a man takes pride in mischaracterising and misrepresenting people’s words then attempts to swindle his way out of it? Trump says things that are dangerously false, such as when he insinuated that those opposed to Clinton’s Supreme Court picks could consider assassinating her, or perhaps starting an armed revolt.
Trump takes things to the level of the superlative; his penchant for bombast and hyperbole is simply chilling. This is the same man who dared to call President Obama the founder of ISIS — a charge that, if taken to its logical conclusion, would lead one to believe that Obama is either a terrorist or a traitor, but certainly the secret Muslim.
Leadership requires trust and, as such, they must exhibit trustworthy traits, none of which Trump seems to possess. Leadership requires some element of consistency, if not in thinking, then most certainly in positive behaviour. The only thing consistent about Donald Trump is his inconsistencies and his never-ending stream of untruths, exaggerations, and lies. Consider for a moment the possibility of having to tolerate an individual who simply cannot be trusted with even the minutest of things. Still, millions of American continue to fall for him and his candidacy because they are fearful and frustrated.
It is a weird dichotomy of sorts because one of the antidotes for fear and frustration is trust. Yet, nothing Trump says can be taken seriously. He shows no qualms in saying things, then saying other things that contradict the first things he said, and then goes to deny having ever said the first things.
Trump does not just possess a wanton disregard for the truth, he often creates new realities, minute by minute, and seems to enjoy living in them. If he does this while running for president, can you imagine what the hell he will were he to win the White House?
Still, many Americans find him and his bellicosity acceptable. Somehow this strange exhibit of affection and acceptability cannot be driven purely by economic fear and social anxieties. There must be more to it.