Donald Trump is the President of the United States. This statement might have qualified as being absolutely absurd a year ago. Six months ago, it would have been too ridiculous to comprehend. Even six days before the elections, few actually believed that it could happen. But it happened.
While polls continuously showed an obvious Clinton victory, Trump not only won the conventional red states but also took battleground arena such as North Carolina, Florida and Ohio. He then proceeded to conquer Democratic strongholds like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – states that hadn’t elected a Republican since George Bush Senior in 1988. Trump rode the wave of resentment against the nation’s elites, and voter antipathy for the obvious candidate, Hillary Clinton, all the way to the White House.
The surveys didn’t foresee it, and neither did the pundits. The Republican’s own key guides had been unobtrusively advising columnists that they anticipated that he would lose – gravely. Trump himself may have trusted that victory was imminent. However, it wasn’t founded on much confirmation except the turnout at his rallies. Clinton was making use of her millions as an advantage, covering television with her promotions, and putting her trust in a ground amusement that boasted of more volunteers and the technological sides of campaigning.
The 2016 Presidential race was unparalleled for its politics of hate. Trump’s willingness to wade where no major party nominee had even glanced earlier – kindling racial fears, assuring the construction of walls at the border and religious prohibitions, vowing to imprison his opponent, dismissing the outcome to be “rigged” before a single ballot was cast – has surely done irrevocable damage to the U.S. democracy.
Not to mention the lies. All throughout Trump’s 19 months on the trail, he dissimulated and distorted, scattering lies, of varying sizes and falsehoods. Politifact, a Pulitzer Prize-winning website, fact checked 337 of the former GOP nominee’s claims and found a mere 14 of them (i.e. four percent of all facts) to be true, while 231 (i.e. 70 per cent) ranged from “not really true” to “lie” to “pants on fire.” (Hillary Clinton, the sterling politician, emerged as an angel in comparison, with 76 out of 293 claims (i.e. 26 per cent falling into the untrue zones); yet it all worked.
The Democratic party’s choice in the form of Hillary Clinton as their standard bearer, deciding on familiarity over popularity ended up benefitting Trump’s cause. Her 25 years of exposure to public office, be it as a former first lady, a United States senator or the Secretary of State, somehow promulgated her as suspect, rather than a qualified candidate.
Trump eviscerated her controversial use of a private email server while working at the State Department and made it the prime point of his attacks, naming her “Crooked Hillary.” The opportunely timed action of the FBI to reopen their investigation into the matter just 12 days out might well have been the fatal blow to the Democrats. The symbolic clean chit to Clinton was admittedly granted before the election, but by that time the damage had already been done.
It is undeniably fun to watch Trump. He’s ‘orange-faced’, verbose, funny, furious, strange, dubious, and real. He speaks without restraint and tweets with an aura of reckless abandon. The Donald Trump phenomenon is a rowdy culmination of a billionaire’s ego paired with a superiority complex. As Ian Crouch said in the New Yorker, “America’s most skilled political entertainer is putting on the greatest show we’ve ever seen.”
Trump’s campaign relied on one strategy and one strategy alone: Negative campaigning. Even though he spent the least on campaign advertising, his inflammatory statements on the variety of topics he has close to his heart, ensured that he always was in the media’s and correspondingly the public’s attention zone. He surpassed all candidates, including Secretary Clinton in securing earned (and not paid) news prime time, a factor that aided him greatly.
This shock and awe strategy, which he employs till date, is the main factor that can be attributed to his massive publicity. And of course, no publicity is bad publicity.
But why was such a ludicrous figure escalated to the heights of political power by the American masses?
In the past 70 years, post the second (and hopefully the final) World War, the Americans adopted a foreign policy which neo-liberalists define as ‘Internationalist Cosmopolitanism’, which focuses mainly on ‘ruling’ globally and obliterating western culture in favour of diverse forms of multiculturalism. While this has undoubtedly made ‘America the Big-Daddy’ the world looks up to for leadership, it has done little for US’s internal subjects, i.e. the citizens. This has lead to the accumulation of a national frustration with the moral ‘right’ of the West.
In Donald Trump, the middle-class Americans saw a leader who would form a government policy that preserves core American political culture, including the US constitution and serves ordinary Americans, including both domestic and foreign policy.
This popular frustration manifested itself into actual voter turnout. Hence, even in the absence of morality and ethical values in his character, there emerged a closeted group of voting individuals who supported Trump in the hope of making America ‘great’ again.
This is part of the American public’s revolution against the establishment. They don’t trust their politicians, media, diplomats and administrators. They felt let down by their economists and feared about their jobs and culture. They feared there was some existential issue about their way of life. And when people have existential fears, they suppress all other inhibitions.
The more the media talked about Trump’s failures, the more it looked like the establishment was conspiring. It was as though everyone was colluding against Trump. To defeat that establishment was more significant for many than their own inhibitions on gender and race issues. And the fact that Trump was unrefined, uninformed and politically wrong completely didn’t matter. In fact, those were the precise things that gave him the tag of anti-establishment.
But while most people, including Republicans, dismissed Trump’s radical claims during the campaigns, with regards to the changes he wanted to bring to the system as being largely symbolic and metaphorical, he has astonished even the conservative Republicans by his executive orders in the past few days.
President Trump has an almost Monopoly-like free reign in Washington right now with the GOP continuing to hold both the House and Senate. He made headlines all over the world for his executive order to ban the entry of Muslims from seven Muslim-majority countries of the Middle East into the United States. The rise of the phenomenon the world today knows as POTUS, Donald Trump has reduced United States’ democracy to demagoguery which features “a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.”
The US faces some formidable challenges: the renewed cold war with Russia, the threat of the Islamic State and the general chaos in the Middle East, climate issues, and the persisting problems of gun violence, race and inequality at home. Now it is up to the former reality-TV star to try and tackle them.