This was a difficult article to write for three reasons. Firstly, I’m not someone who normally expresses their views on politics in any kind of loud way. Secondly, I am an American citizen with roots in the South. I can quickly count several members of my family who are Republicans, and will likely be rooting for Trump, and some part of me wanted to consider their feelings. And, thirdly, I know there are going to be people who read this article and agree with me, but that there will also be people who disagree. Generally, I prefer to write to inform or engage, not to provoke argument.
However, none of that can hide the fact that I think Donald Trump is currently making a laughing stock out of America and the American people. I think most of us here in the UK and Europe are looking at him and scratching our heads as to how he can be so far ahead in the Presidential leadership polls. Unfortunately, Americans don’t give a shit about what we think. It’s been one of the biggest points of contention with Obama for many years – that he’s more popular with Europeans than he is in his own country. And even though Trump is quite clearly a racist and a radical, that doesn’t hide the fact that he is also currently a storming success.
Size, jealousy and poverty
In order to begin to wrap your head around why someone like Trump is getting dangerously close to being President, you need to consider a few things. To us in the UK it is mind-boggling to think that someone of his status can make claims like he did about illegal immigrants and the Mexican community and still be so popular. But, in the same way that some people in this country will always side with UKIP, there will always be people in America willing to hear someone with loud and out-there opinions. And that’s on a much bigger scale. After all, America is roughly 37 times bigger than the UK.
So, when you think about America in relation to similar problems that we face here in the UK and Europe, remember to scale it up. There will always be cause for jealousy in any country, largely because of money. Those who are poorer tend to resent the rich, even if that resentment is misunderstood. For years there have been racial tensions in America of all forms. Trump specifially is addressing the frustrated and angry poor, white Americans who are unemployed yet see many of their Mexican and Hispanic neighbours in full time work. That’s not to say that these immigrants are making millions – they’re usually the ones working outdoors in the impossible heat and doing the dirty jobs that nobody else wants to do. But Trump supporters, and Trump himself, turn a blind eye to the circumstances. On the most basic level, Trump is giving a voice to the thousands of people who blame immigrants for their own misfortune.
Playing the game
Trump’s claims and demands are tenacious. The most surprising thing is that everybody seems to know that, even Trump. There is no way that any political figure could make such claims and arouse such base racist anger without being aware of the damage they are doing to their public image. And, as much as many would like to label him an oaf and an idiot, Trump is neither. The savvy businessman built up a multi-billion dollar company and fortune from scratch, working hard to ascertain his success. He has a business mind, is a good negotiator and knows what he is doing. So why is he now throwing it all away on such an embarrassing campaign?
From the beginning, it is clear that Trump knew several things. Firstly, that there are people out there unconnected to politics but who believe they deserve to have a voice. He has targeted these people and given them a chance to shout their opinions to the world for the first time. He also knew they would love the sounds of their own voices. Secondly, that people are angry enough to express extreme views. And thirdly, that he has no hope of genuinely becoming President. Trump may be obnoxious but it’s impossible to believe that he really wants the job. The responsibility, the stress and the sacrifices wouldn’t suit him. He would have to put others needs ahead of his own. He would have to understand things he cannot even pronounce. Yes, he’s a nightmare, but he’s not deluded. He knows he’s not the right man for the job.
— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 18, 2015
So in control, it’s frightening
Essentially, Trump is being used as a pawn. The political powers behind every great candidate know a considerable amount more about the game and how to win the campaigns than the candidates themselves, and much of what Trump is doing and saying will be dictated by them. Like Trump, his advisors know that there is a large population of people in America willing to back the radical, and they are throwing everything into getting them to speak out and cause a fuss. After all, better to be remembered and not win than run a lacklustre and serious campaign and fade into the background.
However, compared to the likes of Sarah Palin, Trump has a lot more practical sense. Palin was a pawn in a huge chess game, brought in only to appeal to the radicals and gain any kind of publicity, good or bad. Trump, on the other hand, is aware of how this move will boost interest in his brand, his family and their various business ventures and how it will continue to promote him even after he fails to win the nomination. Through this, Trump is getting his moment in the spotlight and a devoted following that will continue long after next year’s Presidential race.
Websites like the Huffington Post have already written off his campaign, saying they won’t report it as news. But it might still be too early to dismiss Trump as a complete fool. You can be sure that he is hoping he doesn’t win, but that doesn’t mean American citizens aren’t genuinely hoping that he does. Aside from what that says about political education in the States, it also says that many people feel that they have no representation and no other choice.