Will Donald Trump Be the Next President of the United States?
“All great things must wear terrifying and monstrous masks in order to inscribe themselves on the hearts of humanity.” Friedrich Nietzsche
Considering the terrifying nature of some aspects of Donald Trump and his candidacy, let's hope this applies to him. His campaign was dismissed as a joke when it began but he has defied everybody's expectations thus far. Can he continue to do so? Could Donald Trump really be the next President of the United States?
What would a Donald Trump presidency look like? What are his policies? Much of his campaign up to this point has been rhetoric that is generally appealing but lacking in substance, and he continues making broad claims about what he intends to do without actually clarifying how he plans to accomplish many of these things. However, he has made some more specific statements; he has talked about repealing Obamacare, allowing medications to be imported, negotiating prices on government purchases, ending federal Common Core standards for education in favor of local control over schools, improving America's infrastructure, renegotiating trade agreements, lowering taxes, and ending loopholes that allow wealthier individuals to pay less in taxes. These are all good ideas, but some of his other ideas are more controversial.
Early in his campaign he announced his intention to deport all 11 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the country and make Mexico pay to build a wall on the US-Mexico border. Trump explains this a bit further in the "Immigration Reform" page of his website; he says that he will make Mexico pay for the wall by increasing fees and tariffs associated with Mexico until Mexico pays for the wall. Many people still consider this plan unrealistic. Interestingly, the Immigration Reform page never made any mention of deporting all illegal aliens, only those who commit crimes in the United States. Recent comments suggest that Trump has backed away from the position that all illegal immigrants should be deported. One must wonder if he was ever sincere about this.
This isn't Trump's only controversial policy proposal. He has been heavily criticized for his plan to temporarily ban most Muslims from entering the US until officials can "figure out what is going on;" he has not specified what this entails or how the ban would be enforced. More recently, Trump has clarified that the ban would be applied to people from areas dominated by terrorism. Many people disagree with this plan and consider it too extreme, but temporarily banning certain groups of people from entering the US due to security concerns is not unprecedented. The Alien Registration Act of 1940 allowed for the deportation of immigrants with connections to groups considered dangerous (such as the Communist Party). Franklin Roosevelt imposed restrictions on immigrants from AXIS countries. Jimmy Carter blocked Iranian immigrants from entering the country during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Nevertheless, this plan has attracted a great deal of criticism; could the controversy keep Trump out of the White House, or will his anti-Establishment message prevail?
Why do so many people continue to support Trump even after he has made statements with which so many people disagree? Much of Trump's appeal lies his straightforward manner, a refreshing alternative to the doublespeak of the typical politician. While many candidates are highly rehearsed and scripted, Trump is spontaneous. This makes him seem more genuine, therefore, more trustworthy. Furthermore, he speaks in a more common vernacular than his opponents, making him more relatable to the average voter.
It isn't just how he talks that appeals to people, but what he talks about. The primary reason for his appeal (especially to blue collar workers) seems to be that his economic message resonates strongly with people who have been adversely affected by the economic policies of the last twenty years or so. He discusses things none of the other candidates (except Sanders) are adequately addressing, such as the uneven trade agreements that are largely responsible for the loss of so many American jobs. A major cornerstone of his campaign is his promise to bring these jobs back to the United States and change international trade policy so that it is beneficial, rather than detrimental, to the US economy and workforce.
On this issue of Trump's appeal, many in the media are struggling to comprehend it. To one who isn't completely blind to differing viewpoints it is actually quite easy to understand: Trump is a populist. His campaign is primarily focused on issues that are of immediate concern to the general population; he rallies against the status quo, the political elite, and the wealthy (despite being a billionaire himself). As a result, the general population sees him as someone who shares their concerns, voices their grievances, and will fight the Establishment.
Most in the media are not astute in explaining Trump's political successes. There is a rather laughable attempt to dismiss Trump's entire base as older working class white men with a "fear of minorities." One such example given is an event in which Black Lives Matter protestors were ejected from a Trump rally. The media (who often refer to them as "black students" rather than protestors, and many articles use the term "black" so many times that it would be considered racist in almost any other context) seems to have conveniently forgotten how many white protestors have been kicked out of Trump events and cite this as "proof" of white supremacy in the Trump camp. Since all protestors are removed from Trump rallies regardless of race, and there has never been a non-protesting person of any ethnicity removed, the media is basically criticizing Trump for treating everybody equally.
Is the media correct that Trump is exclusively a phenomenon of blue collar white males? He has no chance of becoming President if he appeals only to this group, who do not make up a large enough percentage of the American population to single-handedly decide the outcome of the election. While working class white males (most of whom are not white supremacists) do constitute a large percentage of Trump's supporters, the theory only works when one ignores all of Trump's supporters who don't fit this profile. So who are Trump's supporters? Many polls indicate that approximately half of his supporters are women(http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2015/09/09/who_are_trumps_supporters.html). Furthermore, other polls suggest that Trump may have more support among minorities than is generally assumed (http://www.wnd.com/2015/12/minorities-line-up-behind-donald-trump/ and http://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/who-are-black-republicans-are-supporting-2016-n529001 and http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/world/sikhs-muslims-join-trump-bandwagon/205359.html).
Trump has a number of high-profile supporters who challenge the media's narrative. Trump has been endorsed by former Apprentice contestants Katrina Campins and Omarosa Manigault; they are the opposite of the stereotypical Trump supporter-they are educated and professional non-white women. Former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, civil rights activist and former Mayor Charles Evers, Milwaukee Sherriff David Clarke, Major General Bert Mizusawa, businessman Herman Cain, businessman Shalabh Kumar, Jimmy McMillan of the "Rent is Too Damn High" Party, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, boxing champion Mike Tyson, former wide receiver Terrell Owens, former linebacker Shawne Merriman, former NFL player Herschel Walker, former NBA player Latrell Sprewell, Reverend Darrell Scott, UFC champion Tito Ortiz, rapper Young Dro, Dr. Ben Carson, Imam Shafiq Rahman, Imam Nidal Alsayyed, scholar Walid Phares, Malik Obama (President Obama's half-brother), actress Stacey Dash, actor Demond Wilson, boxing promoter Don King, YouTube personalities Diamond and Silk, and Northern Mariana Islands governor Ralph Torres have voiced support for Trump; they are neither white nor working class. He has also been endorsed by the National Black Republican Association, Log Cabin Republicans, the Republican Hindu Coalition, and the Republican Jewish Coalition. People in the world of business have endorsed Trump: Carl Icahn, Robert Kiyosaki, Wayne Allyn Root, Steve Forbes, Peter Thiel, and Nancy Mace are among them. Former Vice Presidents Dan Quayle and Dick Cheney, Reagan's associate political director Jeff Lord, Senator Jeff Sessions, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, and New Jersey governor Chris Christie have also endorsed Trump; they are not working class.
Why can't the media see the obvious? There seem to be two primary reasons. First, there is a culture of ignorance and elitism associated with many of the sort of people who demonize Trump supporters as sinister white-hooded hordes. These are the same insular (overwhelmingly left-leaning) people who apply to term "racist" to everything they don't like or don't understand. They don't understand the working class people of middle America, and they don't want to. If one makes the effort, it is not difficult to see why these people might favor Trump: they partially blame the government for their economic difficulties, they don't like or trust politicians, and they feel that the government doesn't care about then. Then Trump, a government outsider with a history of creating jobs, promises to bring back their jobs and voices many of their concerns and criticisms of politicians. As Trump does particularly well with less educated voters, it is ironic that his biggest detractors are sometimes the dumbest people of all; check out this idiocy that for some unfathomable reason the Chicago Tribune saw fit to publish: (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/huppke/ct-donald-trump-racist-huppke-20160307-story.html).
Second, Clinton is the candidate favored by the media, and she is the Establishment personified. Because of this, she and her supporters need to believe that everybody loves the Establishment. Trump's popularity challenges this notion by exposing the public's distrust and dislike of the Establishment. Rather than acknowledge the anti-Establishment sentiment that largely fuels Trump's campaign, those in the media try to convince others and/or themselves that the multitudes of people who support Trump are actually just a few backwoods racists. In actuality, the reasons for his success should be obvious to anybody who gives the slightest thought to the question of why Trump is popular. Whether or not you like him, it shouldn't be difficult to see why Trump has a Pied Piper effect on so many people.
Perhaps the greatest irony of all is that when the media resorts to distortions, exaggerations, and outright lies to attack Trump, one may forget there are legitimate issues with a Trump presidency. Trump is often brash and petty, which is unbecoming of a world leader. He has no political experience and his knowledge of most issues seems pretty basic. He doesn't seem to have many specific plans to achieve his (often lofty) goals. His changes in opinion are as frequent as they are drastic. While he often touts his business successes, he fails to mention that four of his businesses have filed for bankruptcy. He tends to latch onto conspiracy theories such as the theory that vaccines can cause autism, or that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. These are good reasons to give voters pause when considering casting a vote for Trump, but the media would rather focus on non-issues while occasionally mentioning Trump's legitimate faults as afterthoughts.
On the subject of his lack of political experience, it is probably more of a double-edged sword. I believe it is actually his status as a non-politician that may be one of his strongest quality. Many people are turning to him as a solution to the problems that face the United States today, the problems caused primarily by career politicians, and most of Trump's rivals in both parties fall into this category. This also explains partially explains the popularity of Bernie Sanders (although he is a politician, he is rather unconventional, and a populist). Voters are looking to somebody different, somebody from outside “the system,” under the belief that the system can't be fixed from within – and maybe it can't be fixed from within. Could Trump really be much worse a president than most of his opponents in either party? After all, whether you vote Republican or Democrat, you're voting for a politician.
But can he gain enough support to win a general election? Polls suggest that about 30% of the country is Democrat and 26% is Republican, while 43% are independent (http://www.gallup.com/poll/180440/new-record-political-independents.aspx). Thus, it is the independents who will decide this election. This is good news for Trump since Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee; she doesn't do particularly well with independents. Clinton is the ideal opponent for Trump. She struggles to connect with voters, Trump excels at this. She is the ultimate Establishment candidate in a time when many people are particularly frustrated with the Establishment, Trump is a political outsider. One of Trump's greatest strengths is identifying and attacking his rival's weaknesses, and Clinton provides him with innumerable targets. Furthermore, Clinton has strong support within her base (mostly older and wealthier Democrats) but many people, even within her own party, view her unfavorably (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/h-a-goodman/14-of-democrats-will-not-support-hillary-clinton-only-bernie-sanders-prevents-low-voter-turnout_b_8696238.html) This means that some disenfranchised or moderate Democrats may vote for Trump, a third party candidate, or write-in; while the latter two won't help Trump, it does cost Clinton some votes. Therefore, it seems feasible that Trump could defeat Clinton.
Could Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election? Is his meteoric rise just a temporary effect? Would he be a good president? I think it is still too soon to definitively answer these questions. Only time can provide these answers.