Donald Trump is a populist leader and that makes him dangerous.
His grandstanding and verbal violence are not the way a mature democracy is supposed to operate. The 55% of his supporters who are allegedly white and ‘working class’ plus the undefined others showing their support for him do not appear to be too concerned with his incitement.
It would be interesting to know how he will fare with some of those other constituencies – specifically the 56 million people of Latino/Hispanic descent living in the USA who represent 18% of the total US population, or the 41 million African-American people (13%) or the 29 million people who are of some other racial profile (9%). The American electorate that Trump has potentially alienated is equal to some 126 million people or 39% of the total United States population!
But let us say that many of those people who are not white and working class but did support him are the following:
1) Fearful for their jobs,
2) Fearful for an uptick in immigration,
3) Fearful of Muslim influence over America,
5) Scared of Bernie Sanders because he is:
a) A socialist or b) Jewish (See 4 above!)
Then that still leaves us with the big question: Can Trump win when he has alienated so large a percentage of the North American electorate?
Americans may not be so politically engaged, but with the uptick in violence that Trump and his supporters started, I would be worried about any likely escalation creating the environment for political assassination. And that is something that has not been seen for many years. I would be more worried about the genie he has potentially let out of the campaigning bottle than the likelihood of him being selected as the Republican candidate for the 2016 elections and then going on to win the election.
Since the end of the Second World War and with the exception of the Reagan-Bush era (12 years), there have been no periods of rule by one party, for longer than 8 years. It would be unhealthy for the American political scene for one party to rule for three consecutive four year periods. Even if people are really scared for their future, one party-rule ethically atrophies its most passionate supporters. The longer a party holds onto the reigns of power, the less sensitive it becomes to reason and a healthy civil administration; the longer a party rules, the less it represents its electorate. Longevity breeds megalomania and becomes a threat to the stability of the system – any system.
We have already seen the violent response to Trump’s campaign rally in Chicago. It has the potential to trigger a cycle of violence. It may convince the Republican Party to take a stand against him if it believes that his selection would lead to:
- Defeat in November 2016 and
- The Republican Party consigned to the political wilderness.
There is a view that as the date for selection approaches, Donald Trump will come up with a series of grand gestures meant to placate his opponents and derail Hillary Clinton’s own presidential bid.
Donald Trump has demonstrated his misogyny. It would be creepy for him to now change direction and be “nice” to women although that is one constituency he should have tried not to alienate. In a race between Hillary and Donald even a women who is critical of the Clintons may find a vote for Trump politically unpalatable. The African-American population also needs a grand gesture from Donald Trump. They too have personally felt the downside to immigration. If he can play to their insecurity, if he made Dr Carson his vice-presidential running mate and announced measures that placated the Latino populace, it may convince a sufficiently significant sector of both groups, if not to vote for him, then at least to stay away from Hillary. And that too would work in his favor.
People have brought up the “soft bigotry of low expectations” to which George W. Bush referred, in his speech to the NAACP in the year 2000. The liberal agenda has not been entirely helpful to the American poor of any race, religion or ethnicity. A focused attack on the privileged liberal agenda which can be seen in its extremity as anti-American, anti-Christian, antisemitic and even, anti-female could also create opportunities for Donald Trump, not simply to put his democrat opponents on the defensive but also to bring out voters to stand with him. Bernie Sanders anti-Zionist propaganda and some of Hillary Clinton’s unsavory bed-fellows cannot be ignored if they are thrust forward into the credibility debate.
Trump has opportunities to create a realignment of forces in America. The issue is not just about party politics. A changed direction is needed because the malaise providing the impetus for Trumps ascendancy has its genesis in popular dissatisfaction with much that is happening both in America and across the globe and crucially, the failure of a credible political response to it. Hollywood cannot mask a perception of American decline.
Saying that populist policies are the bread and butter of fascism does not detract from the popular concerns driving them. If anything, the accusation is elitist condescension. Put another way, pulling our hair out because the candidacy choices are unsavory to some of us misses the reason for Donald Trump’s popularity.
Demagogue, clown, or plodder that he may be, Trump vocalizes the disquiet felt by large parts of American public opinion on a wide variety of issues.