No, I am not a Trump supporter but not a Clinton supporter as well. To be honest I can’t vote, which means I don’t have to cast my vote according to who I dislike the least. However, in watching the American political debate from within, though with an outsider’s perspective, in my impression, and despite Mr. Trump’s various ridiculous comments, failed presidential debate and recent tax scandal – he will win. Here’s why.
During a White House debriefing Obama criticized Trump’s presidential campaign saying presidential elections are not “A Reality Show”. Well, this statement is quite clearly incorrect. This is simply because most citizens are not invested into politics, which is illustrated by a low voter turnout of just slightly above 50%. Politics is a complicated field and understanding its many variables requires one to spend a great amount of time consuming and analyzing various media publications and opinions. The reality is that most people will likely choose to spend their free time differently. Thus chances are that even if one votes, their political knowledge is relatively superficial. Voters are simply not well informed and do not have the tools to understand economic strategy, social policies or Middle East crises. As such, the issues involved in an election are only a small portion of the decision drivers. Research shows that party affiliation is a defining factor, this however explains only part of the votes as about 42% of Americans identify as independent.
This brings us to the last factor of the voting decision – perceived character and characteristics of the candidate, i.e. a “reality show”. People tend to vote for those who are most similar to them, for example almost 80% of Catholics voted for the first Catholic president John F. Kennedy and 93% of Black Americans voted for Obama in 2012. This is of course quite natural, especially since many voters are “politically illiterate”. In the modern reality show culture, think of yourselves, which characters are the ones you usually identify with on TV shows? Most likely those you see something in common with (character of characteristics).
In the meantime, growing social gaps in the western world and the U.S specifically essentially create very different societies living in one country. The life of an upper middle class graduate student from Boston is extremely different than that of a truck driver from NJ. Not only are their life styles different, they’re also exposed to different levels of diversity, have a different value scale and speak in quite different language styles. One is not better than the other, they’re just different, as if from another country.
Here comes the really peculiar part, Trump, despite his social status, has a language style more similar to that of a working class American than the top 0.1% of society. Trump is politically incorrect, not articulate, might use profanities and most likely say something stupid – but he’s passionate and relatable for working class Americans. If two factory workers would have been watching a reality show, Trump would be the most relatable character. Clinton’s calculated, nicely worded, politically correct speeches are simply not the language style spoken by working class Americans and thus are not as relatable. Reality show anyone?
There are some social sectors that won’t vote for Trump due to traditional voting preferences, characteristics, and also since he artistically shaped himself as racist. Yet, despite what one might think Trump isn’t doing as bad with Hispanics and Black Americans. Think about the issues Trump pushes. Immigration – the ones who suffer the most from illegal immigration are those legal working class immigrants who are already here (more competition). Safety and security – the ones who are worried the most about these issue are those who feel vulnerable anyhow.
At the end of the day, most voters are not politically oriented and are simply looking for someone they can relate to, someone that seems to care about things they care about and sounds like them. They aren’t reading long articles (like this one), they only occasionally tune in for episodes of this presidential reality show that looks more and more like Survivor. Trump is the populist reality show hero who pays into the [understandable] deep fears of lower-middle class’, and that’s why he’ll win.
This social-electoral change is not unique to the U.S and has been seen in various places around the world. Take Brexit for example, there was a clear division between lower and upper classes of society. Here too the lower the income the higher the chances you’ve voted to leave, which honestly makes total sense, since these are voters who are negatively affected by immigration from Eastern Europe and growing social gaps. And not surprising at all, voters who were not born in the UK have mostly voted to leave! Foreigners didn’t want more foreigners! As clearly they are the ones set to lose the most from additional immigration. Also, it’s worth noting that the Leave supporters, mostly of lower social economic status, were often portrayed as “ignorant”. Sounds familiar?
Israel has been going through a similar process where a strong polarization occurs between social classes, resulting in lower classes voting right wing and upper classes voting left wing. In a striking similarity, a traditionally mid-left wing media bashed Netanyahu in the last elections just as traditional media now bashes Trump. In a striking similarity it seems that those who vote Trump are often deemed “ignorant” (as in this quote that went viral). In a striking similarity, it seems that many Trump supporters are ashamed to admit they are such. I have hundreds of American friends on my social media and I have seen countless pro Clinton article shares, yet just a handful of pro Trump ones. Though I know for a fact there are some of his supporters in my social media circle. A few friends though whispered (literally) to my ear that they support Trump – “but I shouldn’t tell anyone”.
Social and economic inequality tends to lead to revolutions, not necessarily violent ones – but major political changes. Some such examples are the French Revolution, Communism and yes even the American Revolution had strong motives of income inequality (“no taxation without representation”). In a way, the lower-middle classes seems tired of seeing members of the “other” society in power and want to see someone more like themselves, and oddly, Trump the billionaire is it.
By the way, surveys in the weeks prior to the UK referendum projected a win for Remain, and surveys prior to Israel’s 2015 elections projected Netanyahu to lose. UK’s Leave and Israel’s Netanyahu won despite all forecasts.