Sunday, 24 January 2016

Trump: The Most Successful Pundit in America – But The Worst Presidential Candidate

by William Dry


656,000 British citizens have signed a petition calling for Donald Trump to be banned from entering the UK on grounds of hate speech. It would be lazy for me to write an article detailing the horror show of Trump’s candidacy. The jokes would write themselves. He’s a character you might see in Veep or The Thick of It; a fool who’s blissfully unaware of his own flaws, in this case – narcissism, arrogance, and being darn right mean. However, this particular character has escaped the microcosm of Veep, and, trapped with the mentality his creator designated him, has decided to run for President.

However, I have decided to resist the temptation that Trump offers us all: to set off a firework which lights up the sky with “Will’s a moral human being! J” You may think Trump is a fool, but the facts are he has been very successful in business (which is obviously not the be all and end all, but he clearly isn’t as stupid as some people think), and he has humiliated the political pundits since his entry into the race. The pillars of Trump’s campaign were derided by the media – the media labelled each announcement as the end of his campaign. However, with each announcement his polls went up, and up, and up. He has won every debate according to the polls, and has dominated not just the Republican invisible primary, but even featured in Obama’s State of the Union address. For all his bluster, lack of variation of adjectives, and crass, in electoral terms, he has been the most successful politician in the last 6 months in the world. To dismiss him as an ‘idiot’ is lazy, and is to misunderstand how badly the media, and the Washington class currently understand US politics. His policies may be scary, but equally scary is the lack of acknowledgement for both how many people he represents, and his successful political techniques.

He started his campaign with an announcement that set the agenda for the next month: the jaw-dropper was his approach to the 11 million undocumented immigrants. Donald wants them all out – men, women, children. He wants to build a ‘big wall’, with a ‘big beautiful door’ so that he can let the useful ones back in. Trump said that the illegal immigrants “were bringing drugs” – 90% of cocaine that is in the US transits through Mexico. He said that they were “bringing crime” – illegal immigrants in Califorina, Texas, Arizona, Florida, and New York make up just 5.6% of the population, but account for 38% of all murder convictions. He even said that some were “rapists” – in Texas, more than 2000 illegal immigrants were deported after committing sex-related offenses. Needless to say, there are a whole set of facts which support the other side of the debate, and I am not going to come down on either side. Trump, while he may not been the first to raise the issue in contemporary politics, his daring rhetoric undoubtedly placed the issue at the heart of the start of the invisible Republican primary. It bought him political capita: people thought he was straight talking, and bold – exactly what a core of the Republican base think the country needs.

The immigration policy is well.. a bit harder to defend. Just saying “We have a problem” (which every Western country does), does not justify blocking all Muslims from entering the country. It would lead to the bizarre situation that Sadiq Khan, the favourite for the next Mayor of London, being unable to visit the Mayor of New York to discuss the challenges of running a major city. The idea is especially perverse considering America’s history on religious freedoms, an idea even more central to the twenty-first century Republican party. 

However, perhaps this is the genius of Trump: even while the idea is clearly wacky, morally repugnant, and quite simply bad, it worked. The media lapped it up. There wasn’t a person in America who didn’t hear the whir of “Trump this..” “Trump that..” from their television (probably made in South Korea – damn those stupid trade deals from the stupid leaders) in the following days. A simple voter could be forgiven for forgetting that there were other candidates in the Republican primary, or even Presidential race, given this onslaught of attention. His poll ratings jumped up 10 points in the space of a week, a percentage that eludes most candidates who, despite name recognition and experience on the political scene, have collectively mustered the force of a paper fan a middle schooler might make, in contrast to Hurricane Donald.


On economics, Trump has an aggressive, protectionist stance. He is sick and tired of seeing his country’s politicians being outwitted by the crafty Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans. There is a disturbance in the logical universe when he bemoans how China have taken all their jobs – it is American demand for cheaper Chinese goods that is partially responsible for production shifting abroad. A Ball State study claims that 90% of the job losses in manufacturing are the result of productivity gains – “Had we kept 2000-levels of productivity and applied them to 2010-levels of production, we would have required 20.9 million manufacturing workers. Instead, we employed only 12.1 million.” In short, the policy is misguided.  Trump’s tariff would need Congressional support – which it wouldn’t get, and, as the policy is inconsistent with the WTO, China would win the right to retaliate via their own tariffs. 

However, while the policy may be drastically flawed, the political insight behind it isn’t. The average American can quite easily perceive China’s ruthless negotiators to outwit the well-intentioned American on the other side of the table. They believe this because they hear the stats about jobs, the growth of China. Worst of all, like a schoolyard bully whose victim has a growth spurt over a summer holiday, their dominance as the largest economic power is under threat. The appeal of Trump lies in his own delusional expectations; that he can ‘kick ISIS’ ass, build a wall, and deport 11 million people’ – policies that are as flawed as they are possible. The modern President cannot steamroll a deeply divided Congress that has developed an allergy to bipartisanship. Nor can he, or she, void the Constitution – or change how the Supreme Court interprets it. Trump has set the bar too high to be successful; for all his self-professed personality he could not unite a country he divided in the first place to become President. Despite all of Trump’s success as a candidate, he cannot be a successful politician.


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