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How did Trump happen?

Trump Rally Tweets

I am terrified of Donald Trump. If he wins the Republican nomination, which he looks likely to do, he will no longer be able to be sidelined as the ‘joke’ candidate, as someone not representative of mainstream views. So what does Trump’s rise tell us about modern American values? How has a country who used to hold themselves up as the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’ fallen so ashamedly to their knees, exposing the bigotry, racism, fear, hatred and misery of average Americans?

There is no shortage of analysis of this type being contributed by writers across the globe. Many blame the Republicans for harvesting the hate and fear that Trump is now exploiting, whereas others say Trump has just tapped into the hate and fear that lay dormant, waiting for a voice, through the marginalisation and undermining of poor Americans. I would like to look at two sides to this argument which could roughly be coined the ‘chicken and egg’ question: what came first; do millions of white Americans really hate people who don’t look like them so much that they yearned for a President who would give them permission to say out loud what they’ve always thought, who promises to not-just-figuratively-but-literally build a wall to keep ‘others’ out? Or did Trump put these ideas in the heads of the poor, the repressed, the under-appreciated, the resentful by blaming the ‘others’ for everything that has gone wrong in these peoples’ lives?

Bernie Sanders will always draw his argument back to income inequality because that is his very successful platform, and I applaud him to sticking like glue to his narrative. As he explained to Rachel Maddow, he thinks Trump has tapped into the anger felt by the hollowed out middle class, the anger at feeling completely powerless in the face of growing inequality, where the pie keeps getting greedily consumed by the richest of the rich, leaving nothing but crumbs for everyone else and has diverted this everyone-one-else anger from its real enemy – the system that caused this inequality in the first place. Trump has instead pointed the finger of blame at the easiest of soft targets – non-white Americans. Sanders argues the solution to this problem is to educate the masses about not only the real reason for their simmering anger, which he sees at completely justified, but also to show them that their insecurity is caused by a problem they are powerful enough to solve. But the only way they can solve it is together in a big group hug, rather than behaving like spiteful, divisive haters. This big group hug translates to voting for Bernie Sanders.

I like Sanders’s argument. The Republicans, in fact the right side of politics the world over, have always used fear and loathing as their favourite election-winning tactic. They know scared people don’t think straight. Scared people are easy to manipulate. Scared people are easy to convince to vote against their best interests. Like the screaming person in a horror movie being chased by the knife-wielding-psychopath, who chooses to be cornered by running up the stairs rather than choosing the obvious path to safety – the open front door. Sanders is the one out on the street, through that open door, ready to embrace the scared-out-of-their-wits electorate, to give them a way to solve their problems. Trump is the knife-wielding-psychopath who just so happens to be a member of the richest 1% of the richest 1% who would coincidentally find it very inconvenient if the frightened voters saw past his ‘look over there, it’s a coloured person’ scare-tactic and instead bore their anger down on his entrenched privilege. The fact that many Trump supporters respect Trump for no other reason than because he is rich is head-exploding dark irony at its best.

Then there’s the other argument which is far less sanitary. The other argument is that racism is alive and well in America, and that it’s always been alive and well, and that there is absolutely no surprise that Trump is able to use racism to win votes because the country may have had a black President and the world might have thought this represented a moment where America could no longer be perceived as a racist country, but that we then find we were wrong and that not only do the KKK still exist, but the Republican front-runner nominee refuses to criticise a clan leader through fear that this will lose him votes and that this culture is the real secret to Trump’s success. From this perspective, no matter how many good Americans there are who are absolutely mortified by Trump’s popularity, this popularity reveals undeniably that there is widespread racism in a country who have previously held themselves up as the welcoming home of immigrants looking for a better life; for opportunity, hope and optimism. In this argument, there is no excuse for the bad-behaviour of Trump supporters because there is no excuse for hatred and racism, with a big serving of sexism sprinkled throughout, and pardon my language but they can all go to hell, a place most of them claim to believe in, but also seem not to fear.

I don’t think there is a simple chicken and egg solution to this debate, and rather, as is often the case in politics the problem is caused by ‘a little from column A and a little from column B’. All I know is that whatever the underlying reasons for Trump’s rise, the world is watching on hoping and urging America will wake up to their better angels before it’s too late.

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  1. David Stephens

    I note that the anti-Trump delegate numbers held by Rubio and Cruz still are more than the Trump numbers. The problems will be (1) Cruz and Rubio won’t agree on who should drop out (2) the momentum for Trump fuelled by media desperate for a story will make (1) irrelevant (3) If Trump does not get the Republican nomination he will run as Independent. I think (3) is the least likely outcome of the three.

  2. flohri1754

    Extremely well put Victoria. As an expat American, watching all the Trump phenomena from Australia, I can only hope that yes, the majority of Americans, come November, listen to the better, more humane and empathetic angel of their natures than the depressingly dark and woefully thoughtless angry side as represented by Drumpt ……

  3. Pazzo Redento

    What in blazes is in the drinking water over there?!!!

  4. @mars.08

    The greatest demoKracy in the world!!!

    “When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand.

    So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost… All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men.

    As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

    ~H.L. Mencken. Baltimore Sun (26 July, 1920)

  5. Michael Lacey

    Trumps a joke in comparison to who the other candidates! Democracy, especially in the United States, is a farce, vomiting up right-wing fascists such as Donald Trump, who has a chance to become the Republican presidential nominee and perhaps even president, or slick, dishonest corporate stooges such as Hillary Clinton. Political elites, Democrat or Republican, serve the demands of corporations and empire. The Corporations control the three branches of government. Corporations write the laws. Corporations determine the media narrative and public debate. Corporations are turning public education into a system of indoctrination. Corporations profit from permanent war, mass incarceration, suppressed wages and poor health care. Corporations have organized a tax boycott. Corporations demand “austerity.” Corporate power is unassailable, and it rolls forward. Don’t just focus on Trump he is just a symptom of the underlying rot!

  6. RosemaryJ36

    Like America, Australia is also a country of migrants whose first people have been pushed into the background. Maybe lingering feelings of shame have been transmuted into scorn for those, identifiable by their colour, who have let themselves be overrun while at the same time fear of difference makes for further unease.
    Then we get the White Australia policy which again sees colour (and difference) as something to belittle.
    It is also interesting that as fewer and fewer people now identify as Christians – certainly fewer as practising Christians – the fear of other religions has increased.
    Too many people are ignorant of the teachings of Mohammed – and even many who follow Islam would not be able to read the Koran. So the fact that the inter-sect wars in the middle east – Muslim against Muslim – have become so violent, and the west has interfered more than one time too many, so making us a target – all this makes for unease, fear, and eventually hatred.
    We are going down the same path as the USA and the Tea Party on the far right of their politics has generated a level of vitriol which is unprecedented.
    Above all, Americans fear socialism so Obama actually developing a health system to help the underprivileged is a step too far – which in my eyes is an indictment of the level of self-interest of the conservatives.
    There are alarming comparisons which can be made between Tony Abbott and Donald Trump!

  7. Mary Mannison

    How did Abbott (and sub-Abbott) happen?

  8. Miriam English

    Victoria, the first thing to always remember is that we humans are all basically the same. People from USA or Canada, North Koreans or Australians, Chinese or Swedes. We are all the same. The difference is in the environments that surround us.

    Take an ordinary person from USA and compare them with another similar person from a couple of kilometers away just over the border in Canada. One is gripped by constant fear and hatred of anybody who is different, not trusting anybody except for the bullshit on Fox “News”. The other lives in a successfully peaceful multicultural society, tends not to lock their house, and experiments have shown they stop to help people who have collapsed on the sidewalk.

    In the USA poverty, education, religion, violence, and longevity are characteristic of a thirdworld country. Canada has a peaceful, well-educated, healthy (through free health care), secular population with very low levels of violence. Mere kilometers separate them.

    It is the society. USA has a corrupt society ruled by selfishness and greed. Canada has a more socially altruistic society. It makes all the difference. Trump is both a product and one of the causes of that society. He was created by it and he is amplifying the very thing that spawned him.

    We can easily become like USA. In fact the LNP already has us on that trajectory. That is the scary thing.

    Michael Lacey, I’ll grant you that corporations are responsible for a lot of the evil in the world, but not because they are intrinsically evil. They simply are run by the wrong rules. We need to change their operating rules.

    The half-wits who run them may be very smart at getting money, but they don’t understand much about what is good for them or their corporations or the society they need to operate within. They might think it is good for them to indoctrinate the workers, keep them unhealthy, under-educated and in poverty, but they’re wrong.

    Many wealthy people are waking up to the fact that everybody benefits — including the wealthy — from a population that is not a breeding ground for disease, that is not so violent that rich people have to spend their lives in gilded cages. They are starting to understand that a well-educated population lifts their businesses to higher levels of creativity and competitiveness, making them greater profits. It is finally dawning on many of them that without workers who have lots of spending money few people can afford to buy their goods and services.

    It is changing. We need to speed that change.

  9. Travelalot

    “as someone not representative of mainstream views” – sorry but he is representative of mainstream USA. Each visit I become more observant of the “dollars equals value”, and “its not my fault attitude”, and the obvious racism and disdain for the underprivileged. Poor fellow America it is sick and dying.

  10. Michael Taylor

    Miriam, maybe the media has a bit to do with it. Is it no coincidence that Murdoch has no media interests in Canada? Their media laws are strict yet simple: ‘No bullshit allowed’. That’s why Mutdoch isn’t there. He can’t spread his bullshit.

  11. John Hermann

    Two fundamental problems: (a) The corporate controlled U.S. mainstream media have dumbed down the american population, and (b) the Republican Party is a national disgrace, and is currently quite unfit to be in government at any level.

  12. Terry2

    Had there been alternative Republican candidates of quality, Trump would be gone by now !

  13. Kaye Lee

    They may need to replace the ‘Mother of Exiles’ if Trump wins……

    “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

    Just doesn’t fit the Trump narrative. ….

  14. Annie B

    Another excellent piece of writing Victoria. Well said, well done.

    Rather think the first of your two options is closer to the truth. The ‘what came first’ …. racism, deep rooted cynicism, and fear of ‘different’ ( different most anything that is ), has been simmering away for decades – actually centuries, since the Civil War.

    There is a poem on the Statue of Liberty – part of which reads :

    “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door! ”

    hmmmm !! … huddled masses, homeless and tempest tossed ( especially if black or coloured ) are at best frowned upon, at worst outright loathed and detested.

    There are still very good caring people in America, ( all colours ) but I really fear they are a dwindling number. And they do not necessarily come from the Bible Belt. ( that’s for sure ).

    ….. If I were the French people, I think I would be asking for a return of that monument – to be rehomed somewhere, where those sentiments harmoniously resonate, and the words are appreciated and honoured.

    p.s. I posted this at the same time as Kaye posted her comment. Thinking alike here. 🙂

  15. Kaye Lee

    Sound familiar…

    https://static-ssl.businessinsider.com/image/566788e68430761f008b8880-600-723/dailynewsdonaldtrump.jpg

  16. Annie B

    Yes indeed Kaye … it is familiar and said before ( can’t recall if it was an essay or in a book ) but have read it before – now paraphrased.

    Can you tell me where it was first written – about Jews etc / Nazi Germany.

  17. Sam_w

    I would be as afraid is ANY republican became president. Trump is a fascist-industrialist and they are not as far right as the nutter quasi-libertarian billionaires club (ideologically pure neoliberals whom actually hate trump):

    http://majority.fm/2016/02/03/23-jane-mayer-dark-money-the-hidden-history-of-the-billionaires-behind-the-rise-of-the-radical-right/

    Two points to illustrate this:
    *Trump says he wants to strengthen welfare, the libertarians want to privatise it.
    *Trump says he wants to put more regulation and limitations on how the financial system (eg: glass steigal) the libertarians or even Hillary are going in the opposite direction.

  18. Sen Nearly Ile

    I am with you Sam.
    What you see of trump is open and he definately has a heart so it is possible he can learn.
    On the other hand, cruz and rubio are definitely not right for the American poor and uneducated.

  19. Annie B

    Thank you Miriam … for supplying that link. Most interesting …. and much appreciated .. 🙂

  20. John Hermann

    There have been published psychological assessments of Trump, identifying him as possessing all the hallmarks of grandiose narcissism.

  21. Miriam English

    Glad to help, Annie B. 🙂 It gave me a chance to learn more about it too.

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