Donald Trump and American Politics

02/29/2016

Forgive me if I’m straying out of my territory.  If you’ve found this blog, you probably weren’t looking for politics.  This post might be pretty limited but, at the same time, will hopefully provide some perspective.

Donald Trump has woken up American politics.  Super Tuesday is tomorrow, and many are starting to accept that he will probably win the Republican nomination.  To most liberals, Donald Trump comes as a shock.  As polarizing as American politics is, much of half the country labels him a sexist, racist, and xenophobe, while the other half embraces him as the only politician who “tells the truth.”

What warrants the rise of Donald Trump?

To understand this, you have to understand that this election season, everyone in America is pissed off.  Minority oppression is rampant and we’re weary that it’s still a problem.  Every state in the US has its own Flint, although people are just now hearing about this system of discrimination.  As of 2010, black men are over half as likely to be imprisoned as they are to be in college–and on average, the cost of incarceration is almost $50,000 per inmate per year.  More reasons Americans are pissed off are severe income inequality, low wages, lifelong student debt, and lack of maternity leave and other rights for women.  In addition, American voices aren’t heard in politics.  A Princeton University study found that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”  Whether or not you identify as a Bernie-supporter, you cannot deny that today, his claims that billionaires buy our politicians and our policies are very much founded.  Our political and economic system has been built to protect billionaires–for example, the government currently subsidizes private jets–and anyone who opposes this is deemed a “socialist.”

What does this have to do with Donald Trump?  Like we said, everyone is angry.  It’s all about whom we blame for our problems: Democrats blame the billionaire class and an obstructionist Republican Congress (which fashions an 11% approval rating), and Republicans blame Obama.  But both sides want change.  This warrants the rise of Bernie Sanders on the left, and Donald Trump on the right.  Americans on both sides look to each one as a panacea for all of our problems.  Both candidates are, in essence, calling for a revolution: Donald tells us he will “restore our previous greatness,” and Bernie tells us he will make the American voice heard again.

Let’s talk about Donald Trump “telling the truth.”  In this revolution, because of the passion pouring from both sides, facts no longer have any relevance.  It doesn’t matter that in 2008, before Obama entered office, we were losing almost one million jobs per month, and are now gaining almost a quarter million per month.  Nor does it matter that many economists believe Trump is a lot less successful of a businessman than he could have been had he invested more wisely.  Nope, Republicans still want to go back to the old ways, and they say Trump is the man to take us there.  It also doesn’t matter that Republicans in Congress have persistently blocked Obama’s initiatives to protect veterans, and that Donald Trump kicks poor veterans off his property.  Nope, Trump will magically improve conditions for our veterans.  The problem isn’t lack of education; many educated Republicans support Trump even though most of what he says has no basis.

Democrats aren’t immune to willful ignorance, either.  It doesn’t matter that in his last 25 years in Congress, Bernie Sanders has been the main sponsor of only three bills that became law.  It doesn’t matter that Obama was barely able to make so much social and economic progress in the last seven years because Republicans in Congress blocked him every step of the way, and that Bernie Sanders has a vision of repealing Obama’s improvements without hesitation, thinking he could easily replace them with something yet more radical.  Realism doesn’t matter anymore: Bernie, through his moving dedication alone, can fix all of our problems.  Apparently, activism is enough to translate to policy.  All in all, in this presidential race, the main asset of both Bernie and Trump is that they have articulated the frustrations that plague their followers.

Back to Donald Trump, liberals hurl attacks at him like there’s no tomorrow.  He’s an anti-immigrant, sexist, vacuous Islamophobe with no real policy plans, they proclaim.  At one of his rallies in September, he allowed a man to call Obama a non-American Muslim.  (Contrast this against John McCain, who in the 2008 elections held that Obama was a respectable man who just had differing views from him for the future of the country.)  He hurls insults at journalists and even seemed to mock a disabled one in November.  His speeches have been used by ISIS to antagonize the US and gain recruits.  Studies show that his language patterns mirror those of many demagogues in history.  He dismissed a denunciation from the Pope (although so has pretty much every Republican in Congress).  Most recently, he wavered in denouncing the Ku Klux Klan.

What do I make of this?  First of all, I’m no Trump supporter, but I appreciate that he has made politics extremely fun to follow–my parents watched the final GOP debate before Super Tuesday as if it were an Indian soap.  His main debate strategy seems to be to diss the other candidates off the stage.  Without listening to any campaign advisors, he’s managed to maintain his standing as the Republican front-runner for over three months.

But in my opinion, there’s some context, a bigger picture, to understand with Trump.  For one, he has no wealthy donors telling him what to say, whereas bungling candidate Jeb Bush was only on the stage because of the nearly $100 million spent (I mean, wasted) on his campaign.  Along these lines, I believe a President Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or Ben Carson would be even more frightening than a President Donald Trump, because they make statements that are similar to those of Donald Trump, even if less blatantly, and are more serious about carrying them out.  Furthermore, because he doesn’t face the threat of losing donors, with him, what you see is what you get, whereas the other candidates, Republican or Democrat, could be much worse in office than they make themselves out to be now.  As bad as Donald Trump may seem, Cruz or Rubio as president would make every effort to reverse social progress and serve the interests of billionaires, pandering to the public to win the office.  Even though Trump has made open efforts to appeal to the Evangelical crowd, some even predict he will even change his stance on the LGBTQ community if he wins the primaries.

Donald Trump is also a businessman who has without doubt had to deal with many women, immigrants, and Muslims, and many people who met him long ago say he is decent and tactful in person and have no idea from where his attacks are coming.  Even if Trump seems like an airhead to anyone who actually listens to what he says, I think any sensible businessman should know that deporting 11 million people for $400-600 billion is not a sustainable plan.  I also highly doubt that he is a racist; I just think he is a brilliant politician.  He has already disavowed David Duke before, so why was he so hesitant to do so just a few days ago?  Maybe because over 20% of his supporters in states like South Carolina don’t even support the Emancipation Proclamation?

The Republican mainstream, as in the many moderate conservatives in this country, are equally flustered as liberals with this candidate whose poll numbers refuse to drop.  But at the same time, they’ve brought it on themselves.  Why would the common Republican be so anti-establishment this year?  Maybe because for years the establishment has employed rhetoric to make them hate our government, telling them that Democrats are taking their country away from them.  For example, they are so convinced that Democrats want to confiscate guns that they refuse to even consider measures to make them safer, and daily unnecessary guns deaths continue.  Even though Obama has fought the issues that anger the majority of Americans, he has been demonized by the Republican establishment.  For another example, Obamacare has been called by Ben Carson the worst thing in American history “since slavery,” but if you refer to it as the Affordable Care Act, all of a sudden the common Republican loves it.  As a result of all this animosity, Republicans who facilitated the rise of Trump have left the mainstream with no moderate options except John Kasich.  Many in this key group, the moderates, say that if Trump wins the nomination, they will not vote this year.  Trump is a monster that Republicans created, and it seems they will pay for it this year.

I don’t know if I did a very good job hiding it, but I identify as a liberal.  If I may be completely honest, I like Donald Trump.  That is, I like what he means for the future of America.  I believe that if he wins the Republican candidacy, we will end up with a Democratic president.  The most stirring part of this election cycle is the big question: is Donald Trump bringing about the destruction of the Republican Party?

I am still 16 and am not eligible to vote this year.  But if I may, I advise you to vote wisely.

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