When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President of the United States in June 2015, the first public reaction was incredulity tinged with amusement. After the initial shock, ordinary Americans began to like the idea. Heck, the Republican convention was still 12 months away; so why not have some fun along the way. If Americans had learned one thing about Trump, he was unpredictable; and a bit batty. Perhaps he imagined he could overcome the other Republican candidates in the field, by pointing his finger and telling them “You’re fired”. It would be a refreshing change from the boring political speeches they were used to anyway.
Donald Did Not Disappoint
At the first Republican debate, Trump tossed his flaming orange hair, taunted his opponents, made fun of their physical appearance and did not spare even the debate moderators. When Megyn Kelly tried to get a rise out of him by asking a pointed question about his attitude towards women, he went ballistic. Kelly found herself portrayed as one of Dracula’s victims, with blood coming out of her various body parts. The rednecks lapped it up. They clamoured for more. Trump obliged.
He kept on calling Cruz “lyin’ Ted” till it stuck. He got “little” Marco Rubio so agitated that he tied himself up in knots. Carly Fiorina was described as the face that did not launch a thousand votes. With each Trumpism, his audience grew, guffawed and cheered. Finally a non-politician who was one of them. Trump kept winning primary after primary, caucus after caucus.
Among the Republican Party and serious voters, the initial bemusement turned to mild concern. They had yet to lose their complacency, however. This was just the novelty asserting itself, they reasoned. Surely Americans would eventually understand that a guy who indulged in profanities, shot his mouth off without thinking, and showed a deplorable grasp of world affairs was definitely not presidential material.
Then something began to change……
Trump started to talk about policy – his policy. He talked about building a very high wall along the US-Mexico border to keep illegal aliens (read Mexicans) out; and promised that he would get Mexico to pay for it. He declared that most of the Mexicans who crossed over were rapists, murderers and drug dealers. Next, he proposed a blanket ban on all Muslims entering the country, because Muslims were, you know, bad guys.
The establishment began to breathe a bit easier. This was it, they reckoned. Surely even his supporters would now realise that this egomaniac who went off half-cocked about issues he had only a rudimentary knowledge of, could not possibly be put in charge of America and the free world. They would realise that with the Republican convention only a few months away, it was time to dispense with the fun and games; and get serious.
It didn’t happen. Trump went from strength to strength, until his only serious rival, Ted Cruz, was forced to concede defeat. Moreover, the more Republican establishment figures like Mitt Romney, Lindsay Graham, John Boehner and John McCain reviled him, the more popular he seemed to become. Before anyone grasped just what had happened, Trump was the presumptive Republican nominee.
So what explains the Trump phenomenon?
How can a man who is whimsical at the best of times, often vituperative; and who gets his foreign policy input from CNN and Fox News be a serious candidate for leader of the free world? Here is a man who has foreign leaders scratching their heads in bewilderment and awe; and who are wondering if America has collectively lost its marbles. The more outrageous he gets, the more his support grows. As Yul Brynner famously declared in The King and I, “’Tis a puzzlement”.
Some political pundits have tried to explain away Trump’s popularity as a revolt by ordinary Americans against the establishment and politics as usual. When Trump talks about reviving 19th century gunboat diplomacy; and ‘bombing the shit out of ISIS’, they cheer widely. When Trump berates China for taking away American jobs, it seems to speak to their souls. (They dismiss trivial realities like a Made in America shirt would cost $30 at Walmart, instead of the $10 ones they have become used to.) They implicitly believe Trump when he says he will make America great again – although they don’t quite know how he’s going to do it; and neither, I suspect, does Donald.
The White Revolution
The above arguments are all valid but, I believe, it goes deeper than that. I believe America is witnessing a White revolution. I believe it is a hitherto latent desire by White Americans to assert themselves; to make it clear to more recent interlopers that this is their land; and they had better not forget it.
This is not about racism. I don’t believe the whites are bothered about the skin colour of Hispanics, Asians and others. However, they do believe that as the original settlers – those Europeans whose ancestors came through Ellis Island in the early 20th century, and of course, the English who were already there – they built the country. The Hispanics, Asians, Muslims and other minorities landed up later for a better life – after the Europeans had done all the hard work. It didn’t seem fair somehow. They have appointed Trump as the Messiah who will dispense with the finicky political correctness; and make it clear to the Hispanics, Filipinos and Muslims that they were here at the suffrage of White Americans; and they would do well to remember that. No more entire neighbourhoods dominated by scary, hijab-clad females and Allah-shouting Mullahs. No more townships where no one spoke English. This was America, dammit. This was their America that they built with their blood and sweat – and they want it back.
I am aware that many readers will find the above opinion ridiculous; perhaps even blasphemous. America is the land of the free – for everybody. In theory, sure. In reality, maybe.
From FF Digital
At the same time as we received the above article, Mr. N. S. Venkataraman e-mailed us his piece on the subject. We quote some portions from his writing:
“The US presidential campaign is hurting its reputation. The campaign seems to be reaching a new low every day. While many Americans would feel sad about the campaign’s style and standard, others who admire US for its freedom and progressive democracy are shocked and wonder whether they should reappraise their views. The chaotic presidential campaign has hurt the image of the US around the world as a progressive and well-structured democratic country. The fact that the political system in America cannot throw better persons as presidential candidates is causing deep worry and concern.
We sincerely hope that the presidential candidates understand the widespread worldview about the quality of the campaign so far and settle down for more proactive and civilized style in conducting their campaign in the days to come, so that the campaign that was until recently carried out could be overlooked as an aberration that does not reflect the ground conditions in the USA.”
Mr. Firoze Hirjikaka is a retired civil engineer and a freelance writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mr. N. S. Venkataraman is Trustee of Nandini Voice for the Deprived, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com.