The Trump Card

The US Pres­i­den­tial cam­paign was per­haps one of the most di­vi­sive we have seen in re­cent history, with char­ac­teras­sas­si­na­tion at­tempts most of the time re­plac­ing de­bates of any sub­stance. Af­ter a hard-fought elec­toral cam­paign, Don­ald Trump is to be­come t

Malta Independent - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS - Clyde Puli

Whilst for many, even amongst those Amer­i­cans who cast their vote, the choice be­tween the two can­di­dates left much to be de­sired, it still makes for an in­ter­est­ing anal­y­sis. The rise of Don­ald Trump, with­out the sup­port of the po­lit­i­cal and me­dia es­tab­lish­ment and with less cam­paign bud­get and po­lit­i­cal ex­per­tise around him, will cer­tainly be the sub­ject of study for both po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tists and po­lit­i­cal strate­gists for years to come.

The po­lit­i­cal strat­egy of a po­lit­i­cal out­sider

Don­ald Trump seemed to have a trump card at ev­ery stage of the cam­paign and he played it right. In phase one, he won the pri­maries and the right to rep­re­sent the Repub­li­can Party for the pres­i­den­tial race by em­brac­ing pop­ulism to desta­bilise the party es­tab­lish­ment, which was overtly against him. His ag­gres­sive com­ments ap­pealed to the grass roots and got him the needed at­ten­tion of the me­dia but an­noyed many – rang­ing from fem­i­nists to De Niro and the Pope.

In phase two, he chose Mike Pence – a lit­tle-known politi­cian but one who is well-re­spected and trusted by the party es­tab­lish­ment – as his run­ning mate. Pence, a for­mer Cruz sup­porter and a staunch Chris­tian, would build bridges and se­cure the sup­port of both the

party es­tab­lish­ment which loathed Trump and the Chris­tian vote. This left him fo­cused on de­mol­ish­ing Hilary Clin­ton by at­tack­ing her blue-col­lar base.

It seems he is en­ter­ing phase 3 by act­ing very pres­i­den­tially. Now that the cam­paign is over, Don­ald Trump is also sound­ing more re­strained. He has put aside the nasty things he said about Pres­i­dent Obama and is now telling us that he is a very good man, and his cam­paign team has al­ready re­moved from its web­site the ref­er­ence to ban­ning Mus­lim im­mi­grants. Trump’s com­ments about im­mi­grants, eth­nic mi­nori­ties, Mus­lims and women have cer­tainly been con­tro­ver­sial and, of course, we still have to see what he will do with re­gard to th­ese is­sues, once he is in power.

The re­volt against the elite

The 2016 US elec­tion was cer­tainly a re­volt against the po­lit­i­cal elite. Don­ald Trump did not sim­ply win over the Demo­cratic Party as its cho­sen can­di­date for the pres­i­dency: he was the out­sider who de­feated the in­sid­ers. He crushed the anointed ones in the pri­maries, out­wit­ting those who ini­tially con­sid­ered him a joke. The po­lit­i­cally in­ex­pe­ri­enced can­di­date de­feated those who had long been groomed by the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment. He de­feated po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ties from

both sides of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum, with the Clin­tons only fol­low­ing the demise of the Bushes.

So the peo­ple voted against a po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment that was too con­sumed with main­tain­ing the sta­tus quo against the wishes of the same peo­ple. It was not only a ques­tion of al­ways see­ing the same old faces that pushed peo­ple to some­thing re­sem­bling a leap in the dark. It was more about po­lit­i­cal au­then­tic­ity ver­sus a po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness that many be­lieve has now gone mad.

The Amer­i­can way of life and im­mi­gra­tion and rad­i­cal­ism were def­i­nitely on peo­ple’s minds when they made their choice for Pres­i­dent. Sim­i­larly, the blue-col­lar work­ers might have been alien­ated by a legacy be­gun by Bill Clin­ton and – to a cer­tain ex­tent – con­tin­ued by Barack Obama which, un­der a third-way guise, pushed neo-lib­eral poli­cies to the detri­ment of the work­ers it was sup­pos­edly rep­re­sent­ing.

To a cer­tain ex­tent there is a sim­i­lar­ity with Jeremy Corby’s elec­tion and re-elec­tion as the Bri­tish Labour Party’s leader. The Party del­e­gates de­manded a Labour Party which – put sim­ply – was ide­o­log­i­cally Labour. So the peo­ple were yearn­ing for politi­cians whowould act more as their true rep­re­sen­ta­tives than those whom they per­ceived as a pon­tif­i­cat­ing and self-right­eous bunch who nonethe­less en­gaged in se­cret

back­room deals and cor­rupt prac­tices.

In this sense, the heavy me­dia bias and re­port­ing of Trump’s lack of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and naughty com­ments might have ul­ti­mately made him look more au­then­tic and less made-up than Clin­ton or any other can­di­date groomed by the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment.

The es­tab­lished mass me­dia has also been de­feated by Trump. The out­cry against some of Trump’s dec­la­ra­tions and the huge pop-star sup­port for Clin­ton seems to have only served for peo­ple to be em­bar­rassed to de­clare their sup­port for Trump openly or in opin­ion polls, rather than to change their re­solve at the polling booth. This might have been one of the rea­sons why the sur­veys did not read the sit­u­a­tion cor­rectly, as was the case in the Brexit ref­er­en­dum and also in our hunt­ing ref­er­en­dum not so long ago.

Trust in Anti-Po­lit­i­cal Age

This goes to show that po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship has to be a two-way re­la­tion­ship. Politi­cians can­not be vi­sion­less, pop­ulist, opin­ion poll-led pup­pets, but nei­ther can they be elite-led, ar­ro­gant semi-author­i­tar­i­ans force-feed­ing mis­un­der­stood and de­spised poli­cies down peo­ple’s throats. For trust in demo­cratic lead­er­ship to thrive, per­sua­sion re­mains the name of the game.

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