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
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.