A dis­as­ter in the mak­ing

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - Ja­mal Doumani

YOU have had it up to here read ing about Don­ald Trump? Well, if a can­di­date is about to be cho­sen by his party as its nom­i­nee for pres­i­dent in the next general elec­tion, as Trump ap­pears to be, given his win af­ter win in five East Coast states in last Tues­day’s pri­maries, you bet­ter read all you can about him. The man may, just may, be­come Amer­ica’s next chief ex­ec­u­tive.

Af­ter his stun­ning vic­tory last Tues­day night, which has given Trump the widest path to a ma­jor­ity of pledged del­e­gates, and clearly nar­rowed, if not elim­i­nated, his two re­main­ing op­po­nents’ chances of stop­ping his now in­ex­orable march to the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, you won­der about it all. Then you won­der about some­thing else: Who are these Amer­i­cans who have voted for him and cheered lustily at his ral­lies? And why has he hit a chord with them?

Sure, ex­perts, poll­sters and po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts have re­peat­edly told us who these folks are — alien­ated and un­der-ed­u­cated work­ing stiffs who feel that im­mi­grants are tak­ing over their jobs, their neigh­bor­hoods and their Amer­i­can way of life. Their in­comes have re­mained frozen de­spite the pu­ta­tive re­cov­ery from the 2008 re­ces­sion, and they have con­tinue to strug­gle to pay their kids’ col­lege tu­ition — where they can af­ford to send them there — meet their mort­gage pay­ments, and se­cure their fam­i­lies’ fu­ture. And that does not in­clude the cost of tat­toos.

En­ter Don­ald Trump, a pop­ulist who speaks their lan­guage and shares their prej­u­dices, if not their tra­vails. Like Barry Gold­wa­ter in his 1964 Repub­li­can cam­paign, who told sup­port­ers that “extremism in the pur­suit of free­dom is no vice,” Trump tells his that racism in the pur­suit of po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ency is no vice. He mocks. He dares. And he is provoca­tive, he is funny and he is en­ter­tain­ing, for who would’ve failed, at his ral­lies, to be en­ter­tained by the man’s in­sur­gent rhetoric and scan­dalous, offthe-cuff wise­cracks?

And never mind that he is a phony, a char­la­tan and a clot who is clue­less about how to lead a big power with global re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. But darn it, he knows how to be re­spon­sive to his sup­port­ers’ angst. He con­soles those white mid­dle-aged, mid­dle-brow, mid­dle-Amer­i­cans who feel that the Amer­ica their par­ents and grand­par­ents had known — with Doris Day and Rock Hud­son ban­ter­ing in “Pil­low Talk,” Elvis Pres­ley croon­ing “Heart­break Ho­tel,” and Ralph Kram­don ask­ing Alice if she wants to go to the moon in “The Honey­moon­ers” — slip­ping away from them, its cul­ture trans­form­ing right be­fore their eyes. Trump prom­ises to re­trieve that lost Eden to them, that for­lorn, vac­u­ous Amer­ica of yore.

But Amer­i­cans are a di­verse peo­ple, evinc­ing ex­tremes in their world view — Amer­ica is not called a “na­tion of na­tions” for noth­ing, whose pop­u­la­tion is made up of peo­ple who lit­er­ally come ev­ery coun­try in the world — and this is why, in a way, Don­ald Trump and Bernie San­ders are the flip side of each other, two di­alec­ti­cal op­po­sites, at­tract­ing equally im­pas­sioned sup­port­ers, but ones with fiercely con­trast­ing views. Sadly for Bernie, Trump’s sup­port­ers out­num­ber his.

Trump is so con­fi­dent, af­ter his re­sound­ing vic­tory in the pri­maries last Tues­day, of his im­pend­ing nom­i­na­tion by his party at its na­tional con­ven­tion in July, that he gave what was dubbed a “for­eign pol­icy speech” at the Mayflower Ho­tel in down­town Wash­ing­ton the fol­low­ing day, a speech so in­co­her­ent and vague (sur­prise, sur­prise!) that it bor­dered on mean­ing- less, where, no, he did not pledge to bring back wa­ter­board­ing, kill the fam­ily mem­bers of Daesh mil­i­tants and de­port en masse 12 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, but he did pledge to “put Amer­ica first,” what­ever he meant by that.

In an ed­i­to­rial last Thurs­day, the New York Times wrote: “No one’s fears are to be al­layed by this speech ... It did not ex­hibit much grasp of the com­plex­ity of the world, un­der­stand­ing of the bal­ance or ex­er­cise of power or even a care­ful read­ing of history.” The Wash­ing­ton Post ed­i­to­ri­al­ized: “Mr. Trump de­grades peo­ple, se­ri­ally in­sult­ing women, Lati­nos, Mus­lims, im­mi­grants, Jews and oth­ers. He erodes the dis­course, fre­quently and fla­grantly ly­ing about things such as whether ‘scores’ of ter­ror­ists have re­cently en­tered the US as mi­grants — one of nu­mer­ous false claims he made in his speech on for­eign pol­icy Wed­nes­day ... In short, he should in­spire fear that some­one so lack­ing in judg­ment and re­straint could ac­quire the pow­ers of the pres­i­dency.” As for those few sane Repub­li­cans still left on the scene, they can al­ways lis­ten to Les­ley Gore and sing along, “It’s my party and I can cry if I want to.”

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