In an unattractive way, Donald Trump is brilliant. He may not have been an accomplished politician on his journey to Presidency, however broadly speaking, when he entered the Presidential contest he was already a consummately accomplished individual though not, as a career politician. Yet despite this and, a privileged personal history, he quite remarkably identified and zeroed in upon the discontent in middle America and, I would suggest quite by accident, how to get around the 240-electoral vote “Blue wall” that ran from Wisconsin to North Carolina. Metaphorically speaking, a barrier that has successfully encased a Democrat vote for the past six elections.
Consider, we had well over a dozen talented and more experienced candidates within the Republican camp and yet slowly, Trump lay them all to waste, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and more. This was no indolent process it was more dynamic. Over a year-long primary race they, and his Democrat rival in Hillary Clinton, could not match Trump’s better instincts about what troubled so many an American voter, the forgotten middle - the exception was Democrat Bernie Sanders but the Hillary camp took care of him before Trump could. It matters little that Trump’s modus operandi was ugly and most certainly cynical, it soon harboured its own momentum and, as the November 2016 election drew closer, it seeped into Trump and his camp, as if by osmosis, that they were gaining the upper hand. Incidentally, this was entirely missed by mainstream media from their lofty LA, New York and Washington pads. Thus, a very rich Manhattan resident felt the public angst more comprehensively than vanilla media, Hillary Clinton, President Obama, not to mention a talented pool of Republican wannabe’s, and in populist fashion, he courted them, made them feel good, he won them over, he became President.
In terms of extent, at the time of this writing Russia's influence on the election result remains is an unknown factor and, though still under investigation, I suspect it was noteworthy, but I am willing to bet that Trump would have achieved the feat anyway.
Quite nearly all politicians have a streak of anti-elitist tendencies, Donald Trump was by far the superior populist in 2016. I viewed his campaign as crude different yet effective because he chose to focus on three significant ideological issues of our epoch, illegal immigration, employment and trade and political correctness. He also pressed a hot button by questioning the extent of America's overseas interventions - foreign policy.
Looking at foreign policy, Trump’s simple message went something like this. Why invest resources in parts of the world where Americans are hated, while at home we’re stuck in low paid jobs and struggle to find work. “America First” resonated with a substantial portion of the populace who faced income disparity and rising inequality. He proposed several initiates including a re-negotiation of U.S. alliance terms with Japan, South Korea and NATO – he had not specifically named my homeland Australia, but was on the record saying that the U.S. had no interest in being in Asia militarily. Such pitches tapped into an emerging desire among Americans that their nation cannot and should not attempt to solve the world’s problems. Trump rejected the notion that the U.S. should act as global police, indeed Obama had a similar viewpoint, but Trump went much further by suggesting that the U.S. does not even need to be involved in enforcing international law & order in its present definition - incidentally, something he's forgotten since becoming President, think Syrian intervention following the gas attacks on its population. Trump also questioned nuclear non-proliferation, mutual self-defence treaties and overseas military bases.
Obama had demonstrated a degree of foreign policy separation but with alarming results. His lukewarm responses to regional issues left a security vacuum, and when that happens the “bad guys” are always there to fill the void. While America stuttered, Putin attacked the Ukraine and has since launched a reckless campaign in Syria, attacked Georgia and annexed Crimea. In this light, I was no fan of Trumps America first rhetoric but many an American obviously was.
With immigration Trump was also clever. He would often criticize elites knowing full well that he was one himself and it’s the elites who are least affected by illegal immigration's consequences on U.S. communities. First, he highlighted the pitfalls without holding back. Illegal immigration meant more “hit and run accidents, “crowded emergency hospital rooms", "social security offices”, “more drugs”, "more gang violence”, increased load on an already stretched education system etc. And with such loud pronouncements he opened a plethora of populist overtures that would transcend political affiliations and loyalties and, doing so, he tapped into the Democrat working class vote. Who would have thought so.
Moreover, Trump knew that's it’s not the well to do and elites who suffered most in competition for limited subsidies and entitlements due to illegal arrivals, rather it’s the lower middle classes and poor minorities who had to compete.
While the media and its cache of progressive disciples including Hillary Clinton and many Republicans shouted xenophobia and the like, Trump turned the discourse into a question of fairness and lawful equality. “Why” he would shout at his rallies, should select foreign nationals not be subject to federal laws while “you” (American citizens) are not permitted to pick and choose which laws to follow?
He also focused on employment by reminding would be voters that economic growth was weak and that labour non- participation was still very high and competition for jobs, intense. Thus, why was the U.S. allowing foreign nationals to compete in the workforce under illegal auspices whereas those who sought legal entry were not rendered the same rights and privileges?
It was generally thought that going hard on immigration would be political suicide ...
And here is another pitfall made by Trump's detractors and the media. The broad consensus suggested that DT would fail due to any tough immigration stance because Latino’s, - those of Latin American origin who comprised a great many illegal immigrants in the first place, - were an emerging voting force to contend with. It was generally thought that going hard on immigration would be political suicide. But Latino communities were not totally uniform hence established Hispanics, Latinos whatever, were targeted by Trump and made to understand that it was they who suffered most due to the consequences of illegal immigration, and it worked for they agreed and many voted for him.
© 2018 Ottavio Marasco. All rights reserved.