Conventional US politics Trumped

Middle class, white-collar America is angry. Angry at shrinking incomes, innumerous job opportunities, rising health and education costs and a rising paranoia about the growing presence of non-Whites. Real estate mogul, television presenter, Donald Trump, most crudely and unashamedly tapped into these fears and prejudices of the Republican base to virtually firm up his nomination for the November presidential poll in the US. If Leicester, who enjoyed 5000: 1 odds at the start of the English Premier League a few months ago, could emerge as winners, stunning the entire sporting world, Trump, whom nobody thought of as a serious candidate when he threw his hat in the Republican ring, could still surprise the world in the general election. The Average Joe in Main Street America is in a mood to take revenge at the Establishment. Trump has virtually bulldozed his way to the top of the league in the Republican primaries by demolishing all challengers who were favourites of the entrenched party bosses, or even those who were insufficiently unconventional in challenging the old school politics. Nearly a score of the wannabe candidates at the beginning of the race have fallen by the wayside, beaten by the tycoon’s no-holds-barred, street-smart politics which brazenly feeds into the racial, religious, xenophobic prejudices of ordinary Americans. He talked of erecting a wall along the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration; talked of banning the entry of Muslims into the country, and, further, promised to send back millions of illegal immigrants back to Mexico. Hispanics, a large demography increasingly making its growing numbers count in the federal and state polls, might be eventually lost to the Republican Party. But this was more than compensated in the primaries when predominantly white middle America rooted for Trump’s narrow and populist platform. He talked of making America great, failing to go beyond slogans to flesh out how he proposed to do that. He talked of vanquishing the ISIS and other real or perceived enemies of America without ever bothering to spell it in half-cogent terms his policy prescriptions. A demagogue with tonnes of money and a simplistic strategy of aggravating the anxieties and fears of ordinary Americans had come to the fore, thumbing his nose at the Republican establishment and, most likely, making the allies of America squirm with the fear of the unknown. In the November general election, it is now more or less certain that it is going to be Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump. Donald has already begun to unleash his trade-mark vile and abuse against her. In the coming days, more such ugliness can be expected. His uncouth and politically incorrect behaviour seems to go down well with the Americans who are feeling hopeless, worried about their own socio-economic future, as that of the country in a world where the US writ no longer runs unquestioned. Notably, quite apart from a growing China, Trump singled out India for taking away American jobs. The actual presidential contest is bound to degenerate into low-level populist sloganeering and grandstanding, the targeted nations can precious little bar squirm and put up with such a maverick and hope he does not make it to the White House next January 20.

Another aspect of Trump’s rise is no less significant. Here is someone who has had no experience of holding any elective office, no, not even of a city alderman, and yet threatens to occupy the most powerful office in the world by recklessly fuelling the baser instincts of Americans. Can he win presidency? A few months ago that question would have elicited dismissive laughter. No longer, though. A few weeks ago, opinion polls had Hillary beating him comfortably. The latest polling showed that gap narrowing, with Trump only a couple of percentage points behind her. It is ironical that the billionaire real estate mogul, with a colorful private life and a chequered entrepreneurial career with a bankruptcy or two thrown in, has emerged as the champion of the economically weak and threatened Whites. Trump, the billionaire insider, has got the better of the Republican establishment by pretending to be the political outsider. His win thus far is a vote against growing economic disparity in America, the lack of income-growth experienced by middle-class Americans and the absence of hope on the horizon. A demagogue has shaken up American politics like no one else had in recent decades. The world is bound to watch the electoral battle in the most influential country in the world with a mix of fear and surprise.

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