Don’t fret. Do!n’t worry. Donald Trump will never become President of the United States.
In time, American voters will “come to their senses” and bring Trump’s crude crusade for the keys to the White House to an abrupt halt.
So spoke one such voter questioned in a report screened by Al Jazeera which purported to analyse the reasons driving Trump’s unexpected rise and rise which has made him the front-runner in the race for the Republican party’s nomination for the presidency.
What was puzzling was why the journalist who produced the piece for the Doha-based television news channel gave so much air time to the views of a 62-year-old former lawyer and unflinching supporter of the Democrats – someone who would have been about as ideologically distanced from Trumpland as it is possible to get.
It is not that difficult to explain why so many Americans have fallen under the spell of Trump’s brand of populism. There is nothing new or particularly unique in the business mogul’s strategy.
Anyone who was living in New Zealand in the mid-1990s will have noted a marked similarity between Trump’s campaign themes and those stressed by one Winston Peters.
Having got himself booted out of the National Party in 1992, Peters cannily exploited the public’s anger at both major parties to raise the profile of his new political vehicle, New Zealand First.
Peters banged the same drum as Trump is now banging — an anti-foreigner,anti-migrant, anti-establishment and anti-free trade. tirade..
National Party MPs have been quickest to make the comparison, with Maggie Barry describing Peters as Trump “without the comb-over”.
But the differences between Trump and Peters go way beyond the latter having a better haircut and a better taste in suits.
Peters used coded language in his rabble-rousing speeches, avoiding mentioning the word “Asians” when everyone knew to whom he was referring.
Trump cannot be bothered with such “dog-whistle” politics. His trademark is outrage. He is winning votes by saying what Middle America is thinking but feel it cannot say.
If anything, American voters are even more fed up with the goings on in Washington than were many New Zealanders with Wellington two decades ago.
Trump is surfing a wave of discontent and disillusion born of the slow recovery of the American economy, alongside the disappointing presidency of Barak Obama which has fallen far short of initial expectations.
There are also fundamental underlying factors contributing much to Trump’s success, most notably that the ongoing decline in the American middle class which has put the American Dream more and more out of reach for increasing numbers of the country’s citizens.
According to the Washington Post, In 1979, what the paper labelled as “middle-skill” jobs accounted for 57 percent of the jobs in the American economy. By 2009, that share was down to 46 per cent. When middle-skill jobs vanish, those workers must either take low-skill jobs or compete for the fewer middle-skill jobs left. That extra competition pushes down everybody’s pay, .
Perhaps the most telling statistic is the one revealing that the pre-tax income for middle-income American families fell by about 7 per cent in real terms 2010 and 2013, while those of the top 10 per cent of income earners actually rose by 2%, despite the huge losses incurred during the global financial crisis.
Hillary, you have a problem.
Another major difference between Trump and Peters is that every candidate in this presidential race has found him or herself obliged to say how they will make America great again. That is, apart from Hillary Clinton,who claims America is still great. This is not what Middle America is thinking.
The United States is just the latest country to discover it is easier to go into Afghanistan than to get out. Likewise, the horror story that is Iraq. IPutin’s occupation of Crimea and destabilisation of Ukraine made a mockery of America’s supposed supremacy. China’s expansion into the South China Sea is another kick in the shins.
When Trump talks of making America great again, he is simply saying what many Americans want to hear. That was exemplified by Sarah Palin’s assurance that Trump would “kick ISIS ass”.
Throughout the primaries the ever more pertinent question has been how his rivals for the nomination deal with Trump.
At first, his candidacy was seen as a joke. Then a bad joke. It was then assumed he would be destroyed in theu early primaries. The talk now is of Trump failing to get a majority of delegates at the Republican convention.
That may be wishful thinking.
Moreover, any attempt to sideline Trump will be seen as verifying voters’ sour view of the Washington establishment. As it is,the Washington-based media and political pundits have been acutely embarrassed by their wayward predictions which have only showed just how much they are out of touch they are with the rest of the nation.
Trump’s opponents have been similarly silly in their efforts to malign Trump. The most pathetic example was the wheeling out of Mitt Romney, the Republican’s failed 2012 candidate, who slammed Trump as a fraud and a fake. A walking cure for insomnia, Romney had no problems accepting Trump’s endorsement in 2012.
Such attacks only enhance Trump’s appeal as someone who will clean out the Aegean Stables that Washington is seen as becoming.
Not even his strongest supporters would be stupid enough to believe he would actually build a wall across the whole of the border between the United States and Mexico and expect the latter country to pay for it.
Likewise, no-one would argue that Trump is not without faults. But most of these have long been fodder for the gossip columns and entertainment channels.
So far, only one person has landed any kind of hit on Trump, and that person was not even an American. When Trump visited London, he claimed there were Muslim parts of the city that the police would not go. In reply, the city’s mayor Boris Johnson said there were some parts of New York that he was not prepared to visit for fear of running into Donald Trump.
What voters are doing is using Trump to deliver a blunt message in the strongest possible terms to the political and economic elites that something has to change in terms of the rich getting richer while not only the poor are getting poorer.
“This is also why Bernie Sanders is causing headaches for Clinton on the other side of the political spectrum.
Trump’s appeal as a non-politician is his greatest asset. But it is also potentially his greatest weakness. His opponents’ may have to rely on his massive ego and over confidence bringing his downfall.
His statement that women who have had abortions should be punished is his first real mistake. And it is a big one. Worse were his efforts to spin his way out of that blunder.
The Wisconsin primary this week will be a crucial test of how much that mistake has cost him.
This year’s primaries have been the most fascinating and intriguing since George McGovern secured the Democratic nomination in 1972, only for him to be subsequently whipped by the then Republican president Richard Nixon.
That campaign was immortalised in Hunter S Thompson’s splendid book Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. The gonzo journalist is no longer with us, sadly. But the enticing prospect of Donald Trump, the ugliest loud mouth to ever have infected American politics, facinguu off against the steely, but far too naked ambition of Hillary Clinton would have had him salivating over his keyboard.
There is only one thing left to say. Bring it on.