by Elisa Gomez, a second year European Studies (French Pathway) student and the Communications Officer for the European Society here at King’s.
On the 16th of June, Donald Trump posted a video on his Youtube account, announcing he would be running as presidential candidate for the Republican Party. Since then, there hasn’t been a day where he hasn’t made it into the headlines of news channels and journals across the world. The man is a publicity magnet, and whether you despise or admire him (there seems to be no middle-ground when it comes to Trump), it seems that ‘The Donald’ is here to stay. Against all odds, he is currently leading the GOP Presidential Nomination (1). In the words of The Washington Post journalist Dana Milbank, Trump is “the Monster the GOP created” (and cannot get rid of). (2)
Let us analyse the ‘secret’ of Trump’s success in the polls. What are his defining features? Throughout the course of his campaign thus far, he has proven to be blunt, unapologetic, and dismissive. His solutions to extremely complex matters such as the immigration issue are surprisingly simplistic and sectarian. His responses to serious counter-arguments and analyses include the likes of “dummy” and “loser”. (3) If he finds someone particularly annoying or poignant, he will simply get rid of him. Such was the experience of Univision journalist Jorge Ramos, who found himself being escorted out of the room where Trump was having a press conference in Iowa earlier this month. The Mexican-American journalist had been pressing the billionaire to explain how exactly would he go about building a 1,900 mile wall along the USA’s Southern border (4). Trump didn’t provide an answer then, but he certainly has talked about how he plans to finance such a seemingly ludicrous project. As always, he provides a straightforward solution: He will build that wall, and Mexico will pay for it (5). Confidence is something he certainly doesn’t lack, and that is apparently faring quite well for him at the moment. How ironic, Bertrand Russell would say, that in this world “the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” (6)
Trump says what he likes, and doesn’t think twice about what he says. He claims to despise “political correctness” (7) and his categorical and dismissive demeanour on stage is clearly not that of an experienced politician. As Trump frequently states, he is a businessman, and not a politician. Throughout their careers, politicians have to face their electorate periodically. They know perfectly well that while it’s easy to make promises when you still don’t have the job, you might want to make sure you won’t disappoint once you’re elected. Trump has never had that experience. Throughout his life as CEO, he has only answered to himself. He has no filter, and it is precisely that attitude that so many people within the Republican electorate find so appealing. One cannot help but wonder how bad a role politicians have played in the past so that a man like Trump can sell himself as the ‘self-made’ man who is more “in tune with what everybody is wanting” (8) than any other candidate in the race. Dishonesty, excessively refined language, corruption, long-winded answers to simple questions, lack of transparency … these are all accusations directed at politicians nowadays. Admittedly, not all of it is their fault, as it is now harder than ever to materialise a particular policy in an arena that is increasingly conditioned by more and more actors and extraneous variables.
We live in a complex world. Most people nowadays do not have the time or the will to get bogged down on ‘petty facts’ or to educate themselves properly on the context of each situation. Blame human nature, the education system or the pace of life, if you will. The fact is, that in an increasingly individualistic society, where people do not stop to analyse their environment, Donald Trump delivers sectarian, black or white answers that people can easily grasp and cling on to. He appeals to our lowest instincts, encouraging us to embrace our fear of the unknown. He is clear, and he is brutal. You have to hand it to Trump, he has almost made the money seem like a secondary issue. Yes, he was born into wealth and his bank account is currently in the billions – as he would have you know – but he is also more approachable and ordinary in that he says what Republican voters are thinking but are afraid to say due to ‘political correctness’.
Donald Trump transcends politics. He is not ‘one of them politicians’ in that he can seemingly say whatever he wants. Nevertheless, in no way does that mean he is any different from them in terms of drive. Trump puts his own interests first. If he doesn’t get elected as the GOP representative, he will run as an independent candidate (9). He used to publicly speak of a woman’s right to choose, but he now claims to be pro-life based on “personal stories” (10). He has been married on three occasions, but he still stands for “traditional marriage” (11). In the past, when Hillary Clinton’s political power as New York Senator could have impacted his “vast business dealings”, the real-estate tycoon and his son both sent several donations to the current Democratic candidate. He has since declared that, as a businessman, he has given money to “everyone”, as that’s how business works (12). To my surprise, his clear volatility and interest-based behaviour is what most people find refreshing. At least with him, we know what it’s all about. A quote by the eternally funny Groucho Marx comes to my mind: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.” (13).
Ultimately, it will be very hard for the Republican party to get rid of Donald Trump. They put a man in the race that responds to no established belief-system and whom they cannot control. As Jon Stewart insightfully said on The Daily Show, they should have known better! After all, they’ve already been down this path before with a certain Alaska Governor… (14). Anyhow, the liberal media should now focus on how to report about Trump. Some, such as the staff at The Young Turks, have decided to pixel out Trump’s face whenever he is mentioned in their videos, as they consider Trump’s actions to be “attention-seeking” and not “news-worthy” (15). Admittedly, Donald Trump makes for great entertainment at times. I certainly am going to miss Stewart’s hilarious reporting on ‘The Donald’. Still, at the end of the day, we are giving this man a platform and joking about issues that could potentially have a disastrous impact on people’s lives. By painting a caricature of Trump and his views we might be picturing him as a harmless, unbalanced man. However, we may also be desensitising people from the violence of his message.