As the US Presidential race begins to heat up, it appears that both the Republican and Democratic party nominees are all but decided. After 8 years of Barack Obama, a President who Americans have grown increasingly frustrated with, it should be relatively smooth sailing to November for Republicans, it is their election to lose.
However, the Republican party is in disarray. The GOP establishment are bewildered, alarmed and miffed; the grassroots – not so much. The cause of the establishment meltdown? – Donald J Trump, ‘The Donald’ or simply ‘Trump’. Donald Trump has the GOP top brass scrambling to bring a halt to the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut that is Trump’s campaign. But thus far he appears more powerful than the party’s chiefs.
The Donald is currently splitting his party in half, with GOP big guns coming out to denounce him, like Mitt Romney, who Trump claims begged for his endorsement in 2012 while Romney was running for president, and John McCain, who Trump said wasn’t a war hero because he “likes guys who don’t get captured”. And yet, Trump seems to be winning over huge swathes of the electorate with his ‘say-it-like-it-is’ attitude. Trump is a bold, brash, billionaire businessman from New York, yet as incredible as it may seem to some, he was able to win many of the deeply-religious southern states during recent caucuses. This surprised many of ‘the pundits’, as Trump loves to call them, because many suspect that The Donald isn’t really that conservative, however perhaps this coup shouldn’t be all that surprising, because if there’s one thing that the Trump phenomenon proves it is that persona, if charismatic enough, is more important than ideology.
One thing the Trump campaign has been so good at doing is getting the ‘indifferent vote’ out, The Donald has seemingly struck a chord with people who wouldn’t normally vote. The reason for this is, as in many countries across Europe, many US voters are fed up with ‘politics as usual’, they want something different, something exciting and crucially a personality they can identify with instead of the usual politically correct suit and tie toeing the party line. Most of Trump’s supporters are just average Joes, they don’t have a private jet, or a billion-dollar property portfolio, therefore it may seem odd that they associate so strongly with the billionaire businessman. This association comes down to one crucial factor: communication.
Trump talks their language and is not afraid to say what many Americans think about a wide variety of issues, particularly illegal immigration. Over the last decade, the things Trump has been saying, particularly regarding illegal immigrants, have been frowned upon. Liberal politicians have been giving illegal immigrants more rights than ever, in California they even have driving licences. Many voters undoubtedly feel uncomfortable with this, but condemning this kind of politics seemed pointless, particularly in traditionally liberal states such as California. But suddenly, the ‘silent majority’, as Trump calls them, have a leader – everything has changed.
Arguably the genius of Donald Trump is that he realises more than any of his rivals that US politics is now essentially a reality TV show. Not only has he performed a hostile takeover of the Republican party, but he has been just as successful at hijacking the news agenda. How? The only way he knows: by being outrageous, there is hardly a group of people in the US that he hasn’t insulted in some shape or form. On the face of it this may seem like a bad way to get voters on side, and many are not on Trump’s side, but by sheer force of character he has got his (sometimes confused) agenda into the mainstream and a multitude of voters like it, he wins in most of the opinion polls, a fact he characteristically takes full advantage of.
The fundamental question of this campaign has to be: why is ‘why is Trump doing so well?’ The answer to this question is simple, he is promising to ‘MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN’. In a time where Americans feel like they are starting to fall from their long held perch as ‘leaders of the free world’ , what The Donald is promising to restore is what this generation of Americans have always had: power and national pride. Trump is loud and self confident, he never seems to doubt his abilities – sound familiar? – just look at the USA over the course of the last century. The Donald personifies what many Americans, and non Americans alike, love about the US: its strength of purpose, and it is partly due to this that the attacks of his rivals just seem to make him stronger, as an attack on Trump can almost feel personal to many of his supporters.
Donald Trump could be the next president of the most powerful nation on earth, however for this to happen he needs to do something he has always done so well: reinvent himself. If/when he eventually becomes the GOP nominee and he
faces off with his likely Democrat counterpart, Hillary Clinton, he needs to appear presidential. Clinton has many potentially crippling weakness that he does not. Clinton epitomises ‘politics as usual’, she is essentially an extension to Obama. Equally she is not trusted by the American public due to multiple scandals she has been at the centre of, including her emails, questions about The Clinton Foundation, and the Benghazi terror attack on the US consulate. If Trump can go after Clinton referencing just some of her chequered past, while remaining positive and on message it is possible that he can not only pick up the ‘Reagan Democrats’, non voters, blue collar workers and aspiring communities right across the United States, but even disgruntled Democrats who feel betrayed by their party.
Ultimately, one thing is clear, for a Trump presidency to happen the Republican party must get behind him and throw their support his way once/if he becomes the nominee. Trump is charismatic with a useful business acumen, he does have what it takes to give people enough hope and belief to believe in him and his plans (if clarified, simplified and maintained) for the future. However, once nominee he will have to calm down his rhetoric and pull back on his insults if he wants to pick up those crucial undecided voters. So what happens if Trump makes history and becomes the first reality TV star President? – With Donald Trump anything really is possible. The only certainty in this race is that President Obama will be ‘fired’ this November.