talkingWe need to talk about Donald.

He’s only gone and done it again: grabbed the headlines with a statement so provocative that you might be wondering if he’s banged his head on one of the ornamental nudes hanging above his big round bed. What must he have been doing to bounce that high? Perhaps we’re better off not knowing. After all, his idea is so outlandish it’s political lunacy. Does he really mean to ban all Muslims from entering the United States? What is he thinking?

Except, of course, Iowa is what he is thinking. Iowa in February.

Take two steps back from your outrage and try to put this into the context of the Republican primaries. This move immediately sets Trump apart from his rivals who have been quick to condemn his plan. Social media, naturally, had a meltdown with liberals rushing to interpret the comments in the worst possible way. Trump won’t much care and I guess he’ll be delighted if he’s offended sensibilities on the left. To him, it doesn’t much matter what Democrats think at this time. There will always be time to soften his stance once he’s picked all the confetti from his nose at the Republican national convention next July.

This move helps Trump regain the momentum he’s lost in recent weeks. He is making his most brazen offer yet to those staunch Republicans to whom this kind of incendiary rhetoric matches their own. Liberals can repeat as many times as they like that it’s wrong, muddled, and morally indefensible. All that might be true but since when did politics have to be right, planned, or morally pure? This is a Trump operation and Trump cares little about political ideals. With Trump it’s about the practicalities of the execution. This is a cold calculated gamble. It is another projection of the man.

T for TrumpHas there been anything like this before in American politics? I can think of two examples and one is the example you least expect me to say. Remember Hope? Remember the first campaign to elect Obama? Trump is not about Hope, obviously. Yet neither is he really about Fear. Trump is about something else that is equally unquantifiable but located wholly in a forceful personality. He is about solving problems the simplest ways possible. He doesn’t appeal to people’s minds but neither does he appeal to their hearts. Trump appeals to something much more fundamental. He really reaches for people’s guts. It’s the politics of instinct: that sense that things can’t really be so complicated and all we need is a straight talking pragmatist to take charge from all the ‘stupid people’. Commentators mock him for lacking detail but that’s his trick. People don’t want detail. They want reassurance. They want to hand the world’s problems over to a guy who promises them a really good deal.

So far, it has worked with Republican voters. Conservatives traditionally prefer the simple to the complex. Would it be really that outlandish to suggest that Trump is beginning to resemble that other great pragmatist, Ronald Reagan, a man who was also scorned by the media for his lack of sophistication but who connected with an electorate? Reagan could always cut a deal, even if it meant moderating his views. He cut a deal with Iran to bring the hostages home and he cut a deal with the USSR. Trump is positioning himself in the very same way. ‘I’ll cut a deal’ is one of the phrases you often hear him say. It doesn’t mean much but is says a lot to an audience that finds something deeply appealing about the simplicity of Trump’s solutions.

So when Trump says ‘ban all Muslims’ what he is really saying is more complex than straightforward xenophobia would allow. It is about simplification and understatement. If the problem was the hole in the ozone layer, he’d say ‘we’ll fill the hole. How hard can it be?’ If it was famine he’d say ‘we’ll grow more food. It can’t be that difficult!’ And when the problem comes from fundamentalist Islam, his answer is equally simple, naive, outrageous and shrewd.

Liberals will naturally cry everything from racism to fascism and it’s impossible to say that they are wrong. Trump is working the psyche of American voters in a way we’ve not seen before. It is as compelling as it is frightening and how you view America will determine whether you think his latest gamble will succeed or fail.

 

David Waywell writes and cartoons at The Spine.

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12 Comments on "Mr Trump has a bright idea"

  1. David, If I were American I would actually find Trumps proposals to be a preferable and more logical response than the PATRIOT Act which focused on infringing the civil liberties of all US citizens, that is not to say I, should point out, that I think either is a particularly good idea. It is interesting that the media has gone ballistic on this but had very little to say on the PATRIOT act. It would seem mass surveillance and infringement of the privacy of your own citizens is fine, but a travel ban on a selective group of foreigners is not. I see also that David Cameron has not learned the painful lesson of the last Conservative PM Joh Major, being not to intervene in the domestic politics of the USA. When asked about Trumps comments a simple “no comment” would have sufficed, if god help us Trump manages to somehow gain the presidency I would love to be a fly on the wall at their first meeting.

    • Thanks for the comment, Rob. I absolutely agree that there are worst things out there than Trump’s broad-brush approach to politics. The Patriot Act like the UK’s Communications Data Bill is far more worrying but it requires a small degree of familiarity with the concepts involved before you understand how worrying it is.

      Not seen Cameron’s comments yet (been out all morning) but I’ll now go and acquaint myself with the latest guff to emerge from that quarter.

      Trump, on the other hand, is engaged in provoking liberals to make him seem like the champion of Republican values. Reading The Guardian this morning, I was really disappointed at how predictable the responses have been. Owen Jones has written a piece in which he complains that Trump is making extremism the new mainstream. I’ve seen that argument repeated ad nauseam on Twitter. That’s not how I see it. It’s the media who too often censor this kind of view, pretend that such opinions don’t exist or only exist in the fringes. That’s dangerous. The conversations I overhear routinely involve the kinds of views that Nehad helpfully repeated here the other day. They need voicing so they can be properly countered or properly woven into rational debate. What is worrying isn’t that Trump is aiming his rhetoric at a disenfranchised part of the electorate but that part of the electorate has become so disenfranchised. The worst thing anybody can say in response to Trump is ‘we don’t talk about those things’ because, in the everyday, that translates to the ‘but we’re not supposed to say that’ line of argument which is usually the gateway to all manner of vile rhetoric.
      As to the reality of Trump’s plan: it’s more muddle headed than the wall, which at least had the benefit of producing jobs, boost to the construction industry, and might actually stop some of the people smuggling. You can’t ban people based on their religion for no other reason that there’s no way to look into a person’s soul and read their beliefs. Besides, America has many more problems inside its borders. Christian fundamentalism and gun lobby are far more frightening.

    • I kind of agree. As I’m reading this, I’m thinking “I guess Trump’s radicalism is the answer to the radicalism on the left.” Honestly, Trump scares me, because of his extreme beliefs – I would love to know “what will be” if he were really to be elected.

      When he made those comments I cringed, and thougth “a temporary ban on all Muslims until we find a solution” would have been radical enough, without being outright discriminatory. But then again, what does he really intend to do, if he were to be elected president?

      • Thanks Menu. I understand and share (to a degree) your concerns. But I also think that Trump is really too shallow to really believe any of this guff. I don’t think I’ve heard an ideological word emerge from his mouth since the campaign began. He is a popularist and he’s appealing to a certain type of right-wing voter who will look at all the negative media and think it’s a badge of honour. Once he wins the Republican nomination, Trump will soften like, I believe, Romney did at the last election. He will turn his attention to the next part of his plan which will be to broaden his appeal.

        As to what a President Trump would be like… Well, I don’t see it happening. He might win the nomination but not the presidency. My betting this far out is a comfortable win for Clinton. If Trump did get into power: all these ‘extreme beliefs’ would be dumped fairly quickly. My guess is that he’d be a slightly more articulate Bush, less likable that Reagan, and probably one term. Sometimes the rhetoric of the left is as daft as the rhetoric the right spewed about Obama. America has a system a bit like here in the UK where the machine of state continues to turn even with a buffoon at the helm. Our Prime Minister doesn’t really run the country. It’s the Civil Service. I imagine America is not too different. The real dangers are elsewhere. Fundamentalist Christians, the far right, and the gun lobby worry me much more than Trump who is merely playing politics like he does business: hard, mean, and dirty. The best thing the liberal media could do is simply shut up about him. Instead, he’s set the agenda for the next week.

  2. This reminds me of The Siege from 1998. A film in which after a series of terror attacks by Islamic terrorists the Government declare martial law and interned the Muslim population. I would not be surprised if that were now to happen. But it will be France not the USA that will do it

    • Hard not to look beyond America interning Japanese Americans during WW2 but with Le Pen’s recent victories it wouldn’t be impossible in France. And all of it would play into the warped logic of the terrorists…

  3. I went into a small chippy for lunch today. I was the only customer at the time and the telly was tuned to the news. The statement from Trump about refusing all muslims entry to the USA came up and I fixed eyes on the girl who was frying. I said “How does he expect to do THAT, then?” The fryer said “Ha ha, it’s just Donald Trump doing his thing”. I put it to you that the girl in my chippy has it perfectly in perspective. I wish she’d learn to fry, though!!

    • Wise words, David, but I would say that: I think it was precisely my point but crediting Trump with a side order of political calculation and a dollop of media savvy. Anybody who believes that Trump is the new Hitler (those memes is going all around Twitter tonight) clearly overestimates Trump. He’s a capitalist and all he’s doing is exploiting the mood of the market to sell his product.

      PS. You chippy sounds a lot better than my chippy, though they do make make good fish and chips.

  4. The hysteria being propogated by the nedia surrounding a possible Trump nomination and win of the presidency reminds me of a similar situation in 1999 and 2003 surrounding George W Bush. If we go further back, the situation was similar in the 80s during the Reagan presidency (remember the sadistic jibes about senility and “cowboy” politics). I wonder when “liberal” commentators like David will learn that it’s not necessarily right-wing or left-wing policies, it’s about capturing the mood of the nation – David I put the word “liberal” in inverted commas about you for a few reasons – anongst them the unjustifiably cruel cartoon you drew of David Cameron. Who cares whether he wears a hairpiece? – all politicians are self-concious – but ad hominem attacks are – or should be – beneath you. It reminds me of the old soccer adage: “if you can’t play the ball, play the man”.
    Getting back to the article – Reagan captured the mood of the nation, as did Jimmy Carter (after Wateregate), Bill Clinton and George W Bush. Barack Obama’s “yes, we can” campaign succeeded for the same reason and Trump is on his way too, even with his comments. Some people may not like it – it’s just politics. (In the UK, Thatcher succeeded in 1979 for the same reason, and here in Israel, Bibi did the same this year.) The truth is, if Trump captures the mood in the US, all the negative publicity in the world (and jibes about his hair) won’t stop him in his bid. (David, once again I must disagree with you – Hillary already has too much baggage to succeed in the general election, even if she does win the Democratic nomination.)

    • Thank you, Stacey, for the comment. I’ll take your points in turn:

      1. You describe me as a ‘liberal’ commentator, albeit you do me the favour of putting the liberal part in quotes. I would hardly call myself that, least of all because I believe this is one of the very few articles to make a defense of Trump. I wrote this at midnight on Monday, when the story had just broke here in the UK. Yesterday the media (including the right wing press) all turned on Trump. I think they are wrong for reasons which I address in a new article due up this afternoon.

      2. What does it mean when you call me ‘liberal’? I take it that it’s meant in a pejorative sense in order to lump me in with all the people you can dismiss as holding opinions contrary to your own. The fact is that had you read my article, you would note that I am saying pretty much what you are saying: that Trump is popularist, tapping into the mood of his electorate. Liberals tend to write out of a sense of what they think they should say. I never do that. Where we probably disagree is with the substance of Trump’s argument. I do so not out of any wish to join the choirs of orthodoxy but because Trump’s plan simply will not work. Banning Muslims will not ban Jihadist terrorists. People willing to annihilate themselves for their faith are not above using false passports, denying their identity/religion, or crossing borders illegally. Trump is merely playing dog whistle politics. Nothing less. Nothing more.

      3. My Cameron cartoon was possibly not ad hominem enough but, nevertheless, criticising a cartoonist for using that technique is like complaining that a musician used the minor key. It is the nature of caricature to make a face look worse than it is for no other reason than ridicule. It’s a long tradition going back to Hogarth and the rest. Actually, this was one of my kinder cartoons and if I was drawing for my own blog, I might not be so gentle. I wish I could be as wicked as Scarfe so I could offend more people.

      4. Incidentally, I’ve noticed that in 10 years of producing satirical images, I only ever catch flack from those from the political right. Never from the left. I find that interesting and encourages me to aim for more of it. I might have to write about it.

      5. You ask who cares whether he wears a hairpiece. Well, I care and many people I know care. Cameron is the most self-absorbed, vain, egotistical Prime Minister we’ve had. His hair is very much a symbol of the man: styled to hide his flaws but ultimately a charade of power. His obsession with ‘appearances’ continually undermines the substance of his policies. Yesterday he toured areas hit by flooding but it was reported that he had a lackey go buy him a cheap pair of Wellington boots fearing how his usual pair might look. He wanted to look like he cares but the reality is that government have cut funds for flood defences year upon year. A few week ago, he tried to look ‘compassionate’ by complained to his own council about their harsh cutbacks, seeming unaware that it was his government’s austerity policies that caused the closure of libraries, daycare centres, and so much more across the country. People suffer daily because of those cutbacks. I will save you the personal biography which details the impact those cuts have had on my family and friends but I can assure you that they are many. The roads and pavements are so bad, in fact, that my sister tripped up on a hazardous path two months ago and broke her teeth, costing £200 to repair. Last Friday, my mother tripped and smashing her glasses (£300 to replace) which sliced open the bridge of her nose which was also broken in the process. We have now complained twice to the council who have now twice blamed cuts from government, which, incidentally, are cynically directed at Labour controlled areas of the country.

      5b. You cricitise me for descending to an ‘ad hominem’ attack on Cameron but I should point out that this is Cameron’s usual line of attack. He called Mark Reckless a ‘fat arse’ whilst Ian King, the journalist, revealed this about Cameron in the Elliot/Hanning book ‘Cameron: Practically a Conservative’:

      I was unfortunate enough to have dealings with Cameron during the 1990s when he was PR man for Carlton, the world’s worst television company.

      And a poisonous, slippery individual he was, too.

      Back then, Cameron was far from the smoothie he pretends to be now. He was a smarmy bully who regularly threatened journalists who dared to write anything negative about Carlton – which was nearly all of us. He loved humiliating people, including a colleague at ITV, who he would abuse publicly as ‘Bunter’ just because the poor bloke was a few pounds overweight.

      If it is to be liberal to dislike a ‘smarmy bully’, then I am guilty as charged but I attack anybody who I perceive as using their power, status, or wealth to hurt others.

      6. Regarding Thatcher etc, you are restating the point of my article which is that Trump is merely giving people what they want. He is a businessman and businessmen look at the market demand and serve that demand.

      7. I still think that Trump will win the Republican nomination but I’d like to see polling based on his latest outburst. In my less cynical moments, I think the response in the media has been so negative that it might harm him. In more my usual cynical moments, I think that people are prone to listen to their devils and will vote for Trump.

      8. Sanders is flagging and Hilary seems to be emerging from the contest stronger than when she began. I thought she was far too structured and ‘professional’ at the beginning. She’s loosened up and I think that’s helped her. In the main election race next year, it largely depends on the Republicans. If Hilary goes against Trump, people’s indifference to Hiliary will become a secondary point and Democrats will emerge as they did for Obama 1 to ensure a Democrat gets into the White House. Republicans might win if somebody like Rubio manages to fight back and win the nomination. The rest of the Republican field make Mitt Romney look competent.

  5. David,

    I would like to address a couple of points you made: as someone who considers himself a libertarian, I would be loathe to use the word liberal as a perjorative – the inverted commas were supposed to intimate that you try to be liberal when in fact you are far from it.
    As I wrote, Hillary Clinton just has too much baggage to emerge victorious in a general election. However, if you are looking to improve your anti-left credentials, I am sure you could draw a great cartoon using Mrs Clinton’s endless supply of pant-suits as a theme and write an article that uses her hubby’s fondness for interns as part of the subject matter. I am sure that would provoke howls of anguish from the left
    You write that you only seem to get flak from those on the right: maybe you just don’t give enough prominemce to what I am sure are your many attacks of left-wing politicians. Cartoons are one thing – the “double-whammy” of cartoons and prose are OTT in my opinion. You use the tradition of Hogarth et al to justify the Cameron piece. I admit, I was unaware that Hogarth included critical wreiting in his works – I am just a product of the falling standards in the UK educational system, so forgive my lack of knowledge.
    You write about the failings of your local council. I can assure you, local councils are the same everywhere: none of them have enough money, they all blame the central government and if you are looking for cracked pavements and pot holes in the road, just make a flying visit to this part of the world.
    By the way, despite my criticism, I still enjoy reading your articles.

    • Thanks again, Stacey.

      I don’t try to be liberal as I don’t try to be a right-wing contrarian. I am just me, 300 miles away from London, struggling to find work but writing and drawing which are my two loves. I don’t pander to either side but neither do I care all that much for either side. I have drawn far more cartoons about Corbyn than I have Cameron lately and during Blair and Brown’s era I was very prolific, with quite a few of my cartoons/photoshops appearing in the mainstream press. I would draw far more Clinton and will no doubt draw more Clinton next year but, to be honest, I haven’t yet mastered her face. Also, she tends to be a little too boring to easily think up cartoons. At the moment, I just enjoy drawing Trump. It’s more of an intellectual exercise of my learning a craft.

      I have blogged for 10 years and, genuinely, criticism has always come from the right. Those on the left tend to be more snarling and rebellious and perhaps more agreeable to the spirit of a cartoon.

      Are cartoons and prose OTT? I don’t really know. My two heroes are Hunter S Thompson and Ralph Steadman and I like to produce a complete package without needing others. There is nothing to it except I write seriously in the day and draw as my hobby at night. I can only apologise if you think that’s too much but it’s just what I do.

      I was using Hogarth as an example of really nasty cartoons but I could equally have said Scarfe. The point is, I like nasty cartoons so long as they attack people in power. Again, I can only apologise though I am on my best behaviour when I’m on Tim’s site. My mind is much more scatological than I allow here.

      That’s not true about local councils. Figures show that cuts to the North of the country are much bigger than those to the south and, in particular, Cameron’s constituency. I understand the need for some cuts but not those that destroy the infrastructure. Fixing roads tomorrow will cost more than fixing them today. I also fail to see who benefited by demolishing the local college that gave people a route out of poverty for the past 100 years.

      I am, of course, glad that you enjoy reading the articles and hope you’ll continue to do just that. 😉

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