American citizen Saqib Sheikh tells us what to take not of regarding the presidential nominee.
(Please note: This article should not be taken as an endorsement of any particular candidate or party. For those unfamiliar, presidential elections in the US are normally fought between two main parties, Democrats and Republicans).
If there is one thing Donald Trump is good at, it is creating an uproar. The real estate mogul and current Republican Presidential nominee has created a furore with his recent proposal to ban all Muslim immigration to the US (mercifully, Muslims who happen to be US citizens like myself are spared). Predictably, the mainstream media has gone apoplectic in their indignation, while even right-wing Republicans like former VP Dick Cheney are distancing themselves from this proposal. As a keen observer of the current presidential race, I didn’t find his latest suggestion, fascistic as it was in its overtones, particularly over-the-top given his statements over the last few months. What I can do right now is highlight a few facts about Donald Trump, the would-be president, that those who have just tuned in may have missed:
1. Trump is a political chameleon
It wouldn’t be too unfair to say that Trump doesn’t subscribe to any standard political philosophy, and defies labels of conservative or liberal. Though he is running in a Republican primary, in the past he has held some positions closer to left-leaning Democrats. Most likely, as a businessman, he probably didn’t hold any hardcore positions on issues, or give it much attention. At his core, he seems to be a combination of opportunist, nationalist and populist, taking (what he sees) as commonsense solutions with appeal to the nativist base of the Republican party that the incompetent politicians don’t have the guts or lack of political correctness to implement.
2. Trump is a clever campaigner
For those outside the US, they may still remember Trump as a media clown based on some clips from The Apprentice. The truth is, while he certainly has a dearth of knowledge of policy and governance, he has proven to be a canny operator on the political campaign. Presidential campaigns can be hugely expensive (President Obama’s campaign spent over $1 billion to win the office in 2008), and a huge chunk of this money goes into political advertising. Trump has claimed that his campaign is entirely self-financed without the need for corporate donors (who later dictate decisions for candidates as a return for their contributions). He has managed to shortcut the need for advertising by dominating the media headlines with his periodic over-the-top statements (usually against minorities like Mexicans or African-Americans or Muslims). These statements would normally be a death knell for normal politicians, yet in Trump’s case, they have only added to his popularity with the Republican base. And during interviews, Trump has mastered the techniques for deflecting questions on his (lack of) judgement or knowledge, or has even outright bullied the reporters into submission.
3. The other Republican candidates are not much better
While the other, more establishment Republican candidates in the field (the original field was something like 15 candidates) may lack Trump’s bombast and crudeness, their policy suggestions are often not any less extreme. On foreign policy, the majority of them are hawkish and would push for more US involvement overseas (read: war). Trump likes to taut himself as the most militaristic of them all, yet on Syria, for example, he doesn’t see a clear interest for US troops on the ground, unlike many of the others on the stage. And his proposal to halt Muslim immigration, though headline-grabbing, is not that far removed from other candidates, like Rand Paul, who proposes to halt immigration immediately to the US from over 30 Middle East countries.
The scary thing about Trump is that he cannot simply be dismissed as a joke candidate. As it stands, he has a gigantic lead in the polls of nearly 20 points ahead of the next contender. And the primary elections begin in only two months. The Trump phenomenon may be something that outsiders would consider unbelievable, but in less than a year, it is not impossible to foresee President Trump taking the podium.
Featured Image: YouTube