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American politics and the Trump factor

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The US is a strange country and one that is full of contradictions. The candidacy of Donald Trump is exposing its hypocrisies. Let us hope it will force Americans to take a closer look at themselves. We have always looked at that country as the fountain of democracy and the land of the free.{{more}}

The US media, which is our daily fare, has shaped our understanding of American society, but if we were to look beyond the headlines and the glamour, we will see another side of America that will shock us. The Declaration of Independence told us that all men are created equal. Slavery was then in existence and certainly this was not meant for Blacks. The treatment of Blacks, even up to today, tells its own story. But it is their politics, controlled by the moneyed elite that reveal so much. According to a recent poll, only 29 per cent of Americans believe that Obama was born in the US. Despite evidence to the contrary, many firmly believe that he is Muslim. When Obama was first elected president, the Republican political elites met to plot against him and to fight everything he stood for. But he was elected on two occasions! Ben Carson is receiving strong polling, even tying with Trump in one State. Speak about contradictions! But Carson’s strong point is that he is an Afro American who seems to stand against everything Black America stands for. He is one of Obama’s strongest critics. He wants to defund Planned Parenthood. He is against Obamacare. What better House slave to have? The question is how far will he get, for there are many Americans who will go stone crazy if they see another Black in the White House.

Political consultants and media personnel are still trying to come to grips with Trump’s hold on a section of the Republican Party. They are trumped by his stickability, as revealed by his position in the polls. They had all expected him to disappear by now and their favourite answer to the Trump puzzle is to state that Americans are disgusted with political insiders. I want to throw some other reasons on the table. I am firmly of the view that America possesses a high level of political illiteracy. Americans by and large know very little outside their immediate environs. Anyone who can call Obama a Socialist and Communist must have lost all sense of reality. Americans love celebrities, the rich and powerful. They want to be like them. Imagine some claim that their love for Trump is that he sounds like them and is like them! This says a lot. They like simplicity, so the answer to the immigration problem is to build a wall between Mexico and the US and to get the Mexicans to pay for it. In every speech, this man makes his vanity reign supreme. He brags about his wealth, as if what is good for Trump is good for America; yes, he who has declared bankruptcy on a number of occasions. He just has to say the word and China, Russia and Iran will bow to him. Everyone, he claims, likes him; even the illegal immigrants whom he has insulted and wants to throw out of the country! After all, he employs many of them! He claims for the benefit of the evangelicals that the Bible is his favourite book, but is unable to quote a verse from it. All children born of undocumented immigrants will be returned, the ‘anchor babies’ so-called. His appeal also has to do with his bombastic style, his TV reality image, and an ego that knows no bounds. America needs victories and he will provide many victories. There are many things that he will do, but is not revealing how. When he is asked about his policies he reminds them of his wealth, and his success. He can build the Wall, because he is a builder. He has many buildings to his name. He gets his foreign policy information from looking at television programmes. That’s keeping it simple, Donald!

The frightening truth about all of this is that even if he does not get the Republican nomination, he will have shaped their agenda. Scott Walker is not ruling out a Wall at the Canadian border. Others are beginning to pattern themselves after him and to spout the nonsense that flows out of his mouth. Christie will track immigrants who have overstayed their visas like FedEx tracks their packages! But he sometimes stumbles on to policies that go against the grain of Republican thinking. Wealthy people should pay regular federal income tax. He is apparently against immediate defunding of Planned Parenthood. Foreign policy to him is like ABC. But you cannot tell with Trump, for he is largely unscripted and would say many contradictory things within the same day. He gets away with a lot that others will not be able to. He insults people, especially those associated with the media. This is part of his simplicity push.

We are told that Trump is capitalizing on the conservative outrage that bestrides American politics. It is my belief that his views are not far different from other Republicans, but he doesn’t hide what he has to say. He bellows it out and lets them know that everything about him is genuine. He even lets his audience touch his hair to convince them that it is not false. He has strong support from tea party activists like Sarah Palin, the political clown who was unable to name any newspaper she reads. But there are others like David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and other supremacist organizations. The real test of America will manifest itself with the political fortunes of Ben Carson and Donald Trump.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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