Monday, April 4, 2016
Imagine Praveen Togadia becoming the prime minister of India. Or Vijay Mallya. That is the kind of scenario that is developing in the US with Donald Trump's apparently unstoppable race to the White House. He is full of ideological hatreds which he publicly proclaims. And he beats Mallya hollow in exhibitionist flamboyance.
Additionally, he has his own special characteristics as well that would be an embarrassment for a US President. He seems to cherish looking buffoonish and he can be vulgar in words and actions. He has had university education, though his grammar and syntax point otherwise. An academic research group said recently that his vocabulary was below that of 6-8 graders. But he is unfazed, saying that "I am representing a tremendous many many millions of people".
(Inadequate command of the mother tongue is no bar to the American presidency as all those who "misunderestimated" George Bush realise. People have assembled books and videos on Bushisms ranging from "you teach a child to read and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test" to "the great thing about books is that sometimes there are fantastic pictures". This man's murder of the English language is worse than his mass murders in Iraq).
Clearly the rise of Donald Trump marks an epochal change in American -- and therefore world -- politics. The two-party system that ruled America all these years is on the brink of collapse. That such an untypical candidate can capture so much popular support has shocked the system and stunned the Republican Party establishment. There have been incidents of violence in political rallies, clashes between Trump supporters and others, major Republican leaders conspiring to derail their challenger and Trump warning the conspirators that there would be rioting if backhand moves were made against him -- all unprecedented, and indeed unthinkable developments in US election politics.
The Republican Party's national convention (at which the party nominee for president is formally selected) is to be held in July. Given Trump's impressive support base, the Party establishment can stop him only by resorting to stratagems like "contested" convention and "brokered" convention. That would infuriate Trump and lead to unpredictable counter actions, changing American politics in drastic ways.
Why has the Trump candidacy divided Americans and the Republican Party so deeply? There have been dubious Republican candidates in the past and some had won, like Bush and Richard Nixon. In these cases the candidates had established political roots. Nixon had been Vice President earlier and Bush belonged to a political family. Donald Trump is a complete outsider. His experience is confined to real estate business and television. The rise of such an outsider is something that the establishment seems unable to stomach.
His stated policy positions alienate and frighten a great many people beyond party lines. He is against all minorities and Mexicans; he sees them as parasites. He opposes immigrants taking jobs away from Americans. He detests Muslims and says: "The IS is making $ 400 million a year on oil. I've been saying it for years. We need to bomb the oil". He has thrown hints that he might even be a White supremacist; he has been supported by the Ku Klux Klan. According to The Guardian of Britain, "President Trump could be as big a threat as jihadi terrorism to global economy". The Economist sees Trump's rise as a global threat. Many describe him as the most dangerous man in America.
For all that, America and the world have to confront the question: How come such a dangerous man is being supported by so many of his countrymen? This is where we will have to acknowledge the rise of new revolutionary waves among significant sections of Americans. White lower and middleclass segments of the population seem to be protesting at last against the entrenched liberal-rich sections that have controlled things with their big donations and commercial lobbies. There is resentment against the unending flow of immigrants, especially uneducated and unskilled Latinos, who take away jobs while contributing nothing to America. Elements even among the educated class resent ideas like free trade that help countries like China at America's cost. These are complex issues with multiple layers of realities. But they feed the emotions of a people who feel increasingly that they are more sinned against than sinning. To them Trump looks attractive with his slogan: Put the interests of America above everything else.
It's a new America. It's a new world. It could be a new war.