The Guardian, Editorial (3/2/16)
How did Donald Trump get to be where he is today ? And how did the US get there with him? These are the questions that matter most in the wake of his Super Tuesday victories because, whatever else may be true about Trump’s candidacy, this is emphatically not politics as usual in the United States. Politics are not normal when a charlatan can rise so rapidly to the top.
There are, it is true, immediate causes for his success, notably the miscalculations of the other candidates. They were too numerous, too rivalrous, and believed until too late that Mr Trump could simply be used to excite and enlarge the Republican constituency and that one of them would then inherit those riled-up voters after he had been discarded. There is also the fact that, bigot though he is, Mr Trump is an engaging man. His energy, his sheer driving chutzpah and his astonishing capacity to make his mistakes disappear overnight have had a mesmeric effect on many Americans. And he has made incoherence into a virtue: voters seem to positively like his constant somersaults, U-turns and cheery reversals of what he said just yesterday.
Decades of loss & betrayal
But the more fundamental causes must be sought in the long process of change, which has impoverished and disappointed ordinary Americans over the past few decades. Wages down, jobs, or at least good jobs, down, health, housing and other indices of the quality of life, down, and inequality soaring: it is a familiar story.
Election after election has been fought by both parties on the promise of reversing that process. Candidates for office long before Mr Trump crafted a similar message. On the left, the promise was combined with liberal positions on race, sexuality and migration. On the right, it was typically combined with conservative positions on guns, abortion, “patriotism”, marriage and religion, and with an implicit racism. What was in common was that neither party delivered on the first element in the package, partly because both, although in different ways, were dependent on corporate America. Republicans championed corporate interests; Democrats needed them. Either way, the wheels of inequality ground inexorably on. But, since it is such a familiar story, it has to be asked, why is it different this time around?
The answer may be that in the years since 1992, when Bill Clinton made his famous speech about still believing “in a place called Hope”, hope has withered. In spite of President Barack Obama’s virtues, and his similar promises, it has revived only fitfully during his time in office. Americans now know, with a certainty that was not there before, that their lives are getting worse, and that the lives of their children may well get worse still.
Govt. beyond control of the people
Ever since the 1970s they have been losing their ability to influence the government as the American right rolled back the achievements of the New Deal era and of LBJ’s Great Society, destroyed the unions, eroded employee security and bowed to Wall Street and the corporations on deregulation, tax and almost everything else.
Evil Of Two Lessers
(Daily Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2014. Open source and fee to use with link to www.thedailycall.org )
What has perhaps been happening with the Trump campaign is that people who see themselves as Republicans mainly because they are socially and culturally conservative have suddenly become more conscious of the fact that the elite of billionaires who form the leadership pool of the Republicans really care very little for the economic and class interests of the people who in the past have voted for them. They did not much like any of the gang on offer except Mr Trump. His card is his combination of social conservatism with an element of radicalism, as in his line, although it is constantly shifting, on healthcare. Somehow, although a billionaire himself, he has captured the voters’ anger.
He has not yet secured the nomination, and he could still lose it. If he is nominated, conventional wisdom suggests that will strengthen Hillary Clinton, and so we would be spared a President Trump. But Ms Clinton has some serious weaknesses. She is a quintessentially establishment candidate seeking support from an electorate in a pronounced anti-establishment mood. There are some aspects of her character — her reserve and her defensiveness — that make her less well liked than she should be, and some questions about her judgment. Democrats may hope that in a presidential contest Mr Trump would be resoundingly defeated in the way Senator Barry Goldwater was by Lyndon Johnson in 1964. But these are different times – crazy times, some would say – and anything is possible.