Donald Trump: New face of America?

Rashid A Mughal

Those who are watching the American Presidential election keenly are surprised. Some are perturbed and some scared. Many are shocked and even confused to hear and see the election results, so far. For some it is the most eventful election in a way. No one thought or predicted that the eccentric, baised, revengeful, racist and a temperamental person of narrow vision whose knowledge of International affairs is extremely limited, could get the nomination of the Republican party, Even the senior party heads are having nightmares as to how a man like Trump would go that high in securing the necessary delegates, required for the party nomination. What perhaps started as fun has now transformed in to reality and all the big wigs in the Republican party, who initially joined the race, had to either quit the race out of desperation or retire after having seen the voters mood.
A person like Trump who consistently and continuously showed mistrust for media and even refused to come on CNN, has so far managed to not only maintaining a lead over his rivals within the party but has defied all political and ethical norms for running in the Presidential elections of the world’s most powerful country. When it comes to media, he labels them as dishonest and horrible human beings. He goes on to assert that if he’s elected as President, it is going to be like this.
“Yeah, it is. … It is going to be like this,” Trump responded when a reporter asked whether we should expect the same press-bashing if he winds up in the White House, answering” yes” with a frankness that no right-thinking Washington political consultant would recommend.
Writing in The New York Times, Seglin says “The one moment where he didn’t seem to change the subject or deflect was when asked if he would behave as he did today if he is president. A simple, ‘yes,’ was his answer. “And, for Seglin, that response was notable. “After a press conference full of name calling, deflection, and a lack of press pressing him on specifics, that one “yes” seemed to be a moment of brutal honesty about who he is, how he is, and how he continues to be.
If you think that the primary season was ugly, with Trump versus Clinton in the general election, it’s about to get much, much worse. “This is perhaps the long way round to saying that the problem of Donald Trump is that we face someone who is superb at projecting an integrity that, at root, he lacks.” “Trump is not deeply honest, but he can aver deep honesty. So far we’ve allowed him to get away with it.” Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine asserts that Trump University, he set up, was a “total scam,” as demonstrated by the unsealed documents and observes that the Trump presidential campaign is also rooted in deceitful tactics. He concludes, “The campaign, like the ‘university,’ is a fraud designed to benefit Trump by exploiting the uneducated, the desperate, and the vulnerable.”
According to Greg Sergeant of The Washington Post, Trump is personally cruel and rapacious: He and his presidential candidacy, are directly screwing people.” As Trump is escalating his conflict with the news media, the representatives of journalism are fighting back. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee touched off a firestorm when he spent much of his combative news conference in New York recently blasting the media, and singling out some reporters for derision. “I’m going to continue to attack the press,” he declared. “…I find the press to be extremely dishonest. I find the political press to be unbelievably dishonest.” He also called journalists “not good people” and sleazy.
Asked if he would maintain his anti-media hostility if he became president, Trump told reporters, “Yeah, it is going to be like this. You think I’m gonna change? I’m not gonna change,” unless the media does a better job and covers him fairly. Thomas Burr, President of the National Press Club, rejected Trump’s argument that the media should be “ashamed of themselves” because they investigated his fundraising for military veterans. “Donald Trump misunderstands—or, more likely, simply opposes—the role a free press plays in a democratic society,” Burr said in a news release. “Reporters are supposed to hold public figures accountable. Any American political candidate who attacks the press for doing its job is campaigning in the wrong country. In the United States, under our Constitution, a free press is a check on politicians of all parties.
Earlier in the campaign, Trump warned that as president he would try to change the libel laws to make it easier for him to sue news organizations for stories he doesn’t like and that he believes are wrong or biased against him. His campaign has denied credentials to some news organizations that Trump feels criticize him too much. He also made fun of a New York Times reporter who has a physical disability, waving his arms erratically to imitate manifestations of the reporter’s ailment. At his rallies, Trump regularly points out the media, penned inside a restricted space, and invites the crowd to jeer at them.
“I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job,” Trump said at the New York press conference. During questioning from reporters, Trump called one journalist “a sleaze” and said sarcastically that another was “a real beauty.” Trump’s purpose appears to be to divert attention from issues or developments that damage his campaign, and to undermine the media’s credibility so voters don’t believe negative stories about him.
But over the last eight months, Trump has shown that the racism in his announcement speech was just his opening bid. Since then he has built a nativist campaign aimed at a long list of Others. He has questioned eligibility of President Obama for not being native American because of place of his birth and deployed same argument against other candidates to suggest that Cuban-Americans Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are ineligible for the presidency. He has called for a national database of American Muslims and a visa ban for Muslim travellers. He has ridiculed women and people with disabilities, lauded Japanese internment, and goaded his supporters to violence. This animus won him the support last week of David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
Republican leaders can’t be blamed for missing the rise of Trump. But the party must take responsibility for cultivating a base receptive to Trump. For decades Republican politicians worked to perfect dog-whistle politics. There was a certain genius to the coded language of “law and order,” “welfare queens,” “inner-city problems,” and “states’ rights.” The words blended anxieties over crime, economic insecurity, urban decline and federal power with racism. It marked a perverse sort of progress: Open racism was no longer politically palatable, so politicians had to offer something else.
By the mid-2000s, it was becoming clear that the Republican Party was a victim of its own success. President George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism helped him win 44 percent of the Hispanic vote, a number unmatched by any other modern Republican candidate. But when he tried to move forward with immigration reform, a sizable chunk of the Republican base mobilized to stop him. In the heated battles that followed, it became clear that within the Republican Party, a rhetorical commitment to Hispanic voters was fine. A political commitment was not.
Since then, party leaders have tried to have it both ways, pursuing both minority outreach and dog-whistle politics at the same time. Enter Trump. Rather than pitch his racism so only fellow racists can hear, he speaks in a normal register. He may obfuscate – a “lousy earpiece” here, a “RT endorsement” there – but on the whole he has elevated subtext to text. And doing so has netted him three of four early primary states and a substantial polling lead going into Super Tuesday.
Not all Trump voters are racists. Some feel so alienated by American politics that they are willing to discount Trump’s racist comments, which is itself a challenge Americans must face head on. It would be easy to write this off as a Republican problem. But the Charleston massacre serves as a stark reminder that this is an American problem. Those murders happened before Trump began mainstreaming the nativism, racism and violence at the heart of his campaign. It will take all of us to battle the flames he has fanned.
But as he is the front-runner for the nomination, Republicans have a special obligation to stand against Trump’s racism. Candidates trying to navigate the Trump phenomenon have tried various tactics: ignoring him, shadowing him, echoing him. Now that it has been made plain that Trump is courting the racist vote, Republicans must now unequivocally denounce him. But they must also purge any vestige of the politics of racism from their party, from attempts to suppress the black vote to immigration policy requiring the forced expulsion of millions of people. Only once they make it clear that their party does not want the racist vote can they forestall another candidacy like Trump’s.
— The writer is Former Consultant, International Labour Organisation and International Organisation for Migration, Director (Emigration), Protector of Emigrants.

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