History shows to us that common mistakes happens generation after generation and usually people are condemned to repeat them. This is no different when we go through the joyful world of politics, specifically American politics, where colorful characters appear once in a while and amaze the world with their ideas during the presidential races. The process is the same every 4 years: vast political propaganda and media coverage; a president is elected and the duel between democrats and republicans continues over ‘n over again. However 2015 showed us a break of this paradigm.
One of those colorful candidates appeared, breaking all political rules, with a cheesy political slogan and condemning the world and everyone around with flaming arguments and polemical statements. If this seems an ordinary politician for you, it may not when we say that the person is Donald Trump
The guy simply emerged this year as a potential candidate for the 2016 elections, running as a presidential candidate for the GOP, breaking the internet and if not soon the reputation of the Republican Party. Trump started his campaign as “that guy that everyone is talking about”. His reputation as a business entrepreneur and polemical statements already made the headlines. Until the end of this year he established himself as the politician that inaugurated the Extreme Right in the US of A, making even the most conservative republicans look like Bill Maher. His range of public speeches goes from “building a huge wall around the south border of the US”, “Banning all Muslims from entering the country” to mocking disabled people and immigrants.
Trump is actually taking a percentage of voters that are actually dissatisfied with the American political system (Dem and Reps), have some extreme views over immigrants and want someone “do what is right” to eliminate these issues(where the meaning of right may be challenging). The problem itself is that he represents the worst of politics, using populist rhetoric to call attention of those in need through ignorant, racist and xenophobic statements; using someone or a specific range of people as guilty for economical and political problems and calling everyone to fight against the enemy.
In this article I will try to explain if we need to take Donald’s assessments seriously.
Now, the first thing that comes to your mind, when a politician mentions such a thing is the inter war period (1918–1939), where some politicians used to blame a specific range and class of people for all the problems that were happening in the country. According to Trump, “Muslim’s must be banned from entering the US; A big wall must be built in the southern borders to avoid mexicans from entering the US and the chinese are stealing our jobs”. Always there is someone to blame, but no solutions are proposed.
Instigating people’s fears is not always a very good idea. We all know what happened in History when this formula was used.
During the 1930's, the 1929 crisis affected everyone’s jobs and future life plans, worlwide. Unemployment hit huge numbers, companies went bankrupt and political caos in many different countries emerged. Countries that were directly affected by the first world war in Europe and the 29 economical crisis supported the emergence of autoritharian governments. The rethoric used by these was one that blamed a specific range of groups (jewish) for the present caos, the true enemies were their neighbors (allied powers) and neither socialism or capitalism were the answer for the future. After that, you know the story.
Evidently Trump is no saint and he knows how to use political propaganda to call people’s attention. As a business enterpreneur he knows how to make his personal marketing – even if it fails miserably and his reputation goes down the hole. His arguments and tactics are the same ones used by those who emerged in power during the inter war period. Pure and simple, no strong analysis is needed to notice this, even the POTUS agrees:
“I do think that when you combine that demographic change with all the economic stresses that people have been going through — because of the financial crisis, because of technology, because of globalization, the fact that wages and incomes have been flat-lining for some time, and that particularly blue-collar men have had a lot of trouble in this new economy, (…)— you combine those things, and it means that there is going to be potential anger, frustration, fear.
Some of it justified, but just misdirected. I think somebody like Mr. Trump is taking advantage of that. That’s what he’s exploiting during the course of his campaign.” — Barack Obama
Classical academic studies usually point that these kind of politicians, who have extremist views are usually supported when economical and political crisis emerge. We can cite some examples
- 1929 Crisis — Emergence of authoritarian governments in Europe and in other countries
- Cold War — African Deconolization — Independence movements by dictatorital military governments, i.e: Idi Amin Dada,
- 2008 post crisis — Neo fascist and extreme right movements gain popularity in Europe, i.e: Greek Golden Dawn.
Despite some long-term recession residuals, as Obama pointed, the curious scenario here is that the US is no longer in a deep economical crisis. The GDP is good, unemployment is decreasing and recent polls shows that Obama’s policies are working. So, what’s actually wrong here? We may need to go a little deeper in statistics before returning to Mr. Trump.
According to the website Vox, yes.
Their research mentions that
citizens give less and less importance to living in a democracy. They have increasingly negative views about key democratic institutions. Most worryingly of all, they are more and more open to illiberal alternatives. Americans aren’t just souring on particular institutions or particular politicians. To a surprising degree, they have begun to sour on liberal democracy itself.
Some of their graphics shows that americans trust their congress less than ever, engagement with politics among younger amercians are decreasing and the worst part is that youngers are more prone to non-democratic rule. Interestingly, this is not just a american problem, as the graphic below shows:
According to the New York Times, Sholars who long ago concluded, I quote:
that postwar Western democracies have “consolidated” must reckon with the possibility that a process of what we call “democratic deconsolidation” may be underway.
And they give three reasons for this:
First, most Americans still have materially comfortable lives, especially by international standards. But a long period of stagnating incomes for average citizens has led to a shift in perspective. For two centuries, most Americans knew they were better off than their parents — and expected that their children would be better off still. Occasional surges of populist discontent were cushioned by their fear of upsetting a system that had served them well, and was expected to continue delivering tangible benefits. That optimism is gone.
Second, rising income inequality has transformed the views of the rich more radically than the views of the poor. In egalitarian societies, elites identify with the middle class, and believe that uncorrupted democratic institutions serve their own economic interests. In oligarchic societies, economic elites share few material interests with ordinary people, and have much to lose from policies that would improve their lot.
The less comfortable the wealthy are with the democratic process, the more inclined they are to invest in influencing electoral outcomes, via lobbying legislators or funding campaigns. The greater the role of paid influence and campaign spending, the more ordinary citizens feel that the political system no longer listens to them. That is the third reason for democracy’s loss of legitimacy.
After all these inputs we go to our final question:
As we have seen, statistics and studies shows that when government fails to attend people’s necessities, does not manage well the economy, corruption and bureaucracy makes part of politics and news headlines, plus recent economical and political crisis, this results in people supporting extremist and populistic candidates, including political ideas. When this happens, its a sign that the government need to act quickly and intelligently to put their reputation back on the tracks. If nothing is done , you may see these people gaining even more strength and support, winning some seats in congress.
As Ronald Reagan once said “Government is not the solution to our problems. Government is the problem”.
These issues are a good sign that a political alternative such as less government interference in people’s lives may be a good alternative. You may ask why the American Libertarian Party never shows up in the pools — and is the third largest party in the US.
Uncle Donald is another colorful character in American Politics, as others that also appear worldwide of the same ilk . In Brazil we have interesting candidates that supports the return of military dictatorships and support the purist christian values and the traditional family. In Europe you have the extreme right politicans such as Alessandra Mussolini (granddaughter of the guy with the same name) and Marine Le Pen. Ever seen one of these people winning the position of “Nation CEO”? No.
The probability of Donald Trump winning the POTUS seat is low, in my opinion. The reasons include the GOP losing its reputation as a serious party, supporters and donation funding for future elections. Also, Donald is losing business contracts each month for his brilliant remarks.
In the end of the day no one wants to support someone whose reputation is extremely contradictory and electing someone whose remarks are very extreme is unnatural in a stable and democratic society. There`s always that probability of a wild card from happening, however. Let`s hope it does not.
By Roberto Carnier