The Trump presidential campaign is a juggernaut that refuses to stop. Its obituary has been written many times over, as it turns out, too soon. Political pundits didn’t give him a chance in hell even in the primaries, yet here he is. At the time of this writing, we’re two debates down and a month away from the elections. Polls show that Trump is lagging about five points behind Clinton. His offensive remarks about groping women because he can get away with it are on record and a trite apology has been issued, it was also one of the focus points of the second debate between the two contenders. Trump made an obvious defence with his accusation that Hillary Clinton’s husband Bill, has done far worse claiming that his were just words, but Bill’s was action.
I’d wager that friends of the Clinton campaign are currently hunting high and low for someone who would publicly say that Trump made physical advances against her will. It’s also pretty much a given that Trump’s campaign will use every trick in the book to move beyond this latest disaster. Maybe even put Trump in Bill Clinton’s shoes, implying that if the country can have a philandering President then surely they can excuse a groping nominee.
The thing is, as offensive as his recorded words were from a decade ago, they were not shocking. Trump’s campaign speeches and pronouncements show quite clearly that he will say pretty much what he wants. That those words are brazen, offends people or are simply untruthful are not his concern. That he will say something offensive is now a fair assumption, not a shocker.
What is surprising is that it has got him this far. In hindsight, his rhetoric seems to have struck a chord with the American voter who feels left behind and is discontented with business as usual politicians who promise and don’t deliver. Trump saying what they seem to think but dare not voice in this time political correctness, appeals to them enough to want to vote for him. But this is in hindsight, nobody in their right mind would have thought when the campaigning began that going down this road would get votes. Now we know it works, whether it goes all the way is to be seen.
Voter backlash against politics as usual seems to be the global phenomenon nowadays, Narendra Modi’s resounding win in India can be attributed partly to that. The surprise Brexit vote is quite certainly that. Germany’s Merkel is dealing with that. The difference nowadays is that all of these have an impact beyond the voting country’s own borders. Donald Trump becoming President certainly will have global repercussions.
If he wins, it has all the makings of the presidency being a circus act with a tragic ending. But there seems to be enough of a population that believes he can turn the business as usual behaviour on its head. Some of his views and campaign promises are simply contrarian, for instance, on trade deals. Some are esoteric, it seems he promises to ensure that all Americans can afford to play golf. It probably fits in well with his business interests in golf courses. Some are no brainers, like reducing taxes, rebuilding ageing infrastructure, improving army veteran services and bringing back jobs.
These are campaign promises and we’re quite familiar with the chances of execution once a politician is elected. What seems to work in his favour is that he has no track record, which is better than having a track record of broken promises, so people buying into his vision are taking his word for it. He might disappoint, but for so many voters, it is their backlash against the business as usual politics that they feel discontented and let down by, and that’s putting it mildly.
Perhaps for some, a vote for Trump is simply a way to let the political establishment know that they are tired of the same old rhetoric, they might not even have thought of the consequences.
Perhaps for some, the allure of a shiny, happy USA is too good to pass, not realising that so far the only person that Trump has served is himself. If Trump delivers on even half his campaign promises if he is elected, the good old USA will be a dramatically different country, whether for better or for worse, there is only one way to find out.
The exposure that the world has to him before he began campaigning was mostly through his reality television shows and books, both were vehicles of self-aggrandisement and a great strategy when you want to build your own brand. It would be wise to remember that the brand has also had his companies declare bankruptcy a few times and has all but admitted using loopholes to avoid taxes. Some look upon that as an example of his smartness, not as a failure.
There are analysts who term the latest fiasco, about his groping women comments as the beginning of the end of his run for presidency. But there are a few weeks to go, and that’s a long time in politics.
This is the world’s largest reality show and like it or not, we are all participating.
Ashish Jagtiani is the name he was born with, though that is a bit of an urban legend. He goes by the name of Jaggu, a very popular name across the airwaves. Dry, dark and lucid would describe him aptly, where one can only hope that one is not on the receiving end of that unholy trio.