The enigma called Trump

Deconstructing the mysterious appeal of Donald J Trump
Akshay Sharma Delhi

The naysayers have to face the stark reality that is emerging. Donald J Trump, the billionaire businessman and reality TV star, looks set to seal the Republican Party nomination.

In the run-up to the 2012 presidential race given a choice between taking on Barack Obama and continuing with his reality TV series ‘The Apprentice’, Trump chose the latter. Trump was then considered a laughing stock in political circles. That was then. He now miraculously looks set to win the Republican nomination for President even before March.

To begin with, we have to look seriously at what Trump represents rather than just mocking his outlandish ideas. Trump is no conservative. He has a very dodgy history of supporting conservative causes. Trump has been married thrice, has failed to prove that he has ever read or understood the bible, has even supported same-sex marriage, been pro-choice and wasn’t even officially a Republican until a while back. His current wife is a Slovenia-born ex-supermodel who became a naturalised US citizen some years ago. Given his stance on immigration it is ironic that his own wife is an immigrant. Explanations for his enduring appeal can be deconstructed thus. Not only do the people love his personality but they also love the way he delivers his ideas. Trump’s charisma and his confident and decisive air are a large part of why people are attracted to him. Not only that a large amount of the GOP voters are sick of the establishment. The 2010 tea party movement was a manifestation of this.

Is the current scenario a result of the celebrity culture in United States or a growing concern about the waning of the American identity? Is it a thundering rejection of the political correctness in public discourse or a manifestation of the unease that Americans feel with changing demographics?

It’s probably all of the above. But Trump’s messaging, which many find outrageous, is appealing to the voters in a big way. In the exit polls conducted by CNN, Rubio scores ahead of Trump on the issue of electability, Cruz is the leader when it comes to sharing the values of voters, but Trump trounces everyone on the question of who tells it like it is. This suggests that voters on the right are tired of politicians sugar coating their views and would prefer somebody who is more open, even nasty at times. This quality of Trump also leads many on the republican side to think that he is more likely to shake up the system and establishment which they find corrupt and ineffective. In those same CNN polls, Trump also leads the race for being the agent of change. 

This explains why Jeb Bush lost his early advantage so quickly inspite of his lineage and record. Republicans, and maybe even Democrats, don’t want an establishment person but somebody who is not part of the Washington eco-system. Other establishment candidates have also fallen by the wayside. This desire among Republican voters to send a clear message to Washington has overridden all other factors. Trump now looks unstoppable. No other candidate seems to be posing a serious challenge. Marco Rubio has seemed promising but is yet to make any meaningful headway in stopping Trump. Ted Cruz looked like a serious challenger but is struggling to regain the momentum he had after winning Iowa. An outsider who promises to take a wrecking ball to DC is the ideal candidate for the average Republican voter. That ideal candidate seems to be Donald Trump. However Donald Trump’s road to the white house remains a long one.