Trump Has Scored Over The Rest By Simplifying The World

Abhinav Pandya

May 12, 2016, 02:48 PM | Updated 02:48 PM IST

Donald Trump (Mark Lyons/Getty Images)
Donald Trump (Mark Lyons/Getty Images)
      Class arrogance, snobbery and elitism has laced the left-liberal intellectual class and media’s understanding of the Trump phenomenon.
      Trump has mastered the art of political communication and talks straight into people’s hearts while his adversaries have found themselves lacking.

Only six months ago, Donald Trump was hardly taken as a serious contender for American Presidency. A New Yorker who spent his life building casinos, golf courses and hotels and hosting reality shows, Trump was the most unfancied candidate in the presidential race.

Over the last six months, class arrogance, snobbery and elitism has laced the left-liberal intellectual class and media’s understanding of the Trump phenomenon. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell states that Trump is “completely uneducated about any part of the world.” The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson finds Trump’s “ignorance of government policy … breathtaking.” Tara Setmayer of CNN says Trump is “wholly unqualified” to be president, while the New York Times editorial board finds Trump “disturbing” and “shockingly ignorant.” And in the process, Trump has become stronger and now seemingly invincible.

It’s much more rational now to understand the Trump phenomenon and accept his political existence. A rational and reasonable opposition to Trump can only come out of the acceptance of the Trump phenomenon.

Trump is not an ordinary presidential candidate; he isn’t just another kid on the block. Trump’s rise has much deeper implications. His rise signifies Americans’ loss of faith in the neo-liberal regime characterized by free trade, large aid programs and military interventions to foster democracy and American values, often demanding a huge economic, political and military investment in return. This regime has been in existence since the end of World War II.

But these aid programs and military interventions have brought nothing to America except unpopularity and a huge loss of men, material and prestige, whether in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan or Africa. Further, the US, with its post World War II global military infrastructure and diplomatic presence, has not been able to contain the rise of China, and even Russia lately has alarmed the US and Western Europe with its aggressive footprint in Ukraine, Syria and new bonhomie with countries like China, Iran and Pakistan.

In a cab-journey from Hagerstown, Maryland to Washington DC, I got a chance to interact with Marc who is an Afro-American war veteran and presently a cab driver. To me, he seemed a simple, God-fearing middle-class American. I realized that despite his bluster and bullying, Trump has emerged as a hero for many ordinary Americans like Marc, including for Mexicans, Afro-Americans, Asians and the white citizens. In my interaction with common citizens like Marc, I felt that Trump has mastered the art of political communication and talks straight into people’s hearts.

In many other such interactions, I also realized that most of his adversaries lack this quality; especially Hillary, who in my understanding fails to connect with America. She is perceived as someone who is too mechanical and short of conviction. Further, she is perceived as a military enthusiast who in all likelihood will continue America’s interventionist foreign policy. And the people are fatigued by never-ending wars, increasing American bases and forward troop deployment. The only Democratic candidate who connects with people with his ideas on poverty and inequality was Bernie Sanders, but it is more or less clear that he is out of the race now.

Trump’s bold and forthright stand on Islamist extremism vis-à-vis the Democrats’ obsession with political correctness reflected in the use of terms like ‘violent extremism’ does not go down well with the common people. His political adversaries are perceived as going to extraordinary lengths in their appeasement of countries like Saudi Arabia, which are playing a crucial role in spreading radical Islamism.

So far, it seems that the political counter to Trump has hovered around mockery. His ideas in foreign policy are revolutionary and mark a significant departure from the past, while Hillary has nothing new to offer in the said field. Rosa Brooks writes in Foreign Policy that despite the braggadocio, the bullying and the bluster — despite the contradictions, misstatements and near-total absence of actual facts — Trump is, to a great extent, nonetheless articulating a coherent vision of international relations and America’s role in the world.

And this new line of thinking is making sense to people despite its vagueness. In my informal interactions with his supporters, I found that a good number of them do not take his extremist ideas like “building a wall on Mexican border”, “reviving water-boarding”, “banning Muslim immigrants” seriously. However, they do find the core essentials of his vision on foreign policy sensible and worth considering.

Trump’s vision for America’s future is realistic. David Sanger and Maggie Haberman capture it well in their New York Times interview with Trump: “In Trump’s worldview, the United States has become a diluted power, and the main mechanism by which he would re-establish its central role in the world is economic bargaining. He approached almost every current international conflict through the prism of a negotiation, even when he was imprecise about the strategic goals he sought.”

In effect, his foreign policy would mean that he would be willing to stop buying oil from the Saudis if they are not serious in the fight against ISIS; restrict China’s access to US markets if Beijing continues its strong-arm tactics and bullying in the South China Sea; and stop economic aid to Pakistan if Pakistan continues to support terrorist groups in India and Afghanistan.

Further, from his apparent vagueness and contradictions, it appears that Machiavellian unpredictability is also going to be a core principle of his diplomacy. In his interview with New York Times, he says, “You know, if I win, I don’t want to be in a position where I’ve said I would or I wouldn’t [use force to resolve a particular dispute] ... I wouldn’t want to say. I wouldn’t want them to know what my real thinking is.” It is not surprising if someone who has spent his life building casinos and hosting reality shows, imports the gambler’s bluff in international relations.

I don’t know if I really want to see him as President or not, but I do want to venture into the wonderland of Trump’s America either out of trust, attraction or just simple curiosity. I feel that he has charisma and an intuitive mystic-like persona. My thoughts on Trump’s America are just as unpredictable as his persona. At this stage, I believe that it will be a new chapter in America’s history, hopefully for good, if he wins.

Abhinav Pandya is a Cornell University graduate in Public Affairs and a policy analyst specialising in counter-terrorism and international relations. He tweets at @abhinavpandya.

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