Here is a sampling of comments since the New Hampshire primary:
– Not in our lifetimes have the left and right populism of the Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump variety enjoyed such massive support. Anyone who thinks things can’t get any worse knows nothing. And risks everything. – Charles Krauthamme on 12 February.
– After many years of frustration, we see America we want to bless: America that rejects its money-making machine of Wall Street and its death-churning machine of Pentagon. Both are non-interventionists, both want to fix America rather than interfere overseas. People rejected war-mongering candidates of the establishment, and that is what matters. – Israel Shamir, 13 February.
– The “rules” of politics may have been partly suspended as Trump taps into a disgust with politics-as-usual. But some rules still apply. Momentum matters. Victories are validating. If Trump continues to run free, he gets harder to stop.- Rich Lowry
– The 2016 presidential primary campaigns in both parties have been the most unpredictable of recent memory. Among Republicans, Donald Trump has dominated the race while establishment figures failed to gain any sustainable traction.- FEPS Europe.
And so on. There is no way that anyone can predict whether Donald Trump will go on to win the Presidency of the United States of America by year-end. What can be said with reasonable accuracy, if not certainty, is that the violent shaking up of White America is here to stay. The manner in which Mr. Trump roiled a substantial portion of the US electorate and what he had to say in his inimitably provocative style has been extremely well documented. It has been commented upon not only in the US but practically across the world, startled by the persona and style of the human tornado traversing America. Hence it would be pointless repeating it here. However, by attacking Muslims and Mexicans and stating that he would do much worse than “waterboarding” he has stirred up hatred among his followers and revulsion in equal measure among those who oppose him .
Trump could well win more primaries and become the GOP candidate for president. At that point his innumerable detractors believe that he will lose the presidency. Should that happen, his supporters who have been aroused will not disappear. Many have likened Trumpalism to the emergence of the extreme right political parties that are changing the face of European politics, largely due to the unending refugee influx.
For a deeper understanding of the man and his likely impact on US politics, possibly for years to come, it becomes worthwhile looking at two of the main issues that he has been hammering away at since the start of the campaign, namely keeping out Muslims and stopping the influx across the Rio Grande. Deep down both are very emotive issues for White Americans, irrespective of whether they vote for the GOP or for Democrats. In the first case, it is the demographic growth rate differential between Muslims and Christians. In Europe this is exacerbated by the single denomination refugee influx; making it one of the main reasons for extreme right parties gaining ground.
Donald Trump realized at the very start of his campaign that the question of Muslim intake or for that matter anything relating to radical Islam had been brushed under the carpet by the establishment; whether due to political correctness or for maintaining inter-denominational harmony in a plural society like America. Taking a cue from his European counterparts he made it one of the main planks of his campaign, the issue being very much in the US consciousness owing to the situation in the Middle East, the recent killings in Paris by radical Islamists and more recently by Isis infiltrators masquerading as refugees. It became easy to upset religious harmony, or the modus vivendi that generally existed between Muslims living relatively peacefully in the US and the radicalisation taking place elsewhere; although it had started surfacing in the US as well.
Similarly the issue of continuing Hispanic influx and the demographic changes that have been projected for the Whites and the Hispanics in the coming decades will remain an emotive one limiting the choices available to a future White House incumbent.
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have effectively brought the question of Wall Street funding of presidential candidates to centre stage. Much to the discomfiture of several presidential contenders, earlier considered heavyweights (like Jeb Bush), and to the delight of the average American who has seen the rich getting exceedingly rich, while the large majority of them remain poor with stagnant family incomes since the 2008 meltdown. All the while Wall Street bankers were being massively bailed out. For years to come this again might become the new normal. People might see reduction, if not the disappearance of massive war chests for fighting elections. At the very least, sheepishness will replace flaunting by big donors. The latter for quid pro quo political favours that invariably follow from the grateful winner of the presidency.
To round off the discussion on Trumpalism, in addition to the trends listed above the equally weighty reason for it continuing to prevail is the prospect of the Senate and perhaps even both Houses in Washington remaining in the hands of the Republicans, even were a Democrat to ascend to the White House in 2017.
Foreign governments looking to US leadership for continuity in foreign policy might also be in for a shock. There could be several grand reversals.
The writer is an author and Executive Director, Eco Monitors Society.