BEIRUT: Republican candidate Donald Trump has caused discord among his own party, contempt by Democrats, laughs by other world leaders; and for citizens of the Middle East, they might ask themselves: "who is this gentleman in the wig, who plays the big man, touts his leadership abilities, business acumen, and promises to make "American great again?"
Who indeed - this column intends to give a short, objective, tutorial, on the man, to make Trump understandable to Middle East readers.
There is an old saying in the US about those who are over confident with bravado: "He is the only man I know, who can strut while sitting down!" Perhaps readers know of such types of persons in the Middle East, I will leave the reader to answer that question themselves.
The easy tutorial about both Trump and the current US electorate is that, "there is a sucker born every minute," which in this case is not as pejorative as it might sounds. There is a huge anger with politicians, the insider game of politics, and that it seems sometimes the regular citizens gets ignored in the shuffle. These folks are asking for someone who says he knows the answers, even if they never say what that answer is.
Trump, I don't think is purposely setting out to sucker anyone, but he says what a large, discontented, swath of voters, want to hear - "Let's Make American great again," "We will build a wall with Mexico," "My rivals are dumb," "I am a tremendous businessman, a winner!" He keeps pounding on several points, his name is hyper-repeated in the American news cycle, and this simple message appeals, and his name is at the top of everything - literally - newspaper headlines, CNN broadcasts, Associated Press stories, and most notable of all, every building in his middle-size business empire.
Though hitting a high note among the populists GOP electorate, much about Donald Trump is still often difficult to understand, even for those in the United States of his own party. But his primary electoral results are inarguable, with Trump winning over not only working-class whites, but somewhat unexpectedly, America's burgeoning evangelical voters -- with whom Trump has little if anything in common - but who like a number of other groups, have had it Washington's political class.
Throughout the course of the primary contest, Trump has also been getting voter turnout records, that again are hard to argue with.
"I have brought millions of people into the Republican Party, while the Dems are going down. Establishment (Republicans) wants to kill this movement!" Trump recently tweeted.
The genuine anger of US voters with politicians and politics, might sound familiar to Middle East readers, where there is, and has been a huge discontent with leadership, politics, dictatorships, lack of resources, and in many cases war or the threat of terror. In this region, as in, perhaps, much of the world, there is the "Big-Man Syndrome" of confident (or being made to sound confident) powerful political, business, and at the traditional level tribal leaders.
There are tribes in the US and the Europe too, they are just harder to recognize. The Republicans have separate tribes such as the "Tea Party" and then they are many other affinity groups that are tribes of sort.
A telling reason for the appeal of Trump's "America Great Again" is situated in the cultural sentiment that both Republicans and Democrats reported in an Ipsos poll that got little attention when published in October, that demonstrates how the ranks of "neo-nativist" (American isolationists) that populate the GOP, in particular, have grown.
Trump is saying what these Republican voters want to hear.
The Ipsos poll reported that 72 percent of Republicans agreed with the statement: "More and more, I don't identify with what America has become." And 62 percent found themselves in line with this following sentiment: "These days, I feel like a stranger in my own country."
And, outside of the GOP voting group, 58 percent of independents also said they don't identify with "what America has become," either.
Also, though perhaps not voting for Trump, 55 percent of Democrats agreed with the statement: "More and more, America is not a place that I can feel comfortable as myself." Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton take note, Democrats are not too comfortable with the state of the union either.
Professor Christopher Hewitt, who teaches at the Georgetown University national security program and is also a longtime observer of US electoral politics noted the following: "1. American voters are very polarized; 2. Turnout will be the key in November, and so far in the primaries the Republicans have had much increased turnout while Democrats have suffered decreased turnout. In Massachusetts, Republican primary numbers doubled and included several thousands of Democrats who changed their party identification so that they could vote for Trump. 3. In the last election, the white working class stayed away - not this time!"
Despite what might have been previously the most jaw-dropping statements -- including reference in a recent Republican debate by Trump that he is well-endowed "I guarantee you there's no problem," --- people are not only identifying with brand Trump, they are pulling the lever at the voting booth.
He was scathingly attacked recently in what was intended as influential polemic by GOP 2012 candidate Mitt Romney, a man who still retains clout, who denounced Trump "as a fraud and a phony," but the day after it only seemed to fuel more support for Donald J. Trump.
Texan native Jim Taylor, a sales manager for a large airport supply company and an Army veteran, said "Americans are disappointed with their choice of candidates, and the lack of bi-partisan support, year after year, to make America better. Instead, we elect these people with the expectation that things will be acted on and yet it becomes a stalemate in Congress more often than not," adding that after having not voted for several years, "I will vote for Trump!"
Trump has already won 12 of the first 17 states to votes in the GOP primary contest and has a marked, ongoing, lead over candidates Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. This week's crucial contest is Tuesday (a big delegate haul) in the industrial state of Michigan.
Trump is a man who has found his tune, and is dancing happily along, while many Americans like his shoot-from-the-hip, say anything style. This is the simple lesson, they like even more his strutting, big-man, manner, and are not looking for nuance this time around. They like a candidate who is not dissembling, even amid making some enemies among voters - such as American Hispanics -- along the way.
That said, the "Make America Great Again" promise might come with a high price for the United States and for the world once the bill comes due in the form of global economic problems such as the end of longtime free trade agreements, growing military conflicts, the breaking of historical alliances with Europe, Central and South America and elsewhere. Also, when Trump, gets angry at Fox News diva Megyn Kelly for asking a tough question, the big questions is if he will have the fortitude to negotiate with Putin, Netanyahu, Hassan Rouhani, Xi Jinping, or indeed, tackle such issues as an increasingly belligerent North Korea.
The funny thing is, the United States is in the most solid shape it has been since eight years ago, a looming depression halted; two wars ended, a steady - albeit slow economic growth, the lowest unemployment in years, and a number of important multilateral agreement concluded, such as the Iranian treaty, or in the process, such a continuing cease-fire in Syria. There are problems, yes, but not a tidal wave of catastrophe.
Though this may have been an ongoing mistake in American foreign policy all along, our Middle East readers should take it as a fact that Donald J. Trump is tone deaf to this region, to whose culture and customs are a matter of indifference to the business big-shot.
In the process of "Making America Great Again" what might happen in reality?
Therein, is the question.
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