Opinion Politics US Election

What the Hell Is Going on with Donald Trump?

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(Originally published on February 15, 2016)
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When Donald Trump first announced his candidacy, no one expected him to be leading Republican polls for months on end. He quickly garnered support of Americans tired of a corrupt political process. Trump’s widespread support emerged because there is a market for anger. Clearly, when Trump speaks about foreign policy, or any issue for that matter, he has no concept of what America needs to make it “great again.” The RNC (Republican National Committee) is scrambling to figure out what to do about Trump.

Irresponsible and disingenuous journalism is largely to blame for the rise of “The Donald.” Trump’s sweeping claims and vacillating policies are never challenged. Instead, the mainstream media’s appetite for high ratings quashed objective journalism and turned prime time news into reality television.

Despite Trump’s loss in the Iowa caucus, he is still smashing almost every poll. He won the New Hampshire primary by a landslide. It is simply undeniable that Trump has a chance of becoming the Republican nominee. This is not to say that he is any more or less qualified than the other candidates. Trump is a mediocre businessman and an inexperienced politician at best. In fact, he has never held a position in public office. But why is it that regardless of whether the nominee is Cruz, Rubio, Kasich, or Trump, the likely outcomes of their respective policies will be the same: disastrous.

At first blush, it’s difficult to comprehend how anyone can support a presidential candidate who calls Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers and women disgusting pigs (e.g. Rosie O’Donnell). In fact, Trump has managed to offend almost every minority or majority group in America. Trump even managed to offend the RNC by refusing to pledge he won’t run as an independent should he not get the nomination.

He’s identified that America has a problem and he excels in yelling about it. It seems, however, that Trump is more successful in making Americans hate each other than working together on solving the most pressing US issues.

But, even if Trump were not running for POTUS, just as many Americans would hold the same views Trump shouts about. Like most problems, Trump’s rise in American politics is complex. But the real question that needs to be asked is not why Trump has so many supporters but, rather, what has made Trump’s bid for presidency so appealing to Americans (?).

Short answer? Angry Americans.

Many Americans suffer from misplaced anger. Many are ignorant about American politics. This is unsurprising considering the sad state of mainstream news.  Some are distracted, busy, and some are politically apathetic. The US congress has been gridlocked for too long. GOP and Democratic congress members are unwilling to work with each other to pass legislation that reflects the views of the people they represent.

The most glaring example is gun legislation. There is not one issue where both parties agree more. In a 2015 CBS/NY Times poll, it was found that 92% of Americans favour legislation implementing better background checks before firearm purchases. Yet, Congress absolutely refuses to make laws that represent the concerns of the American people.

Americans are angry with the politicians that have failed them and Americans want something different. They are frustrated with the political system that has allowed their government to be bought out by the wealthiest Americans, who pour money into lobbyists whose job is to convince politicians to rig the rules in favor of the people who bought the lobbyists in the first place. Americans know their “representatives” are not representing them.

It is not just the congressional gridlock that angers Americans. They’ve also been inundated with inflammatory hate-filled rhetoric that pits everyone at the bottom against each other. Trump is extracting a deep-seeded anger within the Republican base, albeit completely misplaced. There wouldn’t be nearly as much support for Trump if the mainstream media performed its job correctly. Instead, it perpetuates misinformation, which shapes its viewers’ thoughts and opinions and can even change the discourse of politics. There is a very good argument that the conservative wing of establishment media has no one to blame but itself for making Trump electable in the hearts and minds of the average Republican. Objective journalism is crucial to a well-informed society. When Americans are uninformed about facts and policies, it becomes easy to see Trump’s appeal. Trump supporters finally feel validated.

For years, mainstream media has done a dismal job of fact checking and asking follow-up questions. A fitting example is the media’s current inability to ask Trump about his plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.  He is hell bent on repealing Obamacare, but he has not told his supporters what exactly they’d be receiving instead.

Trump repeatedly claims he is going to be the “best jobs president ever.” He often touts his ‘incredible’ business skills. The reality is that Donald J. Trump has declared bankruptcy four times. He outsourced jobs overseas and his clothing line is made in China. The New York Times published an article detailing his wealth, or lack thereof. It asserted that if Trump did nothing with his trust funds but invested it; he’d be worth more than he is today. In other words, Trump squandered away much of his money with bad business deals. Where is Fox News on this issue?

Another devastating example is the American mainstream media’s failure to ask Trump about the wall he wants to build on the Mexican border. Mainstream news has failed to ask him why there’s a need for a wall when more immigrants are leaving than entering the US. Yes, that’s right. According to the latest Pew research poll, America currently has a negative immigration rate. Yet Trump, a rhetorical device of his own Republican party, found a way to make opposition to Mexican immigration vogue again.

Joking aside, American culture and mainstream media have been displaying this “us versus them” style rhetoric for decades. Remember when the media cheerl-led America to pre-emptively invading Iraq, the wrong country, after 9/11? The media convinced Americans that killing Al Qaeda members and capturing Bin Laden at all costs was necessary.  Since then, FBI stats show violence committed against non-violent Muslim-Americans has skyrocketed. The point is that journalism is important because Americans turn to news to form their opinions and get a sense of the world around them. According to Media Matters, Trump has received hundreds more minutes of airtime than all other candidates combined. That’s a lot of hate and misinformation that is probably translating to Trump support. But…ratings!

Also, during the Reagan administration, rhetoric about the fictional “welfare queen” resulted in poor white Americans opposing minority welfare recipients.  Republican lawmakers and some Democratic lawmakers continue to cut welfare and/or food stamps to Americans that need help the most. Today, there is a concerted active attack on the poor. SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) benefits have been cut repeatedly and are still under attack. The latest way to criminalize and punish the poor is to drug test welfare recipients, which has continuously been proven to be a huge waste of time and money.

This tool used to influence poor Americans to hate one another is often referred to as “Southern strategy.” This strategy has the people at the bottom fighting each other instead of fighting the real oppressors – the hegemonic powers occupying the upper echelon of American society. In the US, these powers hail from Koch Industries and enormous lobbying groups, like ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), to start.

Today, the real “welfare queen” isn’t even a real person. The corporate welfare doled out to the wealthiest and most profitable corporations in the history of the world far exceeds the pennies tossed to help a mother feed her child. For example, in 2014, the Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for Effective Government found seven of the most profitable American companies reported a tax rate of -2.5% even though they claim to have more than $74 billion in earnings before taxes. These corporations were: Boeing Co, Ford Motor Co, Chevron Corp, Citigroup Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co and General Motors Co. So, instead of paying their fair share of taxes like everyone else, these corporations sucked millions of taxpayer dollars out of the system that average Americans rely on to educate children, pave roads, and care for veterans and seniors.

The sad state of American politics is exacerbated by a “lap-dog” style media that refuses to hold politicians and candidates responsible for the things they say and do. Mainstream news has failed to inform Americans why US policies have caused their grievances. They are angry and Trump is the perfect storm of ignorance, narcissism, propaganda, and hope that Americans have been groomed to accept.

God bless ‘Merica.

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