To his supporters, he is the best thing that has happened to the USA since the Declaration of Independence was made in 1776. He has touted himself to be the greatest US president ever, placing his performance above George Washington’s, Abraham Lincoln’s , Franklin Roosevelt’s and another fellow Republican, Ronald Reagan’s.
His supporters agree. He is the best ever, they chorus. They follow him on Twitter and respond with great enthusiasm to whatever he posts.
According to his regular, never-ending tweets, he has created more jobs than any president in history, unemployment is at all time low (just before the pandemic) and the stock market reached dizzying historical heights. He is the best deal maker, the most pragmatic negotiator, the one destined to restore America to the glory days of old. The jobs are coming back, American farmers are having the time of their lives and how about the car makers? They have never had it this good. His supporters never argue; President Trump is brutal with the truth, he takes no prisoners so whatever he says is the truth.
Make no mistake. Donald Trump’s supporters are not just restricted to the social media space. They are everywhere and employ whatever tool is available to them to announce their support for their favourite president. If you listen to Fox News exclusively, you get the impression that America is led by an infallible, far sighted leader. News anchors and programme hosts spend hours on no end singing wonderful tunes about Trump, supporting his every idea and mobilising public sentiments in his favour on policy issues or against any of his opponents in the Democratic Party, in the Congress or wherever they pop up.
They are also on the streets, holding countless demonstrations and doing whatever they think would push the Trump agenda even further. Have you watched any of his rallies? Wow. Those were carnivals in their own rights. His followers queue up for hours to be able to get the tickets that would grant them entry. It’s a different thing altogether the minute their man takes to the podium. It’s all praise galore and the whipping up of sentiments that make the crowd go dizzy. If it is not about “the wall” to permanently secure America from “Mexican drug peddlers,” it is about some proxy war with an individual or in some cases, how historical injustices in trade and security deals with China, NATO and Europe are being reversed. He talks about bringing jobs back from China and did I forget to tell you? Barrage of verbal attacks on his opponents whether they are in the Republican or Democratic Party. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama are popular recipients of those verbal jibes.
But the “nays” are not losing their voice
Trump’s opponents have an entirely different view. He is the worst and most corrupt president in US history. He is a terrible character, a dishonest man, a leader that cannot be trusted and the master of fake news. At least these are the views you get if you pay attention to CNN, CNBC, New York Times or Wall Street Journal. They have spent the better part of the last four years fighting Trump, denouncing his ideas and challenging everything the man stands for. In their shows, invitations are sent mostly to those with anti-Trump ideas. They are the ones most likely to be interviewed and from a personal standpoint, it does appear that these broadcasters negate every ethic of impartiality and fairness and go on a all-out-attack against Donald Trump. The very opposite of what you find on Fox News where the anchors- most of them anyway, do the very job Trump and Reputation Party PR agents ought to be doing. America has indeed changed.
Fighting against the odds
A few things are however indisputable. One, Donald Trump is president against the prediction of his opponents and media attackers. He is the most powerful nation in the world and has managed to overcome every arrow thrown his way by his political enemies.
An impeachment proceeding against him failed in the senate earlier in the year and despite certain wrong calls in managing the coronavirus pandemic in the country, Trump’s popularity in the Republican Party still stands above 90%. His opponent in the November 3 Presidential Election, Joe Biden is leading in various opinion polls but then, Hillary Clinton also led in similar opinion polls in 2016.
Swimming against the tide
Trump definitely has something working fantastically well for him and that is his understanding of the unexpressed sentiments of several political bases in America. Trump has managed to leverage on public anxiety about the influence of immigration on jobs, welfare and other American privileges to drive a subtle political agenda that has yielded the greatest electoral victory: the presidency of the United States. Trump understood that many Americans were uncomfortable with the influx of immigrants from Mexico, Africa, and the Middle East.
Americans were becoming uncomfortable with the influence of immigration on their safety, job security, welfare and their future.
Many people believed that voicing these concerns in the open would be a terrible decision on the part of any politician but Trump saw things differently. He saw a goldmine where others saw doom. He quickly latched onto it and those who harboured these sentiments in their closets jumped aboard and rewarded Trump with the most powerful political office in the land, despite being untested in any previous public office, a raft of allegations bordering on questionable morality and probity in his business transactions.
The making of a new world
Trump was unrelenting in attacking Nigerians, Mexicans, Black Americans and whoever he and his supporters believed was standing in the way of America’s prosperity. His supporters cheered and even what started as a joke became a national political movement. Eventually, neo-conservatism, or more appropriately, (Trumpism) began to find expression in the UK as Britons quickly voted to exit the EU because like the Americans, they felt that migrants from several European countries were taking their jobs and making their beloved Britain unsafe for the natives. In Italy, and France, those politicians who wanted tighter immigration laws and new trade regulations saw a positive turn in fortunes.
As president, Trump has continued to refine and redraw the same script that earned him an unexpected victory in 2016. He has tightened immigration rules and matter of fact banned immigrants from several nations from coming into the US and unfortunately, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country happens to be one of these countries.
He had earlier announced to the satisfaction of his base that Nigerians “once they set foot in the US never ever want to return to their huts.”
Trump does not just attack those he accused of bringing drugs, crimes and troubles to the USA. In July 2019, he took aim at four congresswomen of colour, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib in a tweet that many believed was racist.
The president challenged the congresswomen to “go go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came and then tell us how it is done.” Now late Elijah Cummings, a respected Maryland congressman was also at the receiving end of Trump’s acerbic attacks just before he passed on. Trump laballed the district “disgusting, rat, and rodent infested mess.” The region is dominated by blacks.
As it was in 2016, so it is in 2020.
Having reaped such a great reward from saying things no other politician may have had the guts to say, Trump has returned to the campaign trail once again with the same tactics. He has been tweeting about #OBAMAGATE lately after announcing that the former president Barack Obama spied on his campaign and almost attempted to frustrate his inauguration.
Come to think of it: Trump actually came to political limelight by questioning Obama’s nationality in 2011 and even insinuating that the former president’s birth certificate could have been forged. Nothing Obama did was pleasing to him. He pummelled and hounded Obama till he won the White House for himself in 2016. Trump could be hoping that another round of intense attacks on Obama could earn him a second term at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Trump is galvanising his base, including white nationalist that he refused to denounce after their rally in Charlottesville, Va. in 2017 led to the murder of a counter protester. He knew that support from such groups would be crucial in the build up to the 2020 race.
The US president has also refused to come down hard on the rising number of death of blacks in the hands of police officers neither has he done much to bring gun crimes under control. According to information from Pew Research Centre, gun violence has been rising over the last decade and political issues surrounding gun control has made conversations on bringing down the number of these deaths combustible. The National Rifle Association (NRA), a pro-gun ownership group- are huge supporters of Trump and the Republican Party.
The shape of things to come
So what do we expect as we enter the crucial months leading to the 2020 presidential campaign? While the coronavirus pandemic has taught us that no one can accurately predict what could happen in a few months, what is however certain is that some things will never change.
Trump has found a gold mine in whipping up racial divisions and creating anxiety to shore up his base. He will stick to the playbook in the weeks and months ahead. While he may tell you that he is the least racist person you will ever meet, do not expect to see him calling for unity or appealing to our best emotions.
Political correctness, Trump must have learnt, does not guarantee victory in a largely divisive world. Interestingly, the US president’s role in creating that world would interest historians in the years and decades to come.
For now, Trump will keep ruling and the world would have no option than play by his rules- from how international trade is done to how diplomatic relations are conducted; Trump will continue to dictate the rules of engagement.
CNN anchors and their analysts will definitely have their say, BBC commentators will never stop expressing shock, New York Times opinion writers will still have access to their keypads. Even then, Trump will never stop telling us what he thinks and believes. Interestingly, he would not just be doing that as a private individual or from his Twitter account alone. No; the former real estate mogul would be pushing for a new world order from the most important office on earth: the Oval Office.
Certainly not a mean reward for understanding how to whip up emotions of fear and anxiety.