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Donald Trump’s Rise – From a Layman’s Perspective

Written by Vinayak Jain

The US Presidential race is gripping imaginations of people all over the world. Ordinary citizens, organisations, business tycoons, even some government representatives from various nations have explicitly stated who they would like to see as the next US President, something that is rather unusual seeing that no one would like to sour their relations with the US IF the verdict goes the other way round. This truly has turned out to be an exceptionally exciting Presidential race, and no one has hit the headlines more than Donald Trump.

He entered the race just as another candidate with no one giving him even a fighting chance. There was Ted Cruz, John Kasich and even Ben Carson who were being seen as the top contenders for the Republican nominee. No contender, no media house, possibly not even the average American thought Trump would be able to gain anything considerable out of this ‘experiment’. Maybe not even Trump himself. But how things have panned-out is for everyone to see and feel amazed and shocked at. His rise has truly been incredible.

I watched a few GOP debates and the one thing I noticed was that Donald Trump clearly stood out. This was not just because of his hair but mainly for his views on issues that the US faces. Whether right or wrong, whether controversial or not, his views on most of the glaring matters were unique, things that no politician would dare say. On a stage with many contenders – most of who were seasoned politicians – stood Trump who seemed almost incongruous to the surroundings. But that is what made him appealing. He gave the people something new. Something that Americans never dreamed could be said or promised to be done by a Presidential contender. They say he is ‘politically incorrect’. Whether he is or not is a different matter and I’m not here to pass judgements (greatly because I am at best uneducated at American politics) but this sense that he speaks on the most gravest of issues with utmost nonchalance and takes an unusual stand has made him extremely popular.

Terrorism is what’s most troubling the world and America is no exception. Trump has said a lot of things on terrorism. It’s my understanding that the most dominant factor unifying millions of Americans to vote for Trump were his blatant comments on terrorism coupled with the fact that the Obama administration is seen to have failed miserably to curb the ISIS and terror at home. ‘Target the families of terrorists’, ‘take ISIS’ oil fields’, were some of his unique comments. This one issue has virtually catapulted him to becoming the Republican nominee beating the rest by as comfortable a margin as any. Hillary is seen by many as one who’d just take Obama’s policies forward and one hardly has confidence that she’s strong enough to breathe new life into the foreign engagements of the US, especially when it comes to Middle East. This has created a perception that Hillary is soft on terrorism. The San Bernandino and the Orlando shootings have somehow vindicated Trump’s stand that the US is not secure and that the government has failed to protect its citizens.

His statement that he will ‘temporarily’ ban the entry of Muslims into the US has drawn unprecedented flak. Rightly so. One cannot label a whole religion because of a few people. Haven’t we as Indians loved and respected Dr. Kalam as much as any other son of the soil? Although I’d add that the Muslim community needs to seriously ponder as to why radicalisation has grown only in Islam and it should be more outright in condemning and isolating these acts from the religion. They have failed at doing so. Returning to the topic at hand, his statement about banning Muslims surprisingly gained him immense support, albeit silent, which was obvious in the huge number of votes he garnered. People if asked about his statement on camera or by polling agencies would never agree with it fearing it’d make them look racist, and such was the case. Switch to an American news channel and barring none everyone was criticising his statement. Yet, he gets the most votes as well. Clearly people seemed to agree that banning Muslims was a solution to terrorism.

When he had first said that, I too thought he’d made a blunder. I believed a better presentation of the same notion was to ban people from entering the US from countries that have been known to incubate and promote terrorism. But this wouldn’t have been hard-hitting, right? This would have been sort of an indirect comment. His blunt statement about banning Muslims has gained him many critics, even enemies, but it seems the ones who’ve backed him are far larger in number. Apparently to his voters, this is what being ‘politically incorrect’ stands for. It was a risk, but it payed-off heavily.

One can clearly understand why no politician would say so. Such a statement would instantly ruin his/her career. But with Trump the advantage was that if people had gone against him, he would simply have gone back to his work (and he well understood this). This is another factor that’s contributed to his surge. People see him as a rich entrepreneur who is self-funding his campaign unlike most politicians. This means that if he becomes President, he won’t have to run the nation on the whims of some back-door money-supplying egoists.

He once said, “We know how to spend money. But we don’t know how to make money. I know it. And America needs someone like this.” Now that is a very alluring statement! Every country has to make money, trade better, and make better deals if it has to grow and improve the lives of its people. Such statements along with his image of being a rich entrepreneur who’s made absurd amounts of money in his life gained him votes. ‘Trump’ is a brand in the US, and people often relate it to wealth, entrepreneurship, and even to the perception that Trump has created of being a hard-negotiator. He has said that he will get better deals for his country because that’s what he’s being doing all his life – making deals.

The backing that he’s received from people for his idea to build a wall along the US-Mexican border to stop influx of drugs and criminals and have Mexico pay for it has flummoxed me. I’ve heard him a lot, and I have to admit that he simply states what he wants to do but really doesn’t have any solid research done or plan as to how he will actually do it if elected to power. Infact a lot of ideas, including this Mexican-wall one, seem highly unfeasible. But the people seem to like it. And I guess that the reason why they like it is because he presents it in the most simplest of sentences, like – “I’m going to build a wall. A beautiful wall. And it’ll have a big door. And people can come and go through it.” Now that hardly sounds like a Presidential candidate but if this was to be said by a seasoned politician he would have delved into the details and used difficult budgetary terms to explain his plan ahead. Even if the politician was right, the simple fact that he made his explanation complicated would have made people think – ‘I think he’s lying. Politicians try to weave a web of details when they want us to think they are going to do something.’

His ‘Make America Great Again’ is a patriotic slogan and it is being loved by his supporters. In all that he says (again, whether right or wrong, feasible or unfeasible is a different matter) his desire is to invoke patriotism in the people. Something which Hillary has failed at. Even Barack Obama had the ‘Yes, We Can’ slogan. It seems Trump has incorporated this aspect beautifully into his campaign. And it’s very smart too as it gives the contender a massive space to breathe as he doesn’t need to detail his vision because he is able to portray that in a very few words. The slogan sort of encompasses everything. The contender says the slogan and that’s all the people want to hear. It gives them immense confidence.

Lastly a huge reason behind his rise has been how his political opponents and the media have constantly been targeting him. This has given him huge publicity and he’s become an attraction. Even President Obama has said he’d never be the President. That for me was highly unnecessary. His speaking about Trump could have been seen by people a sign of fear of the Democrats losing and that Obama had to speak before things went out of hand.

This is what happened in the Lok Sabha 2014 as well. EVERYONE was targeting PM Modi. This only gave him more space in the thoughts of the people.

Impact on India if Donald Trump is elected President is seen as positive. He has referred to Pakistan as a another ‘North Korea’ highlighting that our neighboring country is as dangerous to the world as is North Korea. He has also said that India can play a major role in tackling Pakistan, giving a rather vague yet substantial indication as to what his policy could be with respect to the Indian subcontinent. One can fairly expect US aid to Pakistan diminishing rapidly if he comes to power. He is also said to have gained considerable support from the Indian community in the US. Although it’s unclear what his policy with respect to Indian students studying in the US and Indians looking for jobs in the US would be, but one can safely say he will be better for India vis-à-vis Pakistan than a Democrat.

Overall Trump’ being so unlike-a-politician and his campaign that the country was languishing until now and he’ll make America great again has made his rise historic and meteoric. His success made me wonder if there was such dearth of good politicians in the US that they voted massively for a new political face or were they fed-up of politicians and simply wanted to shake things up.

Whatever the reason, more than Trump, the Americans who voted for him have surprised those keeping a close eye on the Presidential race, including me.



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