Trump Victory Would Signal Shift in US’ Mindset from Markets to Nationalism
Neo-nationalism is the new password to political victory. In the US, which claims to be a liberal and self-searching society, some potential presidential candidates are calling for a New America, which is exclusive rather than inclusive. If the slogans, issues, verbal volleys and abrasive adjectives used by various candidates are indications, the multiracial US society is heading for the most divisive and provocative election campaign ever in its history. From Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton, all contenders are unleashing personal pejoratives, while side-stepping the reason what ails the world’s richest economy.
The War for the White House appears to be a replay of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, in which individuals and not ideologies dominated India’s most fiercely fought elections. Like Narendra Modi, who sought a mass mandate to fight Islamist terror, Trump is asking Americans to vote for him to prevent the extremist Muslim menace from engineering another 9/11. Modi attacked the Gandhi Parivar for corruption and crony capitalism, and Trump, the hot favourite for the Republican nomination, is painting his rivals as lackeys of lobbyists and callous corporations. Like in Modi’s case, Trump’s trump card seems to be America’s middle class. Modi’s poll pitch was taking action against black money, making India a super power, terminating cosy capitalist clubs and bring in maximum governance with minimum government. His campaign was over-archingly tinted with staunch nationalism. Today, Trump seems to have torn a page off Modi’s manual, using similar means and methods. Carpet-bombing through social media, aggressive TV appearances where he flaunts patriotism on his well-cut sleeve, and back-to-back multi-city political rallies are the turbines of Trump’s election machine. With over six million followers on Twitter and 920,000 on Instagram, and about five million Facebook likes, the real estate baron is one of the most active political leaders on social media. He tweets on everything, from potatoes to politics. He blitzkriegs his rivals with invectives. He dares the media to engage him on his own terms or get out of the way. He even walked out of an interview and forced the television company to change a moderator who he argued wasn’t objective.
Unlike his opponents, Trump is fighting the elections with his own money—he runs a $4 billion business conglomerate. Like Modi had pilloried the New Delhi establishment, Trump has sworn to fix the Washington cabal. It is his totally anti-establishment, anti-Islamist, politically incorrect attitude and posturing that has brought him huge popular ratings—not only from white America but also from a large section of other communities. It’s an irony that a country, which denied a visa to Modi for over a decade, blaming him for what the American liberal elite called the Gujarat “pogrom”, is now being asked to vote for or against the domination of an idea which led to the shameful riots, which followed the burning of a train carrying karsewaks in Godhra.
Never before in the history of the US-of-A has any candidate sought electoral endorsement as a fighter against a section of a particular community by brazenly naming it in debates and discussions. But Trump does it without a pause. His tweets reveal his ideological moorings—“More radical Islam attacks today —it never ends!” “Strengthen the borders, we must be vigilant and smart. No more being politically correct.” He breathed fire and brimstone against America’s deal with Iran. Soon after it was signed, Trump was the first to react with his typical frontal attack style: “Iran humiliated the United States with the capture of our 10 sailors. Horrible pictures & images. We are weak. I will NOT forget!” He waxed sarcastic about the Obama administration’s capacity to face Iran. “In Iran deal we get 4 prisoners. They get $150 billion, 7 most wanted and many off watch list. This will create great incentive for others,” he tweeted. His unconventional departure from the practiced political paradigm has shaken his opponent’s self-confidence. Making fun of Jeb Bush’s ad campaign, Trump commented using his Twitter handle @realDonaldTrump on January 23, “Just watched Jeb’s ad where he desperately needed mommy to help him. Jeb—mom can’t help you with ISIS, the Chinese or with Putin.”
Trump’s no-holds-barred campaign has forced the political establishment of not just in the 50 states of America but also of other Western countries to introspect on their limitlessly liberal policy towards religious minorities. For example, when terrorists attacked Paris, Trump took a jibe at Europe by tweeting, “Man shot inside Paris police station. Just announced that terror threat is at highest level. Germany is a total mess-big crime. GET SMART!” Even Jerry Falwell Jr of the Moral Majority, whose father was the face of American right wing religious conservatism, endorsed Trump. Evangelical leaders who seek to make the US a “Christian nation” by combing conservative Christianity and governance have been flummoxed by the fact that over half their congregation gave Trump the thumbs up. He has both shaken and stirred the liberal establishment. Many of the billionaire businessmen and economic savants who habitually gather for the annually held, luxurious less-work-and-more-leisure rendezvous in Davos were disturbed by his stand on Muslims and the US economy.
Some Western leaders even mocked him as just an aberration in American politics. Yet Trump remains unmoved in his resolve to polarise American society like Modi did in India. If the latter was indirectly hinting at sending illegal immigrants from neighbouring countries back home, Trump wants all unwanted immigrants to be deported. If Donald Trump finally gets the GOP nomination, it would signal a strong ideological shift in America’s basic mindset, which is now being haunted by fear of homegrown Islamic terror and the ISIS vow to bring the super power under Sharia law. Its popular psyche is moving away from money and markets. Its leaders are being forced to champion American identity and pride. The supreme paradox is that a marketer like Trump is making the markets irrelevant. He has given a call to American voters to put him in the White House to “Save America” from vanishing. The species that could face extinction if a Trump wave sweeps the country is the academically liberal, bleeding heart classes of America, whose existence, like in the UK, stands threatened by its own indiscriminate policy of political correctness and fear of offending its enemies in the name of votes and seminars.