President-elect Donald Trump is, by all definitions of the word, a demagogue— “a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.” His vitriolic rhetoric and volatile attitudes towards political correctness, masked through a thinly patriotic disguise, have struck a chord with many, with as many people voting for Trump as Clinton, but with Trump winning based on the electoral college rather than the popular vote. His campaign dug even deeper into class, race, and ethnicity divides in the US, employing a systematic rhetoric of discord and division, which, sadly, did not require further legitimation, beyond mere instigation to violence.
Trump knows his strengths, and plays to them: inarguably a successful businessman (and, some might argue, con-artist) he knows how to sell, sell, sell. “Make America great again,” Trump’s chief slogan (alongside such unofficial nuggets as “grab them by the pussy”) rings a similar note to Obama’s “change we can believe in.” Both promise hope to the disenfranchised, but deliver it in different ways. Obama preached inclusion; Trump, arguably, preaches the opposite.
Donald Trump’s term in office will surely backtrack some of the forward momentum made by the Obama administration. Trump and vice-president Pence are both vocally anti-LGBT rights, with Pence on-the-record approving of electric shock therapy to try and “turn gay people straight.” And, in a rare move, China has criticised Trump’s anti-environmental rhetoric, in particular his intention to reject the Paris Agreement, which seeks global action taken against climate change. It is likely China’s complaints will fall on deaf ears; President-elect Trump believes that climate change is a “Chinese hoax.”
Tony Schwartz, the writer who ghost-wrote Trump’s bestseller The Art of the Deal, has stated that he would rename it The Sociopath, given the power. Trump’s main campaign promise is to improve the USA’s fiscal policy through making “great deals,” as well as the prevention of pesky illegal immigration by “building the wall!” As with any demagogue in modern history, he does not offer a clear plan as to enact these policies—if we can even call them that. Trump is a door-to-door salesman, and America bought his product on the promise of comfort and renewal, without reading the ingredients.
Now, though, for a moment of optimism in our bleak place: Donald Trump’s victory in the US elections is a manifestation of popular unrest at the political system. Some doom-mongers are forecasting Trump’s election as the nail in the coffin of the United States, but America is very much alive and kicking. Those in the US who felt curtailed with the status quo, and fed up with politicians ignoring their desires, voted for an anti-establishment choice in the hopes that they might no longer be under-represented.
Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, was a corporacrat who offered to refine a system that half the voters in America wished to bring down. The Democratic National Committee made every move to block the viable opposition leader: Bernie Sanders, a candidate who would have been both anti-establishment and egalitarian as President.
Voting Trump was not the solution, but he is a clear message to political and corporate leaders: we are dissatisfied! Popular dissatisfaction with the political system in place during challenging economic periods has the strength to mobilize masses and bring about change. On the other, darker, side, this dissatisfaction blinds reason and clouds judgement, allowing extremism, demagoguery, and incompetence to seep in. It seems that, hoping for the former, the US electorate endorsed the latter.
Words: George Cheese
Copy edited by Elena Stanciu