Donald Trump, the real estate mogul and multibillionaire (estimate of 10 billion dollar net worth), had announced his presidency only a few weeks ago and has immediately catapulted himself to become one of the most popular candidates in the Republican Party. Trump has made many antagonizing comments to Mexican immigrants, who were allegedly bringing the crime and drug problem over the border, and so he would be the president that will keep Americans safe and secure by sealing the borders. It is now easy for the liberals and those on the left in this country to, therefore, denounce not only Trump, but the entire Republican Party for being a party of clowns that can not be taken seriously by the vast majority of the American people.
But I would argue that we can probably not maintain such a dismissive attitude against Trump. Of course, Trump’s immigration position is outrageous, and so is his proposition to massively lower taxes on everybody (especially on the rich, with a 15% marginal income tax, lower capital gains taxes, and abolition of corporate, inheritance tax), thereby reducing government spending and the associated social programs into rubles, though he apparently also supports the maintenance of Medicare and Social Security, which will endear him to old people. His economic and fiscal policies do not add up arithmetically, and something will have to give.
On the other hand, Trump speaks to the need of the Republican base for somebody to talk about the genuinely bubbling resentment that is building up against the political structure. If we want to claim that Trump is just another clown, then we have to say that this clown can not be much worse than the host of Republican governors and senators that are running for the presidency, all of them yelling louder in their quest to earn the trust of their billionaire donors. Trump will have the strange advantage of not having to worry about raising money from his fellow plutocrats, and so he can have the greater freedom to express ideas that the poll-tested other candidates would not dare to formulate.
I do not endorse Donald Trump’s quest for presidency in any sense, but want to emphasize that his bid is the expression of right-wing populism in the American political system, while his left-wing antidote is Bernie Sanders. The political system in most western democracies is bound to become more extreme as time passes. This polarization has nothing to do with formal political phenomena (like gerrymandering, because here it is about the presidency, not congressional districts; or even Citizens United, which is just an icing on the cake). Polarization is the direct result of growing wealth and income inequality, where millionaires and billionaires rig the entire political process, thus forcing a political gridlock favoring specialized lobby interests of the already wealthy, while stymieing and obstructing general interest causes like education, health care or infrastructure programs. It is precisely those general interest causes, which ordinary working and middle class people care about the most. So they feel disenfranchisement in the political system, as our politician-prostitutes are focused on milking more cash from their billionaire donor-johns, in order to hand them even more taxpayer-funded bailouts, subsidies, grants and tax breaks in return. The only people, who can fight back are independent billionaires (Trump), and lone-wolf democratic socialists outside the original two-party system (Sanders- though he now runs as a Democrat).
As far as the right-wing populists are concerned, they never offer real and viable solutions to their followers. In Trump’s case, he is, of course, pushing the agenda of his own class, but wants to distract the masses with outrageous statements against illegal immigrants, who lack the political rights to defend themselves, and punish him electorally. The divide-and-conquer strategy of Trump’s “silent majority” (borrowed from Nixon’s presidential campaign) is meant to energize a right-wing political base that will secure him the votes to potentially win the bid for presidency, and then use that victory to carry out a really regressive right-wing agenda.
At this point, Trump’s chances of electoral victory are understandably limited, but in a crazily oligarchic country such as ours, I question why we should continue to accept the mainstream narrative that so-called “fringe” candidates are not worthy of our attention because they can’t win the general elections. A retired Congressman told me that the 2016 lineup would be Clinton vs. Bush, the same last names that appeared in a presidential contest in 1992. But why? Both candidates represent the worst kind of establishment politics, which fundamentally accept the premise of the Oligarchic States of America, and would, at most, tinker at the margins and cross both fingers that the whole political system does not blow up (which it has to sooner or later).
I would be eager to see a Sanders-Trump lineup, so that the American people have the choice between real alternatives. One candidate will demonize immigrants and exploit social divisions for political capital, while the other candidate will put forward a credible plan to restore the middle class and challenge the oligarchy. (It is very evident that I am a staunch supporter of Bernie Sanders’ campaign.) No other lineup would so clearly show how radicalized the US political process has become, but only because our economic and social relations have become so radicalized. Every socio-economic tension will affect the body politic eventually. My hope is that the symptoms of the disease will hit heavy enough to trigger an appropriate political response before every cure comes too late.