No one, and I really mean no one, should have to watch Donald Trump before their morning cup of tea. I have done it. I have survived. But it was not easy. Last week, as he delivered his grand acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, otherwise known as Countdown to Armageddon, I was watching him in Kolkata while having breakfast. My blood, like my tea, ran cold.
He glowered. He smirked. He fear-mongered. He created whole new species of unAmericans -border-crossers, cop-killers, Islamic-militants, job-outsourcers. He wagged his finger so hard I feared it would fall off.
He is no orator. But goodness gracious, I kept watching the great orange ball of fire. There was a morbid fascination that I find hard to explain.
Let’s face it. He should have never come this far. No one was rooting for the man. He was not the favoured son of the Republican establishment. He still is not. There were more members of the Trump family speaking at the Republican National Convention than sitting senators. The liberals were, of course, rolling their eyes.
Conservative pundits who write op-eds in the Washington Post and the New York Times kept warning that Trump was a fake conservative and unfit for office. The Post has deemed him un-endorsable. Yet, Trump rolls on. There has been no real let-up in his off-the- cuff wild outrageous proposals or his schoolyard-bully repertoire of insults.
Crooked Hillary. Lyin’ Ted. Little Marco. Corrupt Kaine. He puts Subramanian Swamy to shame.
The man kept winning primary after primary against all odds. Obviously, more than white supremacists were crawling out of the woodwork to vote for him. Filmmaker Michael Moore says brace yourself, President Trump is coming. And he has listed five reasons why.
That the economically depressed Rust Belt-states are America’s Brexit. They want out. And they think Trump is their Molotov cocktail “to stick to ALL of them, all who wrecked their American Dream!”
That this is the last stand of the Angry White Man.
That Hillary Clinton does not excite the voter. That the Sanders voter might not vote for Trump. But they won’t stand in line to vote for Clinton. And they certainly won’t bring five people along to vote as well.
And that millions will vote for Trump, not because they like his bigotry or his ego but “because it will upset the apple cart”. But there is something else at play here. There is a perversely guilty pleasure in rooting for Donald Trump when all the mommies and daddies in the op-ed columns are telling you he’s bad for you.
And he is. For heaven’s sake, the man is sitting there live-trolling the Democratic Convention. How much more un-Presidential can you get?
Bernie’s exhausted, he just wants to shut down and go home to bed.
Pocahontas bombed last night! Sad to watch. (That’s referring to Senator Elizabeth Warren).
He’s not sporting. He makes no attempt at being cuddly. And his audience is lapping it up. In campaigns where no effort is spared to make the candidate “likeable” (watch what’s going on at the Democratic Convention), he is able to pass off bigotry and misogyny as “speaking from the heart”.
“Trump says whatever gets him the result he wants”, blogs Dilbert creator Scott Adams.
“He understands human beings as 90-per cent irrational and acts accordingly.” Clinton marshals facts. Trump manipulates feelings. That’s how he’s sold Americans all kinds of things they didn’t need – steaks, water, a university. And now, he’s selling himself as the American Dream.
But he’s selling something else, something far more insidious than spray-tanned narcissism. We’ve all had that sneaking moment at the airport security line when we see the person ahead of us is a very obviously Muslim-looking young man. And we quietly switch to another line because we think it will be faster. We are not proud of that moment. But it’s the easy way out. Trump is that moment writ large. He legitimises it.
Donald Trump succeeds because the few ideas he’s put out, while racist and unfeasible and wacky, are also fiendishly simple. National security? Let’s just keep all Muslims out for a while. Economic security? Let’s just build a wall to keep the Mexicans out. NATO headaches? Let’s make them pay. He does not solve the problem.
He just shoves it out of his backyard and for many that’s good enough. Hillary Clinton might have a policy paper but that’s just boring. Trump’s lack of nuance is his asset. He isn’t afraid to throw the baby out with the bathwater. He is the American version of our own #GoToPakistan. And if the press picks holes in his proposals, well they are obviously just “presstitutes”.
But most of all, Donald Trump succeeds because we are not holding out for a hero anymore. All around the world we are holding out for an outsider instead. Narendra Modi pitched himself as the outsider and government as the enemy and steamrollered his way to victory. Bernie Sanders almost derailed Clinton as the outsider from the left. Trump affords us the sneaking satisfaction of being in the shoes of the stomping bully flicking a giant loogie at the political system. He is effectively giving the finger to Barack Obama’s famous slogan – Yes WeCan.
Just because he can. As an outsider, Trump comes with an unpredictability that poor Clinton can never afford. He says LGBTQ on the Republican national platform. He dares Obama to say radical Islamic terrorist. That unpredictability is the reason we watch reality TV. Donald Trump thrives on that power. He is America’s Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bombastic.
The Democratic National Convention is packaging Hillary Clinton as the wholesome all-bran breakfast that’s good for you. Donald Trump is happy to be the deep-fried donut. The choice is clear. But in the sanctity of the voting booth when no one is watching what’s America going to eat?
Believe me, Trump says, this won’t give you acid reflux. It will be beautiful. It will be great. America will be great again.
And they believe.
(Feature image source: Reuters)