Issue of August 30, 2015
     
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The Trumpetization of America

While interesting political events in our country have been fast unfolding, another presidential campaign is also taking place halfway around the world, in the USA and it is also becoming interesting, if not more interesting, than the one we have here.

If you have been watching the U.S. presidential campaign you would have noted that surprisingly, a Republican aspirant who was dismissed in the beginning as a joke of a candidate, is now leading the pack.

Donald Trump declared his candidacy only on June 16 and two months after, he is already beating all the other “serious” candidates. The meteoric rise of Trump who was initially considered a lightweight, a loud-mouth showboat, a silly caricature with a funny hairdo, has been a source of puzzlement to many.

His statements and pronouncements have been far from the familiar deliberate, calculated, and politically correct statements of U.S. presidential aspirants. He appears to shoot from the hip. In fact it would seem that he has intentionally cultivated and tried to master the art of the politically incorrect, brash, crude, rude, and impolite.

And the surprising thing is that middle American seems to love it and is lapping up each and every controversial statement that he makes. His supporters call him a straight shooter, who does not back down from anyone or any issue.

Filipino elites may call him bastos and get turned off by his cocksure swagger and loose tongue. But the man in the street might see in him a rightist masa appeal akin to that which they saw in Erap or in Duterte.

Compared with other candidates who are proposing “moderate” solutions to the problem of illegal immigrants, especially the Mexicans, his solution is simple. He would build a Great Wall of Mexico so that the immigrants cannot cross over; and on top of that he says he will make the Mexicans pay for the cost of building the wall. It may sound comic, but many Americans actually believe it and flock to Trump’s rallies by the droves. Trump certainly does not sound like Jeb Bush who is married to a Mexican-American.

Trump does not hide his deep dislike for illegal immigrants. Recognizing that there are millions of them in the U.S., his solution is simplistic, but is loved by Americans whose jobs and security are threatened. Trump says illegal immigrants should all be kicked out. He does not even believe in the jus soli doctrine of granting American citizenship to those born in America. His views could be painful to the ears of many Filipinos who are now in the U.S.

Big businesses and entrenched vested interests are starting to campaign against him and advocate a boycott against his various businesses. Yet he has promptly told them to go to hell. Clearly, he is not acting like your normal politician and which is perhaps where his appeal lies.

American political pundits are now seriously debating with each other trying to explain the phenomenon of Donald Trump. They talk about him endlessly in U.S. talk shows, and ironically the more they talk about him, the higher his star rises. Some say that the Republican constituency are tired of their leaders. The Republicans have a majority and control Congress, but are seen to have produced nothing compared to Obama. They could not even produce an imaginative and attractive candidate until Trump came in from the cold. He is not part of what may be called the Washington crowd of Republicans.

Republicans see Trump as different and feel threatened. He has the potential to wreak havoc within the party. He respects no political rules, no rules of civility, respects no party convention, and even dares to openly become combative and antagonistic towards media. And yet media loves him. At least, they give him prime time and more free coverage than any of the leading aspirants, both Republican and Democrat.

Many traditional American politicians and party tacticians may be wishing and praying that Trump is simply a flash in the pan and that the interest in him would soon die out. Apparently, that is not happening yet anytime soon.

Once upon a time, a candidate also appeared in the American political horizon who sounded differently than the “regular” candidates. That was Ross Perot. Perot captured the American political imagination. But only briefly. His star soon fizzled out.

Will Donald Trump suffer the same fate? Or can he seriously become a potential occupant of the White House?



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