The 2016 US Presidential campaign is in full swing and it has been anything but dull. The front-runners are totally unconventional. One is a woman and the other a businessman who has never held a political office. Constantly, people are asking me: what do you think of Donald Trump?
Good question and for the longest time, I did not have an answer. Having watched American politics all my life, never have I seen a campaign like this one. Yet, as one committed to helping people become ‘future-ready,’ it is important to address the issue: What should we make of Donald Trump?
Background: Donald Trump, a businessman and TV personality, was born on June 14, 1946, which means he will be 70 years old at the time of the November 2016 election. Ronald Reagan was 69 when he was elected and inaugurated as President.
Trump Candidacy: The day after his 69th birthday, he announced his candidacy for the Republican Party nomination for the office of United States President. His slogan: Making America Great Again! He promised to fund his own campaign and eschewed donations for big donors and super PACs (political action committees). This meant, among other things, that he would be free to say whatever he wanted.
Trump’s statements have been brash, controversial and politically incorrect. He said that he would build a wall at the Mexican border and have Mexico pay for it. After the IS attacked Paris in November 2015, he proposed a temporary ban on Muslim immigration ‘until we figure out what’s going on?’ These and other statements have offended much of the public, other political candidates, and even some of his business partners, who have subsequently severed commercial ties. Some of his rallies have been marked by protests and violence. The mainstream media have scratched their heads on what to do with him. Once highly-left wing news source announced that they were removing Trump’s campaign from the ‘political section’ to the ‘entertainment’ section.
The Trump campaign entertaining? Well, despite all the negatives mentioned above, he has consistently polled higher than his Republican rivals (the party of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, the somewhat American equivalent to the Australian Liberal Party or Liberal/National Party Coalition; the US Democratic Party, to whom Barack Obama, Bill & Hillary Clinton belongs mirrors the Australian Labour Party). He has won state-after-state primaries and is getting closer to clinching the Republican Party nomination. Until now, every attempt to stop his candidacy has met with failure.
Why is Trump doing so well? His populist politically incorrect rhetoric resonates with many people because he comes across as honest, rather than wooden and insincere. His ‘non-establishment’ credentials also impress a volatile electorate, who feel regular politicians are not listening to them. His speeches and blunt statements give him much ‘free’ publicity from the mainstream media, even though they do not like his views.
What are we to make of the candidacy of this very rich, non-political, intelligent man who seems to be steamrolling his way to the Republican nomination? Here is some food for thought:
Conservative Challenge: People who hold to traditional or Biblical (rather than progressivist) values will be troubled by Trump - he has been thrice married, does business with casinos, and has praised the abortion-giant Planned Parenthood. Though he implies he is conservative, he has not always been that way in practice. Has he had a ‘Damascus Road-Experience’ to a socially conservative position or is his conservatism tactical for more votes?
Conservatives Divided: Christian commentators like Messianic scholar Dr. Michael Brown in the USA and Australia’s own culture warrior Bill Muehlenberg are highly critical of Trump. Yet, some US conservatives like Sarah Palin, 2008 Republican Vice-Presidential nominee and former governor of Alaska, have endorsed him.
One interesting endorsement comes from 91 year old Phyllis Schlafly, a Roman Catholic constitutional lawyer, conservative activist, and founder of the Eagle Forum. She was the woman who prevented the ratification the feminist-inspired Equal Rights Constitutional Amendment (ERA) in 1972. She is an American conservative icon and legend. Schlafly totally supports Trump and says he is America’s last hope. The reason: He is not beholden to the political kingmaker’s and will strongly deal with illegal immigration. If we don’t stop this wave of illegal migration, America as we know it will cease to exist, concludes Schlafly.
Big gamble: A Trump nomination is a big gamble for the Republicans. His approval rating may be high among Republican primary voters but his disapproval rating among the general public is also high. He will be opposed by non-white migrants, feminists, and the mainstream media. His likely opponent, Hillary Clinton, has a well-financed campaign, universal name recognition, and has applied the lessons from her failed 2008 campaign (Mrs. Clinton has unique challenges of her own, including low ‘trustworthy’ ratings and an FBI investigation of her emails while Secretary of State). Can Trump win? It is possible but it will be tough.
Volatility: Americans, especially conservatives are volatile. They are tired of broken-promises, of pseudo-conservative politicians, of political correctness and empty rhetoric. Perhaps because Trump is successful at business, a straight shooter, and smart in-general, he is viewed as someone who can get the job done.
The choice: barring some major event, it looks like it will be a vote between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. American’s will need to decide if they want, after a 16 year hiatus, to have the Clintons back in the White House or the fresh-face of a very determined Donald Trump.