It is official: Donald Trump has passed the 1,237 delegate threshold. He will be the Republican Party candidate for President of the United States. What an amazing feat for a man who never held political office.
His rise is utterly remarkable, unpredictable, and unprecedented. Weeks out from the Republican Party National Convention, he knocked out 17 other Republican candidates, including well-known and experienced politicians. Trump has received more votes in a Republican presidential primary season than any other candidate in history.
Let’s face it: this is the most unusual US Presidential election in our lifetime. Well-known, experienced politicians have been sidelined while populists are taking centre stage. The experts are dumbfounded as a volatile electorate endorses candidates who would have been dismissed as improbable only a few years before. The two main populist candidates are Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
On the far left Socialist Bernie Sanders, a US Senator from Vermont, is an independent who seeks the Democratic nomination for President. He would be comfortable with the likes of Fidel Castro, who promised the people of Cuba free education and free healthcare. Yet Castro ruled with a rod of iron in the worse tradition of totalitarian dictatorship, causing boat exodus from Cuba to Florida that dwarfs what Australia has experienced. Younger Americans view Bernie as a ‘rock star’ (‘I can feel the Bern’) who speaks about the unfairness of Wall Street, the banks, promises to write off student debt and level the economic playing field.
The Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton, is an intelligent, hard-working woman, with universal name recognition, an impressive resume of offices held, and plenty of campaign money. But she is viewed as ‘untrustworthy’ and ‘untruthful,’ with an on-going FBI investigation into her emails while US Secretary of State, along with her role in the collapse of Libya and the Benghazi disaster, which led to the assassination of the US ambassador Christopher Stevens. Critics say she has been big on busyness but short on accomplishments.
In the centre-left is Donald Trump, who seeks the Republican Party nomination for US President.
The ‘rise of Trump’ is an enigma, in part, because he does not easily fit into any mould. He is not a conservative in any traditional sense of the word. He is for protectionism, taxing the rich, soft on abortion and same-sex marriage. He has been married three times, did business with casinos, and attends his New York Presbyterian Church when he can.
However, the ‘conservative’ side of Trump is for border protection. He says that the global warming scare is exaggerated and the proposed solutions will harm jobs. He promises to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices and a less interventionist foreign policy (America should not be be the policeman of the world).
Americans, like other westerners, want the government safety net or entitlement programs like the Social Security (old age pension) and Medicare (government provided health care for the elderly). Never mind that these are exceedingly costly, wasteful, play a significant role in increasing the ballooning US national deficit, and are less efficient than private enterprise.
This is progressivism: it promises to ‘take care of you’ and your interests through big government involvement. In practice, it means in exchange for heavy taxes, much regulation, a more autocratic government that has no problem with interfering in people’s lives or fighting wars, ‘big brother in Washington DC’ will be watching out for you.
Despite its unsustainability and poor return, Social Security is such a sacred cow in the United States that even the mere mention of touching it arouses the wrath of ‘grey power.’ Woe to any politicians who even breathes the word ‘reform;’ they will be run out of town! So the deficit increases.
Trump is unlikely to reform the safety net - he is going to preserve it. That means, with his populist, politically incorrect message yet ‘give and take’ on conservative issues, he has a fighting chance to be President. This is remarkable considering questions on his character, gaps in knowledge, and questionable conservatism.
In any case, the 2016 US presidential election will be anything but dull.
Next month, we will look at the topic: Could God be behind the rise of Donald Trump?