Trump Is Riding High On Negative Narrative
Donald Trump is yet again on a roll, however fake news it might seem in this post-truth media world. That is the funny and dark irony. Beleaguered, demonized, trolled, thoroughly exposed, caricatured, spoofed, pulped and pulverized, the old man with his thinning golden hair still seems to be on a roll.
So much so, like he did with what apparently and falsely seemed the formidable candidature of Hillary Clinton in the last presidential elections in the United States of America in 2016, by winning the polls despite having polled lesser number of votes, and polarizing the entire country on racist, white supremacist, misogynist and xenophobic lines, he might very well do it again. Indeed, the Democrats, often driven by the same deep pockets lobbies as before, even coinciding with the big bucks and hardline interest groups of the Republicans in terms of vested interests, have yet again seemingly opened the presidential electoral game in favour of Trump. With Joe Biden in the running, with running mate Indian-origin candidate Kamala Harris, there are serious speculations that Trump might yet again return to the White House.
This is not the first time that the Democrats have deliberately and systematically chosen a weak candidate. Even in the last elections, there was widespread opinion in the US, that stoic socialist Bernie Sanders from Vermont would have given a run for his money to Trump, floundering with shameful charges of sexual harassment, bad and abusive language, real estate blues and a colourful record of a reported debauched life with video evidence etc. Some of it was proved, some was not, other sleazy stories were buried in the information glut of charges and counter charges which the American media and local gossip factories celebrated in the run-up to the polls. It was also alleged that he was not mentally fit to hold this difficult and delicate position.
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At that time, as prime time television in America gloated and bloated on how disgusting was Trump, as the big papers destroyed whatever little credibility he had, no one could even imagine that he would finally become the president of the USA. Sociologists and media theorists would call it the boomerang effect, that those attacking Trump on grounds of high morality or Christian purity or gender justice, etc, were missing the wood from the trees, and were actually scoring a free self-goal. The more he was turned into a bad man, the more Trump seemed to be scoring his goals in the American hinterland, especially in the vast, empty and untouched landscape of rural America, especially among the white working class and jobless people living in the countryside, and including among the women.
The Democrats and their media and poll analysts just missed the smell of the wind blowin’ out there, so obsessed were they with their high moral ground, the low credibility TRP of a bad-mouthing and sexist Trump, the email leaks of Hillary Clinton, and the Russian factor looming large in the elections.
Two conspiracy theories were rampant during the 2016 elections and they might come back again in another avatar this time too. One was that Russia was managing the Trump campaign through its sinister and diabolical methods, especially proved by the Wikileaks email leaks of Hillary Clinton, which massively helped Trump. The second was that there was a huge white backlash from the ground, especially among the illiterate white working class in the cities and the countryside, including the huge number of jobless and impoverished sections, against Barack Obama, a black man, ruling for two terms, and becoming the first black man to become the president of the USA. Surely, both the theories seem to be hitting the nail on the coffin of the Democrats’ candidate.
In 2016, Bernie Sanders was riding a massive wave, a mass wave of solidarity and support, unprecedented in the history of capitalist USA. Almost the entire millennials, youngsters and students, across colours, status, campuses and class spectrum, were supporting Bernie: an incredible upsurge for the socialist and Left principles and values of equality, justice, egalitarian ethics and anti-war politics flooded the political mainstream consciousness, and the critique of capitalism post-recession acquired a new life not only in campuses, but across the media and middle class spectrum. ‘Bernie’ from Vermont, a die-hard socialist, won one battle after another. The old man became a river of redemption for the young in America, who wanted change, peace, no war, and a new society, with hope floating like a miracle. Bernie resurrected the spirit of the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement.
His candidature was unfortunately and predictably shattered by the Democrats belonging to the Rightwing lobbies, including the pro-Israeli hardliners. Once again Obama blocked his candidature. People were convinced in the US at that time that Bernie would have been a formidable opponent to Trump and the working class and the educated, especially the young, would have definitely voted for him. Indeed, many of the young supporters of Bernie refused to vote for Hillary Clinton, and chose to abstain. One big reason for the dislike for her was her crude and transparent happiness expressed after the gruesome roadside murder of Libyan president Muammar Gaddaffi, and her role in the escalation of war in Syria.
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The latest goof-ups by Trump, which otherwise seems so universally shameful and embarrassing, even for a thick-skinned man like him, might just not affect his credibility among his fanatic followers one bit. He has apparently called American soldiers ‘suckers’, that is, those who died in World War II. Besides, he has apparently come on tape with a top journalist declaring that the Corona pandemic might be disastrous etc, and that China might not be at all under control. However, in all his public utterances he has stated just the opposite, that all is well, that China is doing course correction, and that there is nothing to worry. Even while thousands were dying in America, especially in big cities like New York, especially Blacks and Latinos when compared to the White population, and the cases were rising like hell across the American landscape.
Rightwing hardliners including pro-gun lobbies and supremacists actually rejected the pandemic, chose to protest against restrictions, lockdown and quarantine in the name of individual freedom, dumped the mask into the garbage can, and chose to assemble and mingle in bars and public spaces in total disregard for the norms of social and physical distancing. Trump himself refused to wear the mask in the initial days.
With so many thousands dead, and the pandemic refusing to die down, the economy in a slump, and the American foreign policy in doldrums, and the promise of jobs an illusion, Trump is banking on various factors to push the mandate in his favour, including in the so-called swing states. He is banking on the white backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement, and the brutal use of armed mercenaries and Feds against peaceful protestors in democratic and liberal strongholds like Portland in Oregon. He is banking on the recent peace deal brokered by him between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, the first in a beginning foreseen across the Arab world which is aligned with Saudi Arabia and is opposed to Iran. And he is banking on his original ‘Make America Great Again’ constituency of white supremacists, racists, sexists, and anti-immigrants.
With Joe Biden appearing weak and indecisive, and with his history of being a pale shadow in the charismatic presence of Obama, Trump is pushing the negative discourse of his son’s links in Ukraine etc. A Bernie would have shown him his place. A Biden might just find himself on a sticky wicket as the race heats up.