The populist Republican is a formidable candidate in today’s political culture, while the Democrats are scuppering themselves with their hatred of ‘Middle America’, their support for BLM and their general ineptitude.
Donald Trump can win this year’s presidential election because he is, in effect, the political Frankenstein monster created by the globalized elites who now completely dominate the Democratic Party.
Just as the central character of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel was a projection of elite fear of the rise of the industrial working class, so too is Trump the archetypal “deplorable” to be feared and destroyed.
With one important difference.
Unlike Dr Frankenstein’s monster, Trump is not a fictional character. He is a very real and, notwithstanding his obvious and many flaws, extremely effective politician.
Just as surely as Dr Frankenstein created his monster, so too did America’s globalized elites create the current President.
Trump did not create the 1980s greed-based capitalism that allowed him to amass his fortune. Nor did he create the mindless celebrity culture that thrust him into media prominence, and has now fatally infected American politics. Nor did Trump create the post-truth intellectual climate and culture of narcissism that nourish him and permit him to succeed beyond his own expectations.
All of these fundamental economic and cultural changes are the handiwork of the globalized elites that now dominate politics, universities, large corporations, bureaucracies and large sections of the media in America. More importantly, they have completely taken over the Democratic Party in the last 20 years.
Trump’s populist politics oppose the ideologies of the globalized elites (identity politics, catastrophic climate change, political correctness etc) and appeal to those groups that have been left behind by the globalization of the American economy and the ideological rule of the new elites.
It was these groups – so-called ‘Middle America’– who elected Trump in 2016, and they will again play a decisive role in this year’s election. Neither Trump nor Joe Biden can become president without a large measure of their support.
Given his appalling mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic and his refusal to even acknowledge the racial tensions dividing America, Trump’s chances of being re-elected should be slim. (Having said that, it is important to note that America’s race problem existed long before Trump, and that Barack Obama, during the eight years of his presidency, did absolutely nothing to alleviate it).
The fact that Trump has a good chance of being re-elected – recent polls suggest that the gap between him and Biden is closing – is in large part due to the Democrats’ inability to deal with Trump personally or to effectively appeal to Middle America.
Trump is not a traditional politician, and he operates within a political culture that is qualitatively different from that which existed even 20 years ago.
American politics today is characterized by furious ideological division, the demonizing and delegitimizing of opponents, and the absence of rational public debate. Anti-intellectualism is the norm, and celebrity status is more important than policy coherence. The appearance of strength is a politician’s most important asset these days.
Contemporary American politics is fundamentally and irredeemably irrational.
Commentators such as Walter Lippmann pointed out the irrational nature of American politics in the 1920s, but the degree of irrationality has increased exponentially since then.
Within such a political framework, Trump is a formidable politician. His victory in 2016, which was no aberration, should have made this clear.
Democrat opponents of Trump, however, continue to ignore the changed nature of contemporary American politics and, as a result, seriously underestimate Trump’s political effectiveness. This was the case with Hilary Clinton in 2016, and Biden appears to be making the same mistake.
Biden treats Trump as if he is a reincarnation of Ronald Reagan. He keeps trying to engage Trump in rational policy debates, and even when he justifiably attacks Trump on policy grounds, his attacks fail to resonate. When Biden criticizes Trump for being politically incorrect, the attacks are even more ineffective.
There is only one way to deal effectively with Trump, and that is to dominate him by sheer force of personality. Biden is clearly not up to this, and neither were any of the other Democrat nominees (except, perhaps, for Kamala Harris). But the Democrats’ political strategy, in any event, eschews such a Trump-like approach.
Not only is Biden incapable of dealing with Trump personally, but there is a distinct possibility that Trump will destroy him during the three scheduled pre-election debates.
Much will depend on the format of the debates, but Trump excels in face-to-face confrontations with people he can dominate – and the gaffe-prone Biden will be particularly vulnerable in such a setting.
As to the Democrats’ failure to appeal to Middle America, three issues are particularly relevant here.
First, the unprincipled attempted impeachment of Trump, which failed completely (as it was always going to). The Democrats got down in the gutter with Trump, but he beat them comprehensively at his own game. Allied to this is the never-ending media campaign to discredit Trump over trivial issues and alleged breaches of political correctness. Such tactics are fundamentally misguided and counter-productive.
Second, the Democrats’ enthusiastic support for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests and their failure to rigorously condemn the ongoing mindless violence associated with them. This is a serious political error, which will cost Biden crucial votes – and it has enabled Trump, with a degree of justification, to pose as the defender of law and order and to accuse Biden of wanting to destroy America.
And third, the refusal by the Democrats to make any ideological concessions whatsoever in respect of identity politics or political correctness. The fact that Biden chose Harris as his running mate only because she was black and a woman says it all. The globalized elites despise Middle America and its values, and the current Democrat leadership (just like Hilary Clinton) is incapable of hiding it – even if it is in their political interests to do so.
Readers of Shelley’s novel will recall that, at the end of the book, Dr Frankenstein is dead and the still-alive monster is last seen drifting towards the horizon clinging to an iceberg.
The presidential election in November will no doubt conclude somewhat differently – although the novel’s ending may yet prove vaguely prescient.
In any event, the fact that Trump still has a good chance of being re-elected says a great deal more about the ideological blindness and political ineptitude of Biden and the Democratic Party than it does about Trump.
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