If you were to tell me this time last year that Donald Trump, the entrepreneur from the American version of The Apprentice, would be the front runner for the Republican presidential nomination I would say you were as daft as he is.
As it stands, however, the presidential hopeful is leading in the polls for the Republican nomination. With Hillary Rodham Clinton leading in the polls for the Democratic nomination it seems, at this point in time, that America will have to choose between either the first female US president or a business mogul made famous from his family name and a reality TV show.
The presidential primaries, which determines each party’s nomination for office, is fast approaching. By March we will know of the two contenders vying for a place behind the Oval Office. The unfathomable is beginning to look ominously possible.
But you can’t help but respect how Trump has risen so highly and quickly in political esteem.
So who Is Donald Trump?
To write Donald Trump off as a bigoted buffoon is absurd. Though he is certainly bigoted, Trump is a successful business magnate who has amassed a net worth that he claims himself to be over $10 billion. His actual net worth is more like $4 billion, but it is fair to say that the name Trump carries some influence as his father was also one of the most successful businessmen of his time. In fact it was his father, Fred, who loaned Donald Trump $1 million at the start of his career. Donald was certainly fortunate in his early life, in the wealth and knowledge gained from his father, but he must be credited for the business empire he established over the course of his career.
Equally impressive to Trump’s rise in the world of business is his spectacular surge in popularity with the electorate; from an outsider in the campaign to the Republican favourite. Hailing from a privileged background his upbringing must have been vastly different to that of the ordinary American he has gained support of the ‘everyman’ blue-collar worker, much to the surprise of his competition. Trump has built his political standing on his ‘straight-talking’ attitude which many Americans feel as a refreshing change from the politically-correct and reserved nature of current politicians. He is also separated from the pack by the fact that his campaign has been solely funded by himself, which voters feel make him impartial and somewhat independent from party politics. Trump is also seen as the popular choice because of his experience outside of politics; many believe that his know-how in the business world would be beneficial in dealing with the country’s economic issues.
Much like Obama with ‘Yes We Can’, Trump has rallied voters to his cause with the help of an engaging motto for his campaign: ‘Make America Great Again’. This time the motto stands as a connotation that America is vulnerable and needs a strong leader to save it, rather than one of optimism and hope that we saw in Obama’s campaign.
Trump has also gained much of the support from the core Republican voters through the endorsement by Sarah Palin. Though she is still somewhat seen as the ‘Soccer Mom’ of American politics, she still has plenty of influence within the Evangelical Church which could take crucial votes away from other contenders, particularly Ted Cruz, a Southern Baptist and second in the race of the Republican nomination.
Trump is most well known in the UK for the golf courses he owns in Scotland and in Ireland. He received widespread negative publicity after purchasing Menie Estate in Balmedie, Aberdeenshire in 2006 which was a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and turned it into a golf course by Trump. He later purchased the Turnberry hotel and golf resort in Ayrshire in 2014 and publically objected the construction of an off-shore wind farm in sight of the golf course. This also spawned possibly the best picture of Donald Trump to date.
What has Trump been saying?
Although Trump’s technique in rallying support can be commended, the content of his speeches, proposed policies and general outlook on the world is so scandalous that it is actually becomes laughable. For instance at a rally in Birmingham, Alabama on November 21st Trump claimed that he saw “thousands of people” cheering after the destruction of the World Trade Centre. When Trump was later questioned on this ridiculous falsehood he changed his story to say he was at his apartment and the scenes of people celebrating he saw from his TV.
Declaring falsehoods to spread fear and inspire hate has been the hallmark of Trump’s campaign. In November Trump tweeted these statistics on homicide by race (pictured right). Not only were the figures widely inaccurate, their supposed source was from the Crime Statistics Bureau – San Francisco, an organisation that doesn’t even exist.
His outlook on Europe is equally astonishing. In December, Trump commented that some areas of London and Paris were too dangerous for the police to enter because of radicals. The statement received widespread criticism from social media. Mayor of London, Boris Johnson responded: “…the only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.”
There are many speeches by Trump that can be scrutinised for one reason or another. Trump has made it this far into the campaign and maintained his lead even after mocking a disabled reporter. Furthermore Trump has also showed that he can be publically chauvinistic and still stay on top of the polls in taking down fellow Republican candidate Carly Fiorina, by making fun of her looks as a reason for her not to be president.
What does Trump want?
Trump’s unfounded statements aside, it is his proposed policies which are the greatest cause for concern, not just for America but the world.
At Donald Trump’s presidential announcement speech he said that one of his top priorities was to build a giant wall along the border with Mexico. He claimed: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Statements like this are hardly what you would expect a prospective politician to say, especially as Latino-Americans make up approximately 17% of the total population of 54 million people. In fact Trump has called for the deportation of approximately 11 million Latinos.
It is estimated that in order to build a wall able to stretch across the 2,000 mile border it would cost anywhere between $15 billion to $25 billion. Under George W. Bush’s administration the Secure Fence Act was passed in 2006 which created a 700 mile stretch barrier between the countries. The fence was placed in the most suitable areas; places where there was infrastructure or areas of population. That wall cost $2.8 to $3.9 million for every 1 mile stretch of the border, however they were also built in the easiest to reach places and thus much cheaper to what Trump is proposing. Not only will fences out in the desert be difficult to build they will hardly prevent people crossing them; if migrants would be willing to walk many miles into the wilderness a wall will only slow them down by a few minutes. Trump said that the U.S. taxpayers should not be worried at the cost of the wall as he said Mexico will pay for it or else face trade restrictions. Mexico, unsurprisingly, said they would not foot the bill.
A hot topic which has featured in all the candidates’ campaigns is how to deal with ISIS. Trump claims himself that he would take the hardest line against the self-proclaimed state controlling parts of Syria and Iraq. Trump has said he would “bomb the hell out of them” and specifically target the oil fields which he would turn over to American corporations once secured with ground troops. George W. Bush would be proud.
In early December, Donald Trump advocated after the San Bernardino terrorist attack for a ban on all Muslims entering the country. Trump said that it would be blanket ban on all Muslims entering the country; whether they migrants, tourists and even if they are American citizens out of the country. Trump said that the ban would not affect Muslims already living in the country, but did not mention if it would affect Muslim citizens in the armed services out of the country or those on diplomatic missions. To add to this as well Trump has also proposed for the surveillance of Muslim-Americans, including surveillance of Muslims from inside mosques. Many have responded, particularly from the UK, to say that Trump’s statements are only benefitting ISIS by increasing radicalisation.
It was these statements on Islam which prompted a petition to ban Donald Trump from entering the UK. The petition received over 500,000 signatures, more than enough for the 100,000 needed to bring Parliament to discuss the motion.
The discussion of the petition and the US campaign election campaign highlight the stark differences in British and American politics. On the one side there are the dry and hum-drum deliberations and courteous discussions, and on the other side of the pond we can see the flashy and sensationalised debate between larger than life personalities.
And that is where Trump gains his strength. His familiarity on TV and in the public eye has given him the perfect experience needed for a successful presidential campaign. The American public either love him or hate him; with every outlandish statement made by Trump he polarizes the American voters even further. But it is the timing of his statements which has given him the support from much of the Republican electorate as well as some of the neutral, undecided voters living in the crucial ‘swing states’; the states which can make or break a presidential campaign.
The terrorist attacks in Paris and California have played into Trump’s hands as he uses the public’s emotions to swing voters to his side. Every outlandish or insulting statement made by Trump also triggers an immense rise in his popularity in the polls. Iowa will be the first state to decide upon the each party’s presidential nomination on the 1st February. It looks likely that Trump will win the vote which could potentially cascade across the other states with Trump winning them too. Trump is certainly a man who has the confidence to believe that there are no longer any obstacles to him becoming president; he thinks he is unstoppable, even if he was to go out onto the street and shoot somebody…
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