“Can you believe Trump is going to build this wall that…”
“Do you think Trump’s hair is fake?
“Did you see Chris Christie’s face?”
Perhaps viral quotes and videos are a good way to spread awareness about how Donald Trump is taking America by storm, but if he dropped of the race tomorrow and was never heard from again, I bet that very few of us would care about the failures of both the political system and American public that brought about his rise.
Few people knew that Trump was a Democrat before he was a Republican. You can find multiple sources and videos of him being pro-choice, backing LGBT rights, and supporting the legalization of drugs to tax their trade instead. He also supported an assault weapon ban and a longer waiting period to purchase firearms. Even in his current platform, he supports some sort of universal (not single-payer) health care, as long as it’s not called Obamacare. He also supports a progressive income tax and still defends Planned Parenthood.
But in 2008, Trump realized something: he could channel misinformation as entertainment, and instead of being dismissed, he would actually become wildly popular. By being a vocal component of the birther movement and declaring that Barack Obama was not an American citizen, he showed he could channel America’s discontent and frustration into basically anything he wanted.
Fox News and other conservative media outlets gave him plenty of airtime to broadcast those outrageous statements. After all, everything on TV these days seems to be driven by ratings, and the more entertaining (as opposed to informative) the news was, the better their ratings and revenue. Everything from the mainstream media (liberal media too) to Facebook click bait has taken full advantage of the imperfect human capacity for attention.
Let me be clear, Trump’s racism and bigotry should indeed be publicized. Everyone needs to know that he is not fit to become president, and Americans will suffer greatly if he does. But, is that truly the best way to stop him? We have been expressing outrage over his statements for almost this entire political cycle, yet Trump is winning state after state and only seems to be gaining momentum.
So why are Trump’s supporters truly supporting him? Yes, some of them are racist, but I don’t think 49 percent of voting Republicans in Massachusetts or 46 percent of those in Nevada are racist. Rather, the issue is that a growing number of Republicans have been left out of the political process, unrepresented by the traditional conservative establishment. For so long we’ve heard about low-income Republicans voting against their financial interests, who instead make their decisions based on cultural or ideological choices. Well there’s now a generation of Republicans that are too financial strapped and frustrated with the establishment that they cannot put social issues nor the optimal size of government at the forefront of their concerns. They follow Trump because he has the independence to break from the rigid “official” platforms of the Republican party and the audacity to stand by them.
If we want to stop Trump, we need to stop sharing viral videos of his debates and joking about how crazy of a dictator he would be. After all, this is how he became so popular to begin with. The general public and the Republican establishment have spent enough time in utter disbelief as Trump won state after state, wondering why their endorsements or speeches by Mitt Romney don’t seem to matter. So instead, we should hear the concerns of the dissatisfied voters who are actually supporting Trump and incorporate them into our political system. Judging them as also racists or ridiculing their low level of education will only push them closer towards Trump. We steadfastly believe that Trump will have absolutely no chance in the general election, but if Hillary Clinton isn’t able to shed the big bank-friendly, establishment politics image, it will come back to haunt her this November.
It is certainly possible that Trump knows exactly what he is doing. By providing an entertaining media circus, he dominates the airwaves and ensures the loyalty of his supporters. By the same token, everyone else just fixates on his viral statements at the expense of developing a functional strategy to bring him down. Trump’s rise is a sign that our politics have failed to capture the interests of a large part of our electorate, and we are too focused on Trump the entertainment to realize just how powerful Trump the person actually is.
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James Tian is a first-year medical student who should be studying instead of following politics.