By SKC Ogbonnia
Many assume Donald J. Trump can not win the US presidential election this November because he is widely viewed as weird for someone aspiring to lead the free world. But often lost in the debate is that America is not new to radical politicians who have found their way to the White House.
With the exception of George H. W. Bush in 1988, all the candidates who have assumed the presidency—from 1980 to date—exhibited a good measure of unorthodox tendencies. Simply put, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barrack Obama did not win because of mere experience, moral purity, pristine backgrounds or political correctness. They won because of a combination of charisma and how they were able to tap into the pop culture to greater advantage.
Reagan, for instance, was a womanizing movie star, who became the only US President to have been divorced. Dismissed in 1980 as a wacky warmonger, Reagan ended capturing the mantle from a man of urbane character in President Jimmy Carter. That was a similar story with Bill Clinton who prevailed despite a background that evinces weed-smoking, philandering, and draft-dodging. By the time he shocked the political culture by playing the saxophone at Arsenio Hall show in 1992, Clinton was viewed so unpresidential that his opponent, an incumbent President George H. W. Bush, had to dub the democratic nominee a “bozo”. A bozo means a stupid person, a clown, buffoon, nincompoop—the type of nouns commonly equated to Donald Trump today.
The case of the junior Bush, George W is something else. He was once an alcoholic and generally perceived as having an IQ of bovine nature. But that did not stop Americans from choosing him over a policy wonk and a sitting Vice-President Al Gore. Following Bush is Barrack H. Obama whose background was as queer as it gets. Not only was he of thin political résumé and admitted past use of cocaine and marijuana, the first black president is not the typical black. He was born of a Kenyan father from black Africa . Even more bizarro is his Muslim name: Hussein—namesake to a notorious Iraqi leader toppled by the United States after 9/11. Yet, Obama easily trounced a statesman war hero in John McCain.
Enter Donald Trump, a xenophobic, race-baiting, street-talking, cavalier, incoherent, unapologetic but charismatic celebrity, who draws huge crowds by parading fantasy as fact. Without any doubt, Trump appears to pose a bigger threat today than any of the candidates mentioned above. But, in hindsight, it is naïve to assume that the radical style will not continue to gain currency moving forward. The American media have a way of elevating eccentric behaviors to pop culture. Moreover, conventional themes do not seem to resonate in the current electoral cycle strikingly driven by demagoguery on both sides of the political space.
On the left is Bernie Sanders, a care-free 74 year-old self-proclaimed socialist, who has captured 45% of the Democratic Party with the bogus promise of free tuition and $15 minimum wage. On the right, of course, is Mr. Trump. Tapping into a visceral anger provoked by 9/11 as well as decades of job flights, the real estate mogul hoodwinks his followers with a pledge of banning Muslims from entering the United States , erecting a wall between the country and Mexico , and deporting 11 million illegal aliens. Having conquered the Republican Party, the entire American electorate is his next target. And he can.
The scheme has begun with Trump already pivoting to a gullible bloc of the Democratic Party beholden to socialist agenda of soon-to-be gone Bernie Sanders. So far, Trump has embraced the wage increase and won’t surprise many if he also grabs Bernie’s free tuition gambit. For this Republican presumptive nominee is not a true conservative. Mr. Trump has no core beliefs and is set to say anything to get elected. After all, the man has declared that he will begin to exhibit presidential decorum only after he might have packed into the White House.
What is more, the Republican establishment has eaten its words “bigly”, flip-flopping, and gradually coalescing behind its unrepentant flag bearer. Most significantly, it is no longer news that the almighty media have gone gung-ho with the Trump mania, which is understandable because of the entertainment value. It is also true that many tune in to Trump because of his tendency to spew laughable rhetoric in a flash. Even a hardcore conservative, like me, is equally guilty of the craze. The unfortunate reality is that the unprecedented media obsession is inadvertently stoking the 2016 presidential race as Trump VS Trump—as if he is the lone option. Not surprisingly, his well-crafted campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”, and some humane aspects of the manifesto are beginning to register with the masses.
Of course, Donald Trump is not the only candidate in the race. The alternative is the obvious Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Though she is by far more rational, experienced, cool, and collected, Madam Secretary might have grown too presidential to have become a bore. The Americans do not care for dull moments. They want action, however feigned.
(Ogbonnia can be reached via: SKCOgbonnia@firsttexasenergy.com)