Back in June 2015 the entire world joined together in a belly laugh as Donald Trump declared the words, “I am officially running for President of the United States.” Since then he has insulted and attacked large sectors of society – not only in his native USA but all over the world – yet his popularity has steadily increased and the belly laughs are now turning into nervous giggles.
Dr. Jack Thompson – lecturer at the Clinton Institute for American Studies in UCD – shone some light on why this may be happening. “Trump is giving a voice to a massive percentage of the population – angry people that the elites in both parties tend to ignore.”
“In many ways, Trump and Sanders are different sides of the same coin,” said Dr. Thompson. “US politicians are proud that unemployment now sits at around five per cent and the economy is steadily growing. The reality is that most of this growth goes to the people at the top of the spectrum. Working class people haven’t seen a rise in their wages and they’re angry about that.”
To make a comparison between Trump and Sanders may seem laughable, but hear me out.
Sanders’ campaign is strongly focused on extinguishing the corruption in politics. He has refused to take donations from Super PACs as he does not want to be beholden to them. At the first Democratic debate in December he said, “Our campaign finance system is corrupt and is undermining American democracy. Millionaires and billionaires are pouring unbelievable sums of money into the political process in order to fund super PACs and to elect candidates who represent their interests, not the interests of people.”
Donald Trump likes to remind people pretty regularly that he is “extremely rich” and is self-funding his campaign (although questions have been raised about this recently) and he therefore, like Sanders, has no special interests or lobbyists asking him for favours. After admitting to making donations to political interests in the past, he called campaign financing a “broken political system”.
That being said, the differences vastly outweigh the similarities between Sanders and Trump.
Trump’s campaign strategy centres around highlighting people’s fears in an often aggressive and manipulating manner. You often hear Trump supporters say things like, “he speaks the truth”. And the truth is that there are a large number of Americans who truly think that Mexicans are “rapists”, immigrants are dangerous and that the way to solve the problems in Syria is to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS.
Because of these “truths”, the Republican party is worried.
Stacy Hilliard of Republicans Abroad told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland on Wednesday, “A candidate should truly represent the Republican values and be someone of decency who doesn’t bully other candidates.”
Dr. Thompson explained saying, “Scholars have talked about seeing the Republican party broken.” Recent developments within the Republican establishment suggest tactics to “sabotage Trump and reassert the party’s control”.
This split is evident when you consider the statements made by the two most recent Republican candidates for president. Mitt Romney called Trump a “fraud” and “a phony”. Senator John McCain agreed with Mr. Romney, adding “uninformed” and “dangerous” to their list of words to describe Trump. Mr. Romney continued by encouraging voters to back the candidates most likely to deny Trump a victory in the remaining states yet to hold their primaries and caucuses.
At the same time, former Republican presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie has rushed to Trump’s side along with Gov. Paul LaPage of Maine and five members of congress.
Although Trump has won in the majority of states where primaries have been held so far, the race is far from over. Tuesday 15 March is a critical day in this unpredictable battle as 367 delegates are up for grabs. 226 of these are in winner-take-all states which includes Florida – Senator Marco Rubio’s home state.
“The Republicans have some soul-searching to do,” said Dr. Thompson. “If Trump wins the Florida primary, it’s game over.”