Donald J. Trump. Initially dismissed, laughed at and ridiculed by political leaders from BOTH the Democratic and Republican Parties when he announced, little more than an year ago, that he was running to be the president of the United States on the Republican Party's line. A former life-long Democrat, Trump, a New York billionaire television reality star of sorts was one of the people who were considered to be on the crazy, delusional fringe of the GOP, an organization with an over-abundance of really loony characters.
Today, a man who never held a political office in his life, and whose success as a businessman is questionable at best, appears poised to become the Republican Party's standard-bearer in the 2016 presidential elections. He's bested both GOP neo-conservatives and so-called "Establishment" and "moderate" candidates at every turn. And he's now transforming the Republican Party in ways that has its establishment elders scared as hell and scratching their collective heads for answers.
As Trump pushes and shoves the Republican Party further to the right, forcing the other candidates in the race to swing even father and farther right as a consequence, we're seeing a party that has become so extreme as to make it almost an anomaly in United States politics. The national political narrative is dominated by Trump's bombast and outrageous mouthing off, so much so that both Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have now come down to his level of gutter politics both aiming to "out Trump Trump."
Not since days of President Ronald Reagan has the Republican Party undergone such a rabid and extreme political metamorphosis. The party is now defined by a narrow conservative base of mostly white people who have embraced and bought into the fear-mongering and xenophobia that is how the party's stock in trade. And the sad thing is that its erstwhile leaders seem powerless and impotent to stop the rightward lurch of the party by a fired up and angry base that's carrying Mr. Trump all the way.
On the other side of the political spectrum is Senator Bernie Sanders. A self-described Social Democrat, he's the opposite extreme of the Trump phenomenon. His entry into the race has forced the Democratic Party to confront its long-abandoned policies of struggling for and on behalf of the working class, preserving the social safety net for America's poor, and advocacy for a more just and human social system. Sander's consistent and sustained messaging against the "1%" of millionaires and billionaires" that drive income inequality has all but embarrassed the Democratic Party.
That's because the Democratic Party has, over the past decade, bent back over backwards to placate and curry-favor with the millionaire and billionaire classes and ingratiate itself as the more reliable flunky than the Republican Party. The Democratic Party has abandoned the noble programs of the New Deal replacing it with modern pragmatism that's built on an embrace of the technology class, white professionals and Southern conservative Democrats. All of this started when President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, removed all of the restrictions on Wall Street that hitherto helped to prevent the more damaging cycles of boom and bust in the American economy that reverberated across the world. The former president's wife, Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic Party's presidential candidate, has scolded and chided Senator Sanders as "a one issue" candidate.
I respectfully beg to differ.
Income inequality and the social injustice extremes spawned by the greed and speculation of a tiny minority, mostly from Wall Street, who now own nearly 90 percent of America's wealth while the bottom 99 percent struggles to get by on 10 percent, is, the REAL IMPORTANT pressing issue of our time. It goes to the very heart of the corruption and deformation of United States democracy, an imperfect experiment to start with. Infact, this is THE issue of the 2016 presidential election and its a shame that only ONE candidate seems to grasp that and is talking about it.
Income inequality is responsible for the over 46 million people now living in poverty in America. It is responsible for the corruption of the American electoral system that is loaded against the poor, where billionaires can "buy members of congress" with big money, and where the body politick as represented by the United States Congress now routinely acts against the interests of the American people with impunity. Lobbyists and deep-pocketed billionaires now run the United States electoral system and pay for the campaigns of senators, congress members AND U.S. presidential candidates.
Problems in education, healthcare, economic development, national poverty, militarism, police brutality against Black people ALL stem and originate from the now fixed relations between those who have and the millions that have nothing. Speaking about this is not socialism, or a "one issue," but pragmatism and reality asserting itself.
But let use examine the phenomenon of these transformations on both the Right and the Left. For whatever the outcome this 2016 presidential elections these deep-going social and political developments will remake BOTH political parties, America's duopoly, for all times.
MR. TRUMP AND THE CULT OF THE PERSONALITY
There is no easy answer to explain how a showboating, arrogant, loud-mouth reality TV star cum politician can gin up so much support in so short a time saying the most absurd and insulting things imaginable. Indeed, the unanswerable paradox is that the more unpleasant, coarse, and crude Donald Trump's personality is the greater his appeal appears to be among his core group of supporters. It's the same constituency that the Tea Party draws support from -- poorly educated, white and mostly southern Americans.
That's classic symptoms of the "cult of the personality." For example, poll after poll suggests that Trump's supporters genuinely believe that he is the ONLY candidate with "balls" and that he's a "tough guy." In times of uncertainty and instability, when the American people are just getting over the trauma of home and job losses occasioned by the same Republican Party's president in 2008, a confused and angry populace looks for salvation and protection "in a strong man." Anger is an irrational emotion, especially when people are angry with the political establishment that looks down on them with contempt. People are fantasizing about what a President Trump will be and what he can accomplish for them AGAINST the class that is oppressing them. Indeed, this is an inherently dangerous fantasy driven by a man brimming with a narcissistic personality disorder.
I'm not naïve enough to think that US presidential politics is about humility and reason. Presidential elections are about personalities and, yes, egos. Voters vote for people that they like, who speak "their language," will make things better for "me and my family," and will defend the country from presumed terrorists and "those who want to do us harm." So in many ways Donald Trump is the creation of the Republican Party -- he is the illegitimate horn child birthed by a constant intercourse of fear-mongering, divisive pandering, hate speech directed against America's first Black president and obstruction of policies aimed at poverty alleviation and improved quality of life.
He's the Frankenstein that the Republican Party created to say bluntly and openly the racist and xenophobic things that the party's elected leadership dare not say in public but think in private. They forgot that in forging and stoking Mr. Trump's oversized ego and building the foundation for the cult of his personality that such a phenomenon relies on blind faith in the leader and not objective considered judgments. Today, support for Trump is not about issues critical or important to American society. Rather, it is about his ability to insult others with impunity, to dominate the public discourse with unsubstantiated rumors, personal attacks, and other propaganda tools reminiscent of Nazi Germany. He's going to "Make America Great Again" -- never mind the how, when and in what way.