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Questions From Israel: How and Why Trump?

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Reprinted from Wallwritings

Donald Trump
Donald Trump
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Two months and eight days into this tumultuous election year, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton hold commanding leads for the presidential nominations of their respective parties.

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It is not difficult to explain Clinton's success. Democrats have grown accustomed to her face in the White House, the Senate and on the international scene.

Voters who knew her face and wanted her to be president were not sufficient to enable her to defeat Barack Obama for the 2008 Democratic nomination.

After eight more years in the public arena, Clinton's political identity is more fully formed, and her financial backing more firmly fixed by her favorability rating on Wall Street.

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Clinton now appears poised to win the Democratic nomination. Trump's victory at the Republican Convention, also appears almost certain.

Like Clinton, he is a familiar face. He gained familiarity as a (for real) billionaire television star who played an uncouth talk show bully. In the political arena, Trump has honed that same image to emerge as a successful (still for real) billionaire uncouth political bully.

One Israeli media commentator who has covered and analyzed his own local share of uncouth bullies in political office, has written a succinct and on-target explanation as to why and how, Donald Trump emerged.

Ari Shavit is a senior correspondent at Jerusalem-based Haaretz and a member of its editorial board.

In a recent column on the U.S. election, Shavit offers three reasons why a billionaire like Trump, with no political background, has risen so high and so fast in his race for the presidency.

To begin, Trump is a political demagogue in the American political tradition of demagogues who emerge to confront and over-simplify what a portion of the population has been taught to fear.

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Shavit explains that Trump's success is rooted in three fears:

"The first reason for Trump's success is fear for the nation's identity. American demography is changing fast. White Christian America is becoming a minority. In the two election campaigns won by Barack Obama, American politics celebrated the change.

"Now comes the reaction. Something dark and horrible is rising from parts of the conservative white population, which feels it's losing its hegemony over the land it has built."

Shavit writes that Trump's ability to tap into economic fear is the second reason for his political success. Shavit examines the history of that fear.

"In the last 30 years American capitalism has become rapacious as it hasn't been since the end of the 19th century. Massive concentration of capital, huge social gaps and an eroding middle class are breaking the American dream to bits. In the absence of real mobility and the lack of confidence in a better future, American stability and optimism have been undermined."

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James Wall served as a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois, from 1999 through 2017. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced (more...)

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