Trump continues to gain supporters despite radicalism
Opinion Column: Sonam Says
Since he bulldozed into the Republican primary race back in June, Donald Trump has defied every political norm and tradition. The man who was initially written off as a billionaire vanity candidate has held the top spot in Republican polls by a veritably wide margin for almost five months. It’s an unprecedented lead that’s even more remarkable because he’s a non-establishment candidate with virtually no political experience.
These factors, which have historically hurt other candidates, may in fact be doing the opposite for Trump by giving him a boost in the polls. It’s no secret that Republican voters — and some Democrats as well — have reported being increasingly dissatisfied by the circus that is the United States Congress. Its tendency to waste time on political games that serve the interests of the wealthy has finally hit a nerve with voters on both ends of the spectrum, but more so with Republicans. Indeed, their interests are now swaying more toward candidates who are from outside the current political establishment.
The issues that Trump’s campaign are built on — immigration, international trade and national security — are also hot topics for next year’s election. And while his tired lines detailing that “he’s a winner,” without giving any legitimate details about how he plans to achieve his grand visions seem ridiculous and xenophobic to the more informed citizen, those same visions have certainly fired up his particular voting base.
And that’s the crux of it. The paradox of Donald Trump’s presidential run is best summed up by recognizing that comments and policy stances that are typically seen as campaign-crushing gaffes, have in fact elevated him to his front-runner status — or at the very least, they certainly haven’t hurt him much. He’s offended virtually every demographic that isn’t in the wealthy, white male category: Mexicans, African-Americans, Jews, Muslims, women, the disabled, the poor and many others have all been slammed by the Donald at one point or another. In light of the recent Paris terrorist attacks, he’s taken it so far as to hint at a national database to register all Muslims. Sound familiar? Adolf Hitler implemented a similar policy, in which all Jews were forced to wear yellow badges identifying themselves, essentially aiding in their persecution and eventual genocide.
Supporters of Trump are always quick to note that he isn’t anywhere close to, or even in the same realm as Hitler was. But what they don’t seem to notice is that this is how it starts. Hitler didn’t come into power and immediately order the execution of more than 11 million innocent people. He slowly cultivated a culture of hate toward anyone who didn’t fit his narrow perception of “German.” Much in the same way, Donald Trump has slowly but surely stoked the xenophobic, racist fears of the vast majority of his voting base. Immigrants steal jobs and murder people. Muslims are terrorists. Obama is a socialist bent on destroying our “great nation.” China is going to come in and destroy our economy. At every corner and around every bend, Trump uses racially charged rhetoric to stir up the irrational and completely unfounded fears of his supporters.
Upon closer observation, it’s impossible to miss the fact that his entire campaign is built on evoking fear from his angry voters. His solutions to problems aren’t cohesive or detailed in the way that his competitors’ solutions are. We should force Mexico to build a wall “with a huge, beautiful door” to keep illegal immigrants out. How? Well, the how doesn’t matter, because obviously, “he’s a winner.” He’ll get it done somehow. Even his day-to-day viewpoints have no factual basis. He claims to have seen thousands of Muslims in Jersey City celebrating the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11. There’s been zero credible evidence to support this claim, but it must be true, because as Trump noted, “I have the world’s greatest memory.”
Every claim, every stance and every contention is based on stoking fear and providing vague, incoherent solutions to nonexistent problems. Unfortunately, while that platform is ridiculous to any halfway intelligent voter with some semblance of a conscience, it’s certainly struck a chord with Trump’s base. In any case, if people want to hear about things that are scary and disastrous, all they really need to do is imagine the idea of a Donald Trump presidency.
Sonam Sheth is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in economics and statistics. Her column, "Sonam Says," runs on alternate Tuesdays.