Words by: Adi Rai
The message that Obama was elected for was “Hope” and “Change”. It seems that when 8 years of Obama did not yield much of either to many, and this glaring failure was largely ignored by the media and political intuitions, these same disaffected people were willing to flock to a candidate that essentially took that core message and turned it on its head. Hope and change didn’t work, so let’s give up on progressiveness and look back to ‘make America great AGAIN’. Want change? Let’s do just that and ‘drain the swamp’ and fix this ‘rigged system’. Exit polls reflected that these messages reflected what many were most concerned about with some polls showing that three in five voters said the country was seriously on the wrong track.
Trumps election will be analysed for years to come. However, to me what is most interesting is the way in which Trump and his simple and hateful rhetoric was able to tap into the disenfranchised of America like never before. When we delve into the exit polls we find that – in complete contradiction to all pre-election polls – Trumps victory was due to an overwhelming turnout of white voters across the board. Not only did whites of both sexes, almost all ages and education levels supported Trump, but their income levels ranged from mid to high. In this sense, the idea that this election was a “white-lash” could not ring more true. Despite all this, Trump still did not win the popular vote. If you take into account incredibly low voter turnout numbers (but which are historically just above average) only about one in four eligible voters actually voted for Trump.
Trump’s ascension to the presidency was not just a response to the media and political establishment, but the democratic system itself. The left thought they’d won the ‘culture war’ for so long that they never bothered to notice the side effects of this. Instead they grew complacent and despite various warning signals (such as the unexpected popularity of Sanders), never realised that there was a larger underlying problem. It’s not called a ‘Culture WAR’ for no reason, and while the left has, to great success, marched confidently forward touting the virtues of political correctness and the destruction of all forms of discrimination, they also drowned out dissent and discussion. Additionally, the increasingly polarised US media found it easier to become echo chambers of their own subscribers’ views instead of holding each candidates to accountable. Even after Trump’s surprising and sweeping victory I am hard pressed to find a headline from any ‘reputable’ American news media that was not revealing a bias by either openly gloating or despairing. The disenfranchised and the “deplorables” found themselves quickly silenced and disregarded. Trump gave this demographic a platform to angrily hit back at the media, the seemingly all-pervasive left wing cultural shift, and the establishment, including the political class who had largely ignored them.
While roundly mocked, in hindsight the effectiveness of Trump’s unorthodox campaign strategy was ingenious. He was able to position himself as a man of the people who talked straight and shot from the hip. He was an underdog like them and was railing against the establishment with and for them. He masterfully controlled the 24-hour news cycle and relentlessly pushed a hardline attack on any and all of his opponents and detractors (even in his own party) that could not be answered in kind by establishment politician. His policies and aims, while not big on details, painted a brutally clear vision of the future
. In comparison to Clinton, Trump was her antithesis and was expertly able to manipulate her already weak popularity and likeability to denounce her at every turn. While now many claim that had Sanders been the Democratic nominee he would have won, I find it hard to believe Sanders would not have also folded under the uncompromisingly personal and negative attacks that were at the core of Trump’s campaign strategy.