Trump: A Test of American Democracy

Trump at a presidential campaign rally, September 3, 2015. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

By Jamal Kanj 

America’s election is in full swing. For those who are unfamiliar with what appears to be a perplexing democratic exercise, it is important to remember that this is an internal party election phase. Republicans and Democrats hold their own state primaries (elections) to choose delegates for each party’s national convention, held usually in July or early August.

Primaries take place between February and June of the election year. The national presidential election is conducted on Tuesday after the first Monday in the following November.

In this cycle, the Democratic side has two well-known and long-serving politicians. On the Republican side it is a loud hodgepodge basket of candidates led by copycats pandering to the hardcore extreme right wing of the party.

The top three Republican candidates are: a businessman/reality TV show personality Donald Trump, senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Cruz’s father and Rubio’s parents were Cuban immigrants.

The scions of immigrant parents got into heated exchange in Spanish in last Republican’s debate where each tried to outdo Trump by promising to shut the door that granted refuge to their parents.

For better or worse, and in the absence of an alternative option, Trump is poised to win the Republican nomination. Rubio and Cruz are miniature ideological copies of Trump and vying for the same angry hordes.

Republican debates have become TV entertainment episodes. Trump is the lead chorus’ star and the cheerleader. The party’s voters are attracted to political entertainment. It is reminiscent of the time when John McCain selected Alaska governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate in 2012.

Large enthusiastic crowds turned out to be entertained by her cheeky criticism of Obama. In her footsteps, Trump too is having large turnouts listening to his caustic attacks against Muslims, “Mexicans rapists” and to advocate the return to torture.

Like a professional comedian who gets his clue from a laughing audience, Trump gets his from ruckus cheers approving his racist rants.

Trump is extremely self-absorbed. For example he reckoned his latest win in New Hampshire because “(voters) like me a lot.” He lavishes himself with attributes of greatness, even when addressing his failures.

Explaining his four corporate bankruptcies, in 1991, 1992, 2004 and 2009, he said, “I used the law four times and made a tremendous thing. I did a very good job.”

He showers his entertainment seeking supporters with talks but little substance. “You’re going to love it,” or that he would be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”

He speaks adult gibberish to his boisterous crowd, like promising “phenomenal” health care system and “so many victories … it’s gonna be coming out of your ears.”

He pledged to build a free and “Far better, far higher” Mexican-paid wall to stop “killers” and “rapists” invader coming across the southern borders. His example was the Israeli separation wall paid for by US taxpayers.

Trump has candy for every occasion. Even when a train chugged down the tracks near where he was speaking in Iowa, he diverted from his speech saying, “that train is going to be moving a hell of a lot faster.”

Trump, the businessman is accustomed to saying and promising anything to conclude a deal. But voters must realise that running for the office of the president of the most powerful nation is not a business where bankruptcy is an option.

It is highly unlikely that Trump could hold his feet against any opposition candidate in national election. It would be, however, premature to dismiss him.

Empirical experience shows that democracy has a fatal flaw when voters flock behind a charismatic demagogue who can skilfully exploit people’s fear, insecurity and anger.

By exploiting the same, the democratic experiment has brought us in past and present the likes of Hitler, Mussolini, George W Bush and Benjamin Netanyahu.

– Jamal Kanj ( writes regular newspaper column and publishes on several websites on Arab world issues. He is the author of “Children of Catastrophe,” Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. He contributed this article to (A version of this article was first published by the Gulf Daily News newspaper.)

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