On the 1 year anniversary of Trumps inauguration quite a few commentators are giving their assessment of his first year as president. Not surprisingly, much of the commentary is less than flattering and the list of achievements fairly small.
Recently author Michael Wolff released his book Fire and Fury. This painted a picture of a white house staggering from crisis to crisis and a president who was unstable and not fit to lead. Trumps response to this was unsurprisingly to attack Wolff. Further Trump defended his mental fitness and claimed to be a genius.
It gives me no pleasure to do so but I am forced to agree, President Donald Trump is a genius. Don’t get me wrong, I utterly despise his policies and actions. His anti muslim immigration ban, his executive “gagging” order cutting funding to health groups that advise on contraception, his atrocious and inconsistent position on gun control in the US, his support on twitter of far right Britain First, describing third world countries as “shit holes” and countless other utterly despicable statements. His actions both before inauguration and since have been deplorable. But there is no denying the man is very smart.
When Trump first announced his candidacy for Presidency in 2015 he was largely written off as a joke. The political establishment were quick to pronounce “oh that will that will never happen.” 18 months later he’d beaten both the Bush’s and the Clinton’s, the families who’d won 5 out of the previous 8 elections. He was able to win rust belt states like Michigan that previously were considered ‘safe’ Democrat states. The reality is that Trump defied the odds, and he was able to harness the support of enough angry, alienated hope deprived American voters to install himself into the white house.
American politics has many flaws. All democracies have flaws, some more so than others. In the US, the system is based on a 200 year old constitution thats difficult to change. Difficult both in terms of the actual process, and culturally difficult due to the narrative that the constitution is some sort of sacred document that mustn’t be changed. Constitutions and rules are great, but they work best as living documents that evolve and change with the times. If they don’t change, they hold everyone back. So it is that a US President can be deemed to have won an election when they actually got 2.8 million fewer votes than his opponent. This is the second time this century that this has happened, the other being in 2000 when Bush received 540,000 fewer votes than Al Gore. Despite losing two key elections where through this system, few Democrats have called for this system to be changed.
But Trumps success can’t be solely put down to a broken electoral system. For Trump, Hilary Clinton was the ideal candidate to go up against. Former First Lady, senator who voted for the invasion of Iraq (something Trump claimed to oppose during the Republican Primary Campaign in 2016) and part of the Washington Political establishment. Beaten in the Democrat Primary in 2008 by Obama, the Democratic Party leadership were seriously mistaken in thinking running Hilary would be a good move. And not its not because she was a women, I think had Bill Clinton run in the 2016 election he would have done even worse against Trump.
Hilary was considered the favourite at the start of the 2016 Primary, just as she had been in 2008. Out of nowhere, Bernie Sanders came on the scene and started winning considerable support. Politically you couldn’t get a more different candidate to Trump. What they had in common was they successfully tapped into growing alienation and discontentment in the political and economic system. I’m not saying that a Sanders vs Trump election would have produced a different outcome, though polls suggest otherwise. But once Hilary got the Democrat nomination, and she selected another establishment Democrat Tim Kaine, it was clear that the political establishment were still arrogant and not listening.
On the night of Trumps election I wasn’t surprised. Globally people are fed up with a political elite that don’t listen. The political bubbles that exist in Washington, Westminster, Wellington etc have ignored large sections of society for years. Until recently it worked for them. But Brexit, Trump and a number of upset elections recently in France, New Zealand, Germany and significantly in Alabama show when people have a chance to give the establishment a kick in the pants, they give it to them. There hasn’t been a clear ideological shift globally, but a growing resentment towards the political elites. Trump got this. He didn’t need to be consistent. He didn’t need to be honest. What he needed was to tap into feelings of resentment, sadly using the age old tools of Misogyny, xenophobia and general fear to do so. And yes some help from the Russian Government may have aided his cause.
A year later Trump continues to send late night tweets. The commentators and the establishment respond every time. “This shows Trump isn’t experienced as presidents don’t do this” they always respond. Global outrage and condemnation always follows when an outrageous comment is made. Yet he still tweets. Why? Simple, it fits with his brand. It connects him with his base. His voters wanted someone who wouldn’t just play the Washington game the Washington way. And the tweets prove it. He sends an outrageous tweet and the world responds. Like it or not he is setting the narrative. Its horrible, but he is a genius.
Fire and Fury no doubt sold well. It confirmed for those who oppose his presidency that he is not fit to hold office. Yet hold office he still does. I agree, he shouldn’t. I applaud those who in the US and around the world stand against his policies. But to stop the destructive Trump political agenda, we first need to understand why he come to power.