Along with many other amateur political analysts, I had to hold back streams of laughter when Donald Trump announced that he would be running for the US presidency. A multi-billionaire tycoon, whose expertise is in the fields of business and mass media, becoming a hopeful candidate? Especially considering how anti-corporate the US political climate seemed at the time of his candidacy? Surely this would be one of the greatest political failures of our generation. I was certain that he was heading towards a catastrophe, that could forever ruin his reputation and career. Yet, as the results of the polls came in, my jaw dropped—perhaps accompanied by the gaping mouths of those who thought the same way about Trump.
Donald Trump is now one of the two most popular candidates in the US elections. Moreover, he has a chance to win the race. Despite his background of having always been wealthy throughout his life, his numerous scandals, the unintelligible blurbs that come out from his mouth, he still resonated with the American people. I was flabbergasted that a man who is well-known to bask in his own glory could rally the voices of millions of people. I had to find out why, immediately, about how this man who is a widespread internet-joke, or nothing else but a celebrity of reality TV garner so much followers. The answers, as always, are many.
We could turn our eyes towards how famous, or infamous, Trump is as a television personality. We could point our fingers at the massive piles of cash he hoards. Perhaps we could even say that he has a kind of charisma that oddly adheres people to him. I would not say that any of these guesses are wrong—I am but a layman after all—but what piques my curiosity is the latter of these choices. I.e. his public speaking ability. Or lack thereof, depending on how one views him. Nevertheless, he does have a way with people, especially with convincing his listeners that he knows the solution to all of their problems.
In one of his most well known speeches, which was about something I failed to understand, he muttered the rambling answer,
“Look. We can bring the American Dream back. That I will tell you. We will bring it back. Okay? And I understand what you’re saying. And I get that from so many people. ‘Is the American Dream dead?’ They are asking me the question, ‘Is the American Dream dead?’ And the American Dream is in trouble. That I can tell you. Okay? It’s in trouble. But we’re going to get it back and do some real jobs. How about the man with that beautiful red hat? Stand up! Stand up! What a hat!”
What do those words mean, really? He talked about the “American Dream,” an already vague concept, said that it was in peril, pledged that he will rectify the situation, and something about a man with a red hat for some reason. Essentially, it’s a load of gibberish. But I am not showcasing his speech as another way to derive humor from Trump, rather to illustrate how clever he actually is when it comes to preaching to the public.
Trump’s appeal clearly doesn’t lie in the realm of wisdom. Who, in their right mind, could conceive of the idea of building a literal wall to prevent Mexican immigrants? Probably no one sane. However, he does have a peculiar kind of specialty: giving his listeners answers to their problems, in a manner that is both simplistic and decisive. In other words, it does not matter how wrong he could be concerning the issues he speaks of, what is truly of import is that he is willing to instantaneously generate solutions.
Any person would be able to understand that the world is not black and white. No terrorist group consists wholly of evil-doers, not all American are gun-toting Bible-thumpers, and no issue can be resolved with an answer that does not bring about unwanted consequences. Yet Trump attempts, and at times, succeeds at painting a black-and-white world; where there is absolute good—America—and evil—almost everyone else. Here is where I believe Trump’s core power lies: in simplifying complex quandaries into something solvable by the common man. Of course, his resolutions are likely in error, yet what does that matter when his voters are in agreement? His errs are invisible to his supporters, so they matter almost none really.
I ask you, dear reader, to return to the part of Trump’s speech I pasted on this text. Look back at how vague the subject of the “American Dream” is, how he does not even try to tell the audience the difficulties apparently surrounding it. However, these two elements are already useful enough for Trump to demonstrate how great his capacity to rule would be. Should he become head of state, then he would simply, “…get it back and do some real jobs.” And before anyone could provide a rebuttal, he diverts the public’s attention to “…the man with the beautiful red hat.”
How Trump managed to draw an immense crowd of dedicated supporters, is partially due to his ability to toy with the minds of the public. Present a topic, claim that there are complications surrounding it, then confer a vague but understandable answer before redirecting the listeners’ focus to something completely different. With that method, he could portray himself as an able leader, who should be followed and listened.
Trump is actively undertaking a crusade against critical thinking. His words, when rebutted, would be denied in a manner that incredibly few could understand. This is also done in purpose, as then his followers would be able to imagine the realization of Trump’s resolution by themselves. And as the human mind is prone to do, we prefer to think in a way that complements our beliefs. For Trump’s adherers, this would mean that his resolutions would be flawlessly implemented, to the benefit of them all.
It ix no mystery at all then, why there exists people who support a man born out of wealth, who made his fame through vapid television programs, all the while acting against the interests of the middle or lower economic classes. These facts do not concern Trump supporters. As he has successfully, perhaps for the misfortune of those not loaded with money, goaded American peoples into supporting someone who knows perhaps next to nothing about good governance. Regrettably, we—as either citizens or non-citizens of the US—can only watch him prod more and more cattle into his slaughterhouse. He truly is the manifestation of how humans entrapped by fear, from the realms of security to personal finance, could make the unwisest decisions.