The US Presidential election is at a fascinating stage. Clarity may come in a few months, but it could still develop into something of a thriller. Talking to some of my American friends, I have been surprised to find that under the vocal indignation about Donald Trump’s clowning and his outrageous comments, there is an undercurrent of admiration for his “stating of things as they really are”. Much of the criticism of Trump, it seems, is because it is expected of them.
The US Presidential election in 2016 is clearly going to be dominated by the issue of immigration. (This holds also for every election that will be held in any country in Europe and for the regional elections in France tomorrow). Economy and taxes and health care will all, I think, trail immigration by a large margin. And that puts Trump in a rather peculiar but unique position. It may well be that Trump is a “figure of this time”; that he is in the right place at the right time. Immigration, itself, is not a single issue and consists of a number of differentiated issues, such as:
- “illegals” and their regularisation,
- citizenship and the commitments to acquire citizenship
- must all (meaning Muslim) immigrants explicitly assert the supremacy of the law of the land over religious Laws (meaning Sharia),
- prevention of future illegal entry,
- the entry rules for the relatives of immigrants who are not citizens
- screening of would be entrants.
It is politically incorrect for any Democrat to admit to any liking for any Republican and – at the present time – quite unthinkable to consider Donald Trump as anything but a pariah. But I sense a thread of support for Donald Trump from the more centrist Democrats and even some immigrants, which will remain hidden and may only show up next November – assuming, of course, that he gets to be a candidate, either for the Republicans or as an Independent.
I am old enough to remember the Reagan elections and I see a parallel between Trump and Reagan. Just as the Reagan Democrats appeared suddenly in droves, I suspect there could be a significant number of secret Trump Democrats who will not (dare not) surface until the real Presidential election. It is worth remembering, that on many issues Trump is remarkably closer to Democratic dogma rather than traditional Republican positions. I remember how incredulous many commentators were at the idea of Reagan, a not very good B-movie, cinema actor, becoming President. There is a similar kind of incredulity about Trump as a serious contender at the present time.
The Atlantic: Like Reagan, Trump is a former Democrat and a one-time TV star, whom the media initially dismissed as having little chance of reaching the White House. But there is a more significant parallel that has gone unnoticed: Trump is running on essentially the same message as Reagan. Reagan insisted that America’s problems were not as complicated or intractable as everyone seemed to think. “For many years now, you and I have been shushed like children and told there are no simple answers to the complex problems which are beyond our comprehension,” Reagan said at his 1967 inauguration as governor of California. “Well, the truth is, there are simple answers—there are not easy ones.”
And of course that is a very powerful message – perhaps an insight. There is always a simple answer which always provides a clear direction. Ways and means for implementing an answer may be difficult but the direction remains clear. It makes a change from politicians who feel it necessary to justify their lack of achievement by over-complicating issues.
Trump does not fit into the normal, standard shape of a conventional Democrat or a Republican. Many minority and immigrant groups also find him difficult to easily classify. Immigrants, especially newly arrived immigrants, have mixed feelings about further immigration and and how it affects their own insecurities. Latinos are incensed at Trump’s comments about immigration, but quite like his hard line about Islamic terrorists. East European immigrants are also attracted to this hard line about both Mexican illegal immigrants and Muslim terrorists. Asian immigrants can be split generally into two groups; Muslims mainly from Islamic countries and non-Muslims. Many of the non-Muslims feel threatened by the Islamisation of their communities and the insidious, creeping encroachment of – and perceived silent surrender to – Sharia Law. A large portion of the Asian communities are not comfortable with the influx of illegal, Latino immigrants. The black community, in my perception, detests the influx of Asians and their perceived economic successes. Asians themselves consider themselves superior, especially academically, intellectually and in business, to the black community. Even the black Muslims feel under threat from all the “new Muslims”, since they come quite low down in the hierarchy of “true Muslims”. Normally the bulk of the immigrant population in the US would be Democratic supporters, but Trump is tapping into some of their greatest fears of other immigrant groups. There is also – I think – a large section of the white, middle-class Democratic support which is inhibited from expressing its fears of immigration and Islamisation and are suddenly quite glad that these fears are being expressed by somebody – even if it is only a Trump.
Of course any support for Trump from the usually Democratic voters is a moot point unless he manages to get on the ballot next November. It occurs to me that many of them would be more likely to vote for Trump if he was labelled an Independent rather than a Republican. So one possible scenario is that Trump will be so far ahead in the Republican race that the GOP establishment decide to have a brokered convention and choose someone other than Trump. That would cause Trump to jump the Republican ship and go Independent – but as late as possible, and in as damaging a way as possible for the Republicans. The conventional wisdom is that an Independent Trump would lose too many votes to even a weak Republican, and that it would be a complete walk-over for Hillary Clinton.
Conventional wisdom, though, is not proving to be very reliable or very prophetic.