(To be published in Arabic for Arabi21)
Throughout his campaign, I always assumed that Candidate Trump was a fictional character; a role scripted according to careful market research of the most disgruntled and potentially active segments of the American electorate. Just prior to the election, this was more or less confirmed by something Trump said in an interview when he stated that, if he didn’t win, he would regard the past 18 months as a “big waste”, because everything he has been doing, he has been doing in order to win.
See, any other candidate would say something like, “if I don’t win, it was all worth it, because I contributed to the political discourse, I raised issues, I gave a voice to people who were not being heard otherwise,” and so on and so forth. But no, Trump’s campaign had nothing to do with any of that. His campaign was a no-holds-barred, aggressive, do-what-you-have-to-do, say-what-you-have-to-say, hard sell to get the top job. It was a one-man show dramatization of his book “the Art of the Deal”. And we have to give it to him, it was a brilliant campaign; unprincipled, unethical, immoral, indecent; but brilliant.
His campaign cost less than $1 million; that is unheard of. But he knew how to get massive, indeed, endless, free media coverage. And the more he was ridiculed by the mainstream press, the more his core constituency’s support solidified, because they distrust the mainstream media, and Trump’s team surely knew that.
I don’t think that Trump hates Muslims, or illegal immigrants, or even Hillary Clinton. I don’t think he is racist. I think he is just a sociopath who was willing to promote hate to garner votes; he has an equal degree of disdain for everyone who is not a billionaire.
The stark contrast between Trump the Candidate and Trump the President-Elect began to emerge immediately. During his acceptance speech he said that Hilary Clinton deserves the nation’s respect and gratitude for her service to the country, as opposed to her deserving to be put in jail, as he had previously said. The plan to ban Muslims from the US was removed from his website. And I am sure plenty of his other campaign postures will change drastically, because they were all ploys and bluffs and just part of his strategy to win the White House with the support of people he would probably never want to be seen in public with in real life. There are people who hate Trump because he is a fascist buffoon, and there are people who love him because he is a fascist buffoon; and they have both been tricked. He is not a fascist buffoon.
Of course, because he acted like a fascist buffoon in order to win, he has hurt the society. Anti-Muslim attacks rose 80% and racist and anti-Muslim attacks have spiked since his election, and the actual fascist buffoon population in the US has gotten bolder. He may, or he may not try to quell this, depending on whether or not he thinks it is useful to him to do so. But, I think it is a mistake for Democrats and Liberals to completely close the door on the possibility that his presidency may achieve some positive changes.
He is the first president in decades who is not beholden to corporate financiers; so many decades that no one alive can remember any president who wasn’t. He was able to break the political establishment’s iron-grip on the democratic process in the United States, with only 25% of the electorate supporting him (roughly half of the citizenry didn’t vote). By running an incredibly negative and ugly campaign, all of the people who could have prevented him from winning just opted out of the process because they were so disgusted; this amplified the voting power of his core constituency, and yes, he was able to win almost entirely against the wishes of the power structure. Even if he did that through diabolically manipulative tactics, it is still remarkable, and there actually is something hopeful about that. It is possible to elect someone who is not part of the political establishment.
No one knows what he will do. That is kind of scary, but it is also kind of exhilarating, because, let’s be honest, whether it was Bill Clinton, Bush, or Obama, we all pretty much knew exactly what to expect, just as we knew what to expect from Hilary: more of the same. America has its first independent president in generations, this is, quite frankly, a turning point in history.
If Trump actually follows through on protectionist economic policies, and a more isolationist foreign policy, I think it will be very good for the US, and indeed, for the world. If he implements Reagan-esque policies like deregulation and more corporate tax cuts and tax cuts for the wealthy, of course, that will be quite damaging. But I think the point is, we genuinely do not know, because whatever he said during his campaign cannot really be taken as an indication of his real position. We simply have to wait and see, and it is important that we do that…wait and see…rather than automatically, or preemptively attack his presidency based on the nature of his campaign.