We should Learn from Trump | Gabriel Rutherford

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Donald Trump has been President of the United States for six months. Six months of a bizarre ultra-Capitalist experiment of putting a right-wing businessman in charge of not just an entire country, but one of the most powerful and influential countries in the entire world. The only country to ever use a nuclear weapon in anger against a foreign power is now ruled by an irritable pensioner with no political, nor diplomatic experience. The equivalent to this is to parachute me into a bank and I suddenly become CEO, despite not having my Higher Maths qualification. 

Now, what can we do about Trump? Well, nothing directly really. Our Prime Minister seems to love him; despite everything he has said. Yet the one thing we can do is learn the lessons from Trump, in order to prevent this fiasco coming across the Atlantic.

The first lesson we must learn is the power of the anti-establishment feeling. We saw it in the UK with the Brexit vote, and the rise of UKIP in recent years. People feel left behind by our political and social centres. We’re promised increasing devolution and fairer distribution of funds, but London still sucks up money for transport, arts, and science, with the North of England stagnating. Increasingly, to find success, the youth of the nation must move to London or the South, where they are exploited by landlords, working in low-payed jobs, and subject to a poor quality of life. It’s impossible for me, currently, to even think about buying or even renting in London unless I find extremely well-paying work. This inequality in funding has a real impact. People feel left out of the supposed boom that’s meant to be happening. First they find someone to blame for their problems, and the media presents an easy target – migrants, the EU and political correctness, the holy trinity of disaffection. They say that these groups take their jobs, take their money and take their free speech respectively. Then they latch on to a party which shares the same ideology – in our case, this is UKIP. David Cameron’s soft Conservatism allowed the far-right to take voters off the Tories, and Miliband’s dull centrism meant the old left went to the right. So, by the time the EU referendum came about, the Leave side was already more prepared than Remain was. The lesson here is to be aware of anti-establishment feeling building up, by tackling it at the source. More equal distribution of funding is desperately needed to save failing communities. Jobs need to be moved out of London, and into local areas, so aspirational young people can choose where they live and can earn a decent wage without having to uproot and move, and so that old people don’t end up living in ghost towns that have been gutted by the loss of jobs.

The second lesson is to avoid dismissing an outsider candidate. The extreme hubris of the Democrats led directly to their defeat against Trump. They believed it would be a walk-over, a rout not seen since Johnson’s triumph over Goldwater in the 60’s. They believed that they could genuinely just offer the bare minimum in terms of policy and somehow get away with it. Trump’s strength was in broadcasting his policy loud and clear, in terms that everybody could understand. I don’t remember a single Clinton policy besides “we’re not gonna do what they will”, which, frankly, in politics is inexcusable. In the EU referendum, ‘Remain’ were too contemptuous, too hubristic. There seemed to be a real lack of effort, or planning, or even thought put in to the Remain campaign. They didn’t care that they ran an awful campaign, because they believed they would walk it in the end, which, as we see now, didn’t happen. The consequences? Economic turmoil, and worse, a climate of xenophobia and fear for immigrants, especially in England and Wales, where racist and xenophobic attacks saw a sharp rise post-referendum. Media voices and fellow politicians shouldn’t be snobby about a candidate, or mock them, because it simply attracts more followers to their cause by either making them a plucky underdog or by making them seem to be a funny, friendly affable guy, both of which happened in the case of Trump, and the latter is basically what’s giving Boris Johnson any kind of political credibility.

The third thing we can learn from Trump is how not to wage a campaign. Trump made every single mistake in the book, making mistakes multiple times and even being outed as a sexual harasser throughout the campaign, exposed in the infamous “Grab ‘em by the pussy” comment made on tape. He’s the second-worst presidential candidate in history – with Hillary Clinton as number one. Clinton was shambolic, never giving a clear message, flip-flopping. Either she was terribly advised, or Clinton herself has learned very little about politics despite being in it her whole adult life. Clinton never looked like she would commit on any single issue – at least Trump was so gung-ho and obnoxious you knew he genuinely believed in what he was saying. Clinton couldn’t win enough minds to offset the fact that nearly every heart went against her. She played the campaign too safe, too smooth, too robotic, too sanitised and risk-free. Many will respond by saying “But she won the popular vote!” That’s not nearly enough. It’s not the fault of the Electoral College that Trump won – it was Clinton's poor campaigning hat handed the presidency to an extreme right-winger.

On reflection, America wanted something radical after the safe hands of Obama, and Clinton was the worst possible choice the Democrats could have made. Trump has been and will continue to be a disaster until he leaves office – but hopefully he’s a disaster we can learn from.

Gabriel Rutherford contributes to Student Voices and is Deputy Editor for the books' section at The Indiependent.
Twitter: @gabe_writes
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