As I sat intently at my laptop browsing through Youtube’s latest videos, my girlfriend’s attention meanwhile was firmly fixed on her new novel. My open laughter however brought her back to the room. She asked me who that comedian was that I find so hilarious. “Donald Trump”, I answered. And therein is perhaps the most nefarious aspect of this beyond bombastic political personality.
The Republican jester and firebrand Donald Trump is a consummate comedic figure who never steps out of character a true - a true Stanislavski method actor. No doubt he has come to believe and buy his own act, and unlike the rest of us, he can most certainly afford it. His one-man stand-up campaign tour which has gripped America (as well as much of the world) with Trump-mania would be an occasion for rapacious applause and laughter were it not for the fact that most Americans have not understood that they are the butt of the joke.
Recent polls for the Republican nomination have Trump leading with 36.7% (more than twice as much as his nearest rival).
That we have arrived to this point with less than 11 months till the elections is beyond comedy. That this fire-breathing, anti-immigration populist conservative, whose every speech is trained to arouse controversy is surely an indictment on America itself. Arguably, the profound danger of Trump is that he might in fact make it across the final finish line that sits on the White House lawn! Lest we forget, this is a country that voted for 8 years if Bush jr ... and well, if you thought he was bad, you ain't seen nothing yet! My fears though are restrained by the gradually shifting mood, an emerging realisation by his opponents and spectators alike that Trump’s challenge is real, and that he has a chance to win the Republican nomination. Or better said, they have, albeit tardily, become aware to what extent they have underestimated and misread the extent to which Republican conservative electorate is willing to plummet head first towards lunacy.
“I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” - Donald Trump’s Mexican border solution.
It seems that only Trump can out-Trump himself. And for those brave Republican candidates (I never thought I would utter such words) who have attempted to wrestle with the - literally - pink beast in the room, well they have usually left deflated and vanquished. Seemingly one after another they fail to realise that Trump exists and thrives in the murky swamps of politics. It is a place of childish jabs, insane proposals and ludicrous posturing, of which Trump is certainly a master and commander. He is a more preposterous character than even Sarah Palin who over and over again has shown that you cannot hope to beat him at his own game. Make no mistake about it, Trump is a bigot. His mater of fact way of speaking of deep and complex issues such as race, religion and immigration are laced with racism and xenophobia. However Trump is merely the embodiment and tip of a much larger iceberg of ignorance that is sympathetic to the narcissism and bigotry he peddles. Point in case, speaking of his opponents, “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.” Or perhaps that is too kind, he is the talking face of what true America thinks, believes and responds to. Fear being the most of human of accelerants, Trump is the igniting spark of an all too willing tinder of a post 9/11 ISIS world.
As I listened to another of his Trumpism filled speeches I am pushed to think of the “impossibility” of his candidacy, surely he must be a plant. This is of course a reference to the often expounded Machiavellian plot orchestrated by non-other than Bill Clinton to destroy the Republican Party from within by urging Trump to run. Much has been made of the alleged phone call between the two men which preceded Trump’s announcement to run, and though both have repeatedly denied that they spoke about later’s chances of running, there is something to the story that rings irresistible. Of course, were this conspiracy in fact true and if Trump goes on to face and loose to Hillary (in what many predict would be a landslide victory for the later) then that call must surely be considered the greatest stroke of political genius in history. For what is without doubt is that Trump has succeeded in pushing the Republican party into disarray as it seeks to understand its conservative core. However, though it would be tempting to focus solely on the complexities of such a cunning and audacious plan, I believe that would be, albeit amusing, a distraction from the central issue, that is, how the hell is this happening? How is it that this parody of a human being is in fact leading the polls?
Perhaps the answer lays in how the New York billionaire has intentionally destabilised the political ground, and thus cannot be either situated or placed. His erratic political history has seen him as a casual Republican, then he was a pro-choice Democrat, and now he’s turned ultra conservative fascist. Or perhaps as Bill Clinton suggested, his popularity can be attributed to “a macho appeal to saying, I’m just sick of nothing happening, I'm going to make things happen. Vote for me”. Perhaps though there is something more malevolent at work here. Here I must turn to a certainly global, and ultimately human factor that is clearly at work. Just like many of our leaders around the world, their pronouncements, which often sound ludicrous and absurd to those removed from the context, are actually quite appealing to ‘the man on the ground’. As a South African who feels the profound embarrassment of having a President who believes that having a shower after non-protected sex will stave off HIV, I am very well versed in the antics of the political comedian. The world it seems is full of such characters who hide in the open, and therein is their most dangerous quality. This is to say nothing of France’s Le Pen party, whose recent upsurge in popularity shows just how dangerous democracy can be.
I am not unusual, in the sense that I am very much like everybody else not in America who looks at the current Republican race with amazed wonder. For a while, and perhaps still, I cannot completely make up my mind as to whether Trump is a Godsend whose clownish antics will awake the American electorate to the dangers of unrestrained mainstream bigotry, or perhaps instead he is a demonic reminder of just how crazy people can actually be. Perhaps it is a mixture of both. Undoubtedly Hilary Clinton put it best last last month when she said of Trump,
“I think for weeks you and everybody else were just bringing folks to hysterical laughter, but now he has gone way over the line. And what he is saying now is not only shameful and wrong, it is dangerous.”
The only problem is that the whilst the educated half of America sniggers and laughs at his candidacy, the other half meanwhile actually supports his proposals. Given America’s aforementioned tendency to vote for the clown in the room, if this election goes down to the wire, I don't fancy Hillary’s chances. After all, ‘better judgement and ‘political sanity’ have never been regularly attributed to the American electorate.