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Trump’s victory a year ago showed that an incompetent politician can become president by appealing to the most basic instincts of voters. However, he could only be a harbinger of things to come.
Even after saying and writing the name of Donald Trump hundreds or even thousands of times since his surprise victory in the presidential election a year ago, one still feels uncomfortable. And that’s the way it should be, because it’s still hard to stand that an agitator like Trump, with a penchant for speaking falsehoods and without political experience, can win – through a campaign based on fanaticism, misogyny and fear – the presidency in the the most powerful country in the world.
But while it is important to resist the natural tendency for the Trump presidency to become normal, it is equally important to fully accept the fact, however difficult, that Trump won the elections and Hillary Clinton lost them. It is crucial to be true to that reality and not blame the Russian meddling, the actions of former FBI Director James Comey or other real or imagined interference. Finding scapegoats and using the strategy of discrediting – a Trump specialty – can be understandable to cushion the harsh reality of what happened on November 8, 2016, but it would be counterproductive to try to prevent it from repeating itself.
A private electorate of their rights
A key element in Trump’s campaign was his insistence that the country was in disrepair and his promise that he would make “the United States again great.” This was a bold and negative issue to carry out a presidential campaign, especially because Trump repeatedly described, often erroneously, how bad things were in the country. And, of course, he almost always blamed others for the country’s problems, as he did with immigrants or Muslims.
But his negative description of the status quo in the country resonated with many voters because it seemed true. The fact that Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist from the small state of Vermont, has been able to win 23 states against Hillary Clinton with a campaign based solely on individual donations, underscores the fact that Trump could have reached his electorate by describing the United States. as a country in a downward spiral.
While Sanders certainly is not comparable in style, substance and seriousness, he tackled many of the same problems that Trump posed that plague ordinary Americans, such as income inequality or the aging American infrastructure.
But the central point that both Trump and Sanders touched was that when it comes to the political game that takes place in Washington, ordinary Americans always lose out; The feeling that political and business elites care only for themselves, while many Americans have difficulty making ends meet, resonated with voters a year ago. Something that still echoes today.
The populist appeal
None of this should be a surprise when, according to a survey by the US Federal Reserve last year, 44 percent of Americans said they do not have enough money to cover an emergency cost of $ 400 (345 euros); when, on a normal day, 32 Americans are killed with guns; or when 64,000 Americans died in 2016 from an opiate epidemic that has been ravaging the country for years – a crisis that politicians seem incapable, reluctant or unwilling to address, as well as many other core issues.
Trump noticed and ruthlessly exploited the generalized feeling of discomfort. He positioned himself presuming his supposed vision for business and being the only candidate not committed to partisan politics. His basic claim to make the United States “win again” was not only extravagant, it was not real either: Trump never had a plan or intention to do so.
However, it is not unlikely that he will win again if other elections are held today. It does not matter that after nine months in office he has not been able to pass an important legislative initiative, that his administration has been full of scandals, and that, in general, he has not managed to improve the lives of the Americans.
The fact that he can get away with it shows that there is no credible alternative in the Republican party, which Trump kidnapped and is increasingly becoming his, or the Democratic party, which is deeply divided over its future course. It also shows the desperation and anger that many Americans feel about having someone who operates, so far, outside of the country’s political norms.
A worse alternative
And although it’s hard to believe, we can be lucky we’re stuck with Trump. This is despite the fact that during the first nine disastrous months Trump has wreaked havoc on many issues, such as environmental policy or international relations. However, on many other important issues, such as the failed travel ban or the failed repeal of Obamacare, Trump is demonstrating how chaotic and dysfunctional his Administration is.
So, imagine a future candidate who shares Trump’s same agitating instincts, but who was not so impulsive or chaotic that he could execute his pernicious agenda. If the two main parties do not wake up to fulfill the functions that correspond to them, we could find out who this candidate could be before the account.