Aurora Magazine

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How the US tired of politics bigly

Updated 10 Nov, 2016 12:23pm
How clever marketing, bold branding and knowing the inner workings of his audience's minds worked in favour of Trump.

Donald Trump, reality TV star, real estate mogul, misogynist and racist, will be the next President of the United States. And, of course, that wall will be built.

Let it sink in.

Actors, pop stars, writers, editorial boards, pundits – everyone hopped on the Clinton bandwagon.

The last few days of her campaign were punctuated by appearances from Beyonce, Jay-Z, and Katy Perry, among others. Michelle Obama, perhaps the most adored First Lady in a generation moved people to tears when eloquently making the case for Clinton. They couldn’t help themselves: in a politically correct age, they couldn’t be seen to support a loose cannon, not to mention a business tycoon who declared bankruptcy several times.

And, make no mistake, they succeeded. Clinton won the popular vote. She was ahead in votes overall, she just wasn’t ahead in enough places. This is the magic of the Electoral College. You can win a key state by a thin margin and obtain 55 electoral votes; win it a by a landslide, yup, still 55.

In March and April 2016, when I wrote two posts for Aurora: The Trump Factor and Hillary Clinton’s Branding Dilemma, I received plenty of hate mail; most readers simply couldn’t believe that Clinton, a candidate so dignified, experienced and competent, had branding issues compared to a man like Trump. Well, here we are.

Clinton came across as cold, clinical, calculated, aloof and removed from real life. Trump marketed himself as brash, straight-talking and alarmingly temperamental. How did he do this? By remaining himself during the entire campaign. He minced no words. He never paused to think. He deployed a vocabulary of strong, simple words (huge, tremendous, dangerous, nasty) that played into the persona well developed during The Apprentice. He insulted, demeaned and brushed aside his Republican opponents and took the fight to the Democrats. This approach appealed to the so-called Rust Belt: the middle-American states, where the white working class felt ignored by both the Republicans and Democrats for decades. They were, in fact, an easy win for Trump, as most of the politics, pop culture and news reporting out of the USA is focused around the East or the West Coast. Trump, by painting himself as an outsider who broke into the Republican ranks and by repeatedly insulting the political and media establishments, appealed to voters tired of both parties’ establishments, seeing them as one and the same.

CNN is now discussing WHY the exit polls proved to be wrong? And the reason why is that many silent voters for Trump responded they would vote for Clinton because they did not want to appear to be politically incorrect.

We have already established that Trump played to the basest tendencies of a large portion of the US electorate; racist, misogynistic, and chauvinistic. They see international trade as giving away jobs to non-Americans, immigrants as a threat, women as inferior and non-Whites and non-Christians as outsiders. In short, they want the US to be a nation of white Christians with fiercely protected socio-economic boundaries. No one can come right out and say so; they just whispered into the ballot box.

Think about it: what stands out about Make America Great Again?

Yes America, a word that does not appear Clinton’s slogan Stronger Together.

Clinton could only struggle to focus on her competence, inclusiveness, politeness (exploited well during the debates) and experience. She never had a compelling USP - except that she was not Trump.

Ultimately, while she kept laser focus on Trump’s ineptitude to be president, Trump simply debunked the myth of her competence by demonstrating that during her tenure as Secretary of State, very little happened and whatever did happen, made things worse. Even a cursory glance at her tenure bears out this fact. Her campaign was also undermined by the email saga and the FBI’s involvement.

In retrospect, it seems that in choosing between two candidates, both of whom had big handicaps, the US chose someone who promised a break from traditional politics - in effect shutting out both Republicans and Democrats from the process.

As the world becomes more unpredictable, people are huddling closer to each other and erecting barriers, rather than spreading their arms out. This is the reality of our age – this is not the 90’s anymore. We cannot fault Trump for succeeding. Instead we can learn the lessons of his campaign and hope that he can contribute more than ‘bigly’ to world history.

Talha bin Hamid is an accountant by day and an opinionated observer of pop culture, an avid reader, a gamer and an all-around nerd by night.