Donald Trump: The Extraordinary Champion of the Ordinary Republican

Donald Trump: The Extraordinary Champion of the Ordinary Republican

Donald Trump is electrifying the United States right now and for much of the rest of the world it is bizarre. You see, we also have The Apprentice – in the British version it is also run by a loud, self-made boss, Lord Alan Sugar. But, other than accepting a peerage back in 2009, Sugar has stayed away from politics. Even as a Lord, Sugar has spoken just 8 times in the last 12 months in the House of Lords. Johnny Thalassites tries to shed some light on Trump’s popularity.

So, forgive us  for watching on with a degree of bemusement. Although a strong nationalistic message and a sprinkling of glamour may well work here, there are very few examples in the rest of the world to compare it to.

©Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons License
©Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons License

Just think that this is the man, as the Washington Post wrote, who bemoaned coming to New York after college with only $500,000. It is crazy.

Trump is unapologetically rich and brazen, which should alienate ‘ordinary voters’. But it seems that his sweeping generalisations have voiced the imprecise fears of an ageing blue collar work force.

Trump seems to be a hero to many. He voices the concerns, rational and irrational, of a declining workforce scared of alien influences and intrusion. Combative and combustible, Trump does not speak diplomatically.

In this regard, Trump seems different to most politicians. Most politicians believe their policy is better than any other, or that the other policy is failing. Trump seems to bypass the ‘detail’ of policy and takes broader aim, attacking the man (or woman) behind the policy.

Trump has attacked the Mexicans (“rapists”), the Chinese and John McCain (“he’s a war hero ‘cause he was captured”). He reduces politics to a personal branding exercise, and Trump – such a forceful and popular persona – can hardly go wrong on these terms. So, when other politicians seek to fight ‘fire with fire’ and go after the man, they fail.

Lindsey Graham found this out, labeling Trump a “jackass”, only to have his phone number read out to an audience lapping up Trump’s populist brand.

It is madness; the closest the UK comes to an equivalent is UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, who presents his own brand of self-aggrandizing, nationalistic antagonism. He blamed “immigrants with HIV” for overcrowding our NHS and won 1 seat out of 650 in Parliament…this is why we struggle to fathom how this is working.

To put into perspective that these ageing, working-class males are Trump’s core-vote and not common to all Republican candidates: 81% of Trump donors are male (Jeb – 67%); ‘Retired and other’ make up $18,475 to law and real-estate $500 (Jeb – $1,258,575 to $1,161,190).

The latter professions are arbitrarily chosen, but show that Trump supporters are less likely to come from high-earning professions as to come from retired or low-income households. Either that or high-flying professionals took Trump’s own advice in ‘The Art of The Deal’, “sometimes your best investments are the ones you don’t make”.

Also worth noting is that among Republicans that believe immigration ‘weakens’ US society, Trump is at 38%, but among Republicans that believe immigration ‘strengthens’ the nation, he plummets to 12% support. What, therefore, goes against conventional wisdom is that despite support from this vocal strand of the right wing, Trump is not the authentic, powerful voice of the GOP. In fact, he is said not to ‘reflect the party’s core values’ by 56-32 among Republicans.

In any case, though, Trump is clearly drawing heavily on the support of retired, working-class males in the Republican party for funding in a way that rivals such as Jeb Bush are not.

©Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons License
©Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons License

What seems to make Trump unique to his support, therefore, is that he is not a career politician. Even his campaign team is run by peripheral Republican activist, Corey Lewandowski. Lewandowski is a chuntering backstage presence, unafraid to “air out issues” according to Bruce Berke, adviser to Ohio Gov. John Kasich and described as a “bomb thrower” by Republican operatives. These are unreformed outsiders ready to take on the so-called political elite, or so Trump’s acolytes believe.

Really, Trump’s politics seem to be a hazy, amorphous line in nationalism and self-aggrandizing. This works, because America, unlike many other countries, trades on and accepts in its political center-ground, a formidable nationalism. A British Prime Minister, for example, expounding similar nationalistic messages (say, David Cameron calling the French “rapists”) would not be possible. America revels in its self-proclaimed ‘leader of the free world’ tag, so anybody that plays to its superior status will find supporters.

There is talent to Trump’s politics in engaging such a sizeable demographic. There is talent to amassing such a fortune (though he has been bankrupt four times, so is not a flawless economist) – and Trump is largely self-funded, which is why the donor figures for him and Bush are so different and also shows the self-belief/force of will that makes him attractive to so many. There is also talent to branding oneself over decades so powerfully and so effectively. Whether it is enough to secure the Republican nomination remains to be seen for the extraordinary champion of the ordinary republican.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Lotus Potus – Is the United States of America, India’s new fair-weather friend?

Lotus Potus – Is the United States of America, India’s new fair-weather friend?

An unprecedented trip to the airport to pick up the guests of honour, an evening stroll and tea in the gardens, a bear hug or two and the stage is set. President Obama and Prime Minister Modi met only 4 months back in Washington DC with another meeting in Myanmar soil thereafter. With President Obama being back on Indian soil as guest of honour for India’s 66th republic day – Mridulya Narasimhan examines what this visit signifies for India and its neighbours.

Why the fuss?

123 Agreement: Both, India and USA are finally on the same page with regard to the Indo-USA nuclear deal. It is a step forward for American suppliers to be able to invest in Indian civil nuclear energy without the fear of being held liable in case of an unforeseen accident. The deal, signed in 2008, was put on hold pending negotiations on two fronts – the liability and the traceability issue. The two governments have now agreed upon establishing an insurance pool to address the issue of liability. The USA has also rescinded the demand to be able to trace all nuclear materials. The very same Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s ruling political party that vehemently opposed the bill from 2006 to 2010 has now made it the ‘centrepiece’ of bilateral relations with the United States.

© Darrel Ronald/Creative Commons License
© Darrel Ronald/Creative Commons License

Indo-US defence cooperation: India remains uncontested as the world’s largest arms buyer. And now with the US as its largest supplier, both countries see the possibility of co-development and co-production as the way forward. This move is suggestive of stronger military ties in the future between the two nations as India weans away from its reliance on Russia for military equipment. As per the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), both countries shall jointly work on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), military kits, electric hybrid power sources and Uniform Integrated Protective Ensembles.

Going green: PM Modi was expected to announce a limit on carbon emissions during President Obama’s visit including a peak year for a new climate treaty to be signed in Paris later in the year. Instead, the talks steered in the direction of a $1 billion investment in solar-energy plants in India owing to India’s fears of being perceived in the same bracket as China on carbon emissions.

Harnessing soft power: Countering terrorism has been on the agenda of both nations. And while both nations refrained from name-calling in their individual statements, the joint statement was more direct in referring to Pakistan. Both countries agreed to ‘enter discussions to deepen collaboration on UN terrorist designations, and reiterated their call for Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai to justice’

Good fences make good neighbours

Two visits to New Delhi, and on both occasions, Obama managed to bypass Pakistan. Just as surprising is the fact that the White House occupants have dropped by only when Pakistan has been at the beck and call of generals. With the bullets and hostility flying across borders between India and Pakistan in Kashmir, and President Obama expressing his intent to  form ties with India, it comes as no surprise that Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif, chose this as a time to make an official trip to China.

Pakistan’s message is simple – to have the support of the west would’ve been nice, but if not the west, then Pakistan will not hesitate to forge ties of friendship with the perceived super power of the east; China. And with that in mind Pakistan has invited China’s president Xi Jinping for Pakistan’s military day to be hosted on the 23rd of March.

China has not only agreed to this effort but has also gone on record to call Pakistan its ‘irreplaceable all-weather friend’. After Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit in February, President Xi Jinping’s visit shall reiterate the importance of China and Pakistan’s coordinated efforts to provide Afghanistan stability.

The Aftermath

© Oxfam International/Creative Commons License
© Oxfam International/Creative Commons License

Now weeks after President Obama’s visit, India still seems to be making a buzz. President Obama has reiterated his support for India making it as a permanent UNSC member, a move that has clearly not gone unnoticed. During his speech at the Indian Parliament, President Obama expressed his intent to see “a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member”.

While this endorsement has been seconded by China and Russia, Pakistan is clearly not in favour. In a conversation with President Obama, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his disapproval of USA’s support to India as a permanent member stating that India has not complied with UN resolutions on Kashmir.

The 66th Republic day for India was yet another exhibition of PM Modi’s mastery over symbolism. Clearly, yet again, Modi does what he is best at – showmanship. Some see it as him being the unequivocal face of ‘Brand India’ and others see it as his way of establishing and gaining legitimacy amongst Indians – either way, things seem to be working. And while India may accept to be USA’s liaison of the East, it needs to be careful not to let its new-found ‘friends’ view it  as strategically positioned to act out on geopolitical games.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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The Tourist Rush to Cuba: Is it right?

The Tourist Rush to Cuba: Is it right?

As the relationship between the United States and Cuba opens up, Tal Gurevich raises important concerns about ethical travel.  Tal also unpacks the troubling fascination that tourists often have with observing life under an oppressive regime in its purest form, without the influx of foreign, ‘Western’ influence. 

Last month regulations which lift some of the prohibitive restrictions on travel and trade between Cuba and the United States were introduced. Although these rules do not spell the end of the five-decade long embargo, they go some way towards beginning a normalization of relations between the island and its northern neighbor. While we can only speculate on the impact these changes will have on Cuba, the government and its citizens, what is clear is that this somewhat surprising turn of events is at the forefront of people’s minds.

As I waited at the boarding gate to catch a flight from Los Angeles to Miami, a young woman sitting beside me remarked to her friend that she was very excited about going to Cuba. The friend, although clearly excited for her girlfriend’s impending adventure, lamented that she wouldn’t be able to visit Cuba before ‘it changed’.

© John Delconte/Creative Commons License
© John Delconte/Creative Commons License

The conversation became inaudible as it was announced that the plane was ready for boarding. Throughout the bumpy 5-hour flight, I kept on thinking, what is it exactly that the woman and many others like her are in a rush to see?

I thought about the rush for rum and cigars but quickly ruled that out, together with some other explanations: the immediate rush is certainly not to the many all-inclusive holiday resorts on the island. Wanting to participate in cultural events, festivals and festivities is also a doubtful reason – these will not change overnight due to the new rules.

What then, do people think will change overnight? Maybe it’s that something about Cuba that makes it different, non-Western, an exotic adversary to the US. Perhaps they are curious to see what that ‘otherness’ means, what overt propaganda looks like and how people go about their daily lives under an oppressive regime.

Real change?

There is an underlying expectation that life will be different under the new normal – more ‘Westernised’, better and easier. However, the effects of the changes are far from clear and are hotly debated. Some people point out that the easing of travel restrictions and the introduction of better commercial relations will be of tremendous benefit to Cuban citizens and that increased tourism will have a positive effect. Others are more skeptical and believe that the only people who will really benefit are those in the government.

Terry Gross, the host of Fresh Air, mentioned that “several Cuban dissidents were recently arrested, and this was after President Obama said he wanted to open relations with Cuba”, perhaps indicating that either way the consequences are far from straight forward.

While the effects of the changes are unclear, people can still question the rush to Cuba and their own personal choice from a non-consequential ethical perspective. They can and should question their motives. Is it from an impulse of curiosity, of wanting to see what life is like under current conditions?

© People In Need Cuba/Creative Commons License
© People In Need Cuba/Creative Commons License

Cuba is an island where there is no freedom of speech and where many other liberties are curtailed. Where there is a huge gap between what people earn in their official jobs and how much is needed to survive (doctors are paid $20 dollars a month). Where food is scarce and many people pay a lot of money and take huge risks to leave the country because the situation on the island is unbearable. With the changes to the regulations, Americans can now have a glimpse into these people’s ordinary lives for a period of time and then return to their own comfortable ones. Is this rush to see Cuba ethical?

There is no straight forward answer. Some would say that people are implicitly endorsing the Cuban regime by visiting it. Others believe in the merits of experiencing a different way of life and see it as a positive educational experience for both tourists and locals. There are many debates about what it means to a responsible traveler. However, one thing is certain – these are exciting times. Many have a natural curiosity to visit and see regimes such as Cuba and North Korea now before they ‘change’. Perhaps people want to be the first ones into such countries, to get the ‘off-the-beaten-track’ experiences in Myanmar. Perhaps they have other reasons. The motives for and the implications of such visits and the rush to Cuba are complicated and at the end of the day the choice is a very personal one. The important thing is that people think before booking that flight.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Staggering 1.9 Million ‘people in need’ in Palestine – but the UN needn’t get involved

Staggering 1.9 Million ‘people in need’ in Palestine – but the UN needn’t get involved

When is the UN, an international organisation designed to promote peace and help nations work together, not the ‘right venue’, to promote peace and help two nations work together? When, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, President Obama says so! Here, Sara Sajjad discusses the reasons for this apparent paradox.

Figures released by the ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory Humanitarian Needs Overview 2015’ show that the number of Palestinians killed in 2014 was 2, 325. This figure is supplemented by those 17, 121 injured, and countless others displaced. Comparatively, there were 85 fatalities suffered by Israel. The disparity in these figures suggest an extremely non-symmetric conflict, but alarmingly the President of the United States remains convinced that there is still no need for the United Nations to intervene.

Just last month, the Obama administration blocked a draft UN Security Council resolution, which aimed to end Israel’s occupation by December 2017. Despite the fact that over 100, 000 Palestinian people are internally displaced, and there are 600, 000 people living in damaged homes on the Gaza Strip, very little urgency, concern, or action is being taken to bring a much needed end to Israeli occupation. Instead the United States of America continue to supply Israel with weapons, and are thus partially responsible for the casualties and damage being caused.

© Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff /Creative Commons License
© Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff /Creative Commons License

The Palestinian Authority (PA) are currently considering joining the International Criminal Court (ICC) following the 50-day war over summer 2014. There is a growing belief that those acts carried out by Israel may fall under the jurisdiction and warrant investigation by a body whose purpose involves the prosecution of war criminals.

The backlash to the consideration of a lawsuit against Israel by certain US Senators has been considerable with many even threatening to cut the £265 million annually, which the United States provides to the Palestinian Authority. Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, expressed his anger at a news conference in Jerusalem, stating that the proposed lawsuit against Israel was “incredibly offensive” and “bastardising the role of the ICC”.

Any cuts in the aid would undoubtedly have a major effect on Palestine’s economy with a GDP of only $10 billion. Bizarrely, it seems that senators such as Graham view the best way of responding to those who claim to be oppressed, is to further oppress them. But why are the United States, as protectors of freedom against oppression reacting in this way?

While, USA attempts to portray its position as an ongoing loyalty towards Israel, based on ethical principles, morality has nothing to do with the stance of the United States. It is far more likely that geopolitics and strategy is the real reason- if Israel was trialled by the ICC, the USA would risk losing their leading, and much valued nuclear base within the Middle East.

Due to Israel’s access to oil and gas, indisputably, Israel’s guaranteed exports of oil and gas towards the US are highly valued, as they are recorded to export $51.9 B worth of refined petroleum to the US per year. Additionally, the continued intelligence Israel shares with the US on terrorism and Middle Eastern politics, as well as Israel’s very useful, advanced high-tech military technology, such as their counter rocket and arrow missile defence systems, have provided invaluable assistance for the US’s military and security issues over the last decade.

© Richard Parker /Creative Commons License
© Richard Parker /Creative Commons License

The relationship between the US and Israel appears to be mutually beneficial, and if Israel are trialled by the ICC, it would risk jeopardising the benefits Israel provides. Thus the US rejecting Palestine’s desperate attempts of self-determination, over 40 times since 1975 becomes more comprehensible. Rarely is the self-interested game of politics as honourable as it endeavours to portray itself as, since Israel’s potential prosecution would present a tangible threat to their sustained partnership, as even the Obama administration may have their hand forced by a negative verdict at the highest criminal court to reduce the intimacy of the relationship between the two nations.

One might ask those protesting senators and President Obama, what is the appropriate number of schools which would need to be bombed before the ICC should be called upon? How many children need to be killed whilst playing on a beach, before it is becomes reasonable to suggest at the possibility of war crimes? And what exactly is the number of innocent civilians that need to be killed before the possibility of genocide should be suggested? Are 2,325 fatalities in one year, not enough?

In light of the recent Holocaust Memorial Day, the best way possible to honour those who have died in past genocides and conflicts, is by ensuring that people in today’s world do not suffer in the same, inexcusable way. Sadly, Western powers, although experts in expressing their regret for past atrocities, never seem to feel the same empathy when dealing with current situations.

After 48 years of Israel occupying the West Bank, the UN draft resolution was immensely overdue, but still showed a glimmer of hope in ending this decade’s long conflict and crime against humanity. Once again, a legitimate solution has been rejected for incomprehensible reasons, as those in power persist to fail humanity.

 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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USA, the fallen superpower?

USA, the fallen superpower?

The wane of the US as world superpower has long been prophesied. Warwick University student Karan Thakrar argues that recent world events are bringing this moment ever closer, and that one may be replaced by three.

 

Ever since the end of the Cold War, US dominance as a world superpower has been obvious. Their economic strength and the so-called ‘McDonaldisation‘ of global culture have resulted in the relative destruction of communism as a viable modern ideology. US military capacity is also unusually strong. The US spends $640 billion (£377 billion) on its military alone. Its defence budget is so big, it outspends the defence budgets of all the richest eight countries combined. Add to this a widespread feeling of American exceptionalism – the belief that the US is fundamentally different to other nations – which has contributed to some aggressive foreign policy in the 20th century.

A US soldier in Ameriyah, Iraq, 2007. © US Army/Creative Commons license

But is this declining? While the US has displayed willingness to back itself up with hard power, such as the invasion of Iraq in 2003, in recent times this has not been the case, and as a result its influence on the world stage has diminished. The Obama administration has arguably been lacklustre in its performance on the international stage compared to previous administrations. Take the example of Syria. Obama’s famous ‘red line’ comment over Assad’s use of chemical weapons sparked a reaction from the US, who immediately started planning on bombing strategic sites in Syria. However, after the British Parliament voted against military intervention, followed by France, the US felt it did not have the support to proceed. Keep reading →


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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