DONALD TRUMP MAY BE ON HIS WAY OUT, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE TRUMP VOTER?
You might say that Donald Trump has put his foot in it in last night’s final Presidential Debate when the Jeff Flake, senator from Arizona, one of the swing-states twitters:
.@realDonaldTrump saying that he might not accept election results is beyond the pale
and when conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer from Fox News thinks that Trump blew his chances with this answer on accepting the results. “Political suicide.” Krauthammer called it because in his view Trump should have stopped the slide in this debate. The slide of people grudgingly going over to Clinton after holding out for a year. He thinks that people are not going to change their views on Clinton, but if they can change their views on Trump. Trump should have shown them that he is acceptable as president, not a radical. They don't want a radical who will challenge the foundations of the republic.
Right-wing New York Post-columnist John Podhoretz also comes to the conclusion that Donald Trump just handed Hillary Clinton the election with his refusal to be clear on what will happen if he loses the election.
Not accepting the results is the main theme of comments in many Western countries. Anna Caldwell in from News Corp Australia Network blogs: “Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump doubled down on controversial claims that the US election is rigged during a presidential debate, refusing to say he will respect the result.”
Other news sites media commented on the debate, and on Trump in particular, in a more general fashion. Australian The New Daily quotes Bryan Cranston, a Swinburne University politics expert: “Trump’s biggest strength is himself, but it is also his weakness. Facts play little role in his campaign and his rhetoric and spin works well when he is only with supporters. [emphasis mine] But in a debate with an opponent you need facts, and the holes in his argument became dramatically transparent.”
Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter for the BBC describes how “after roughly half an hour of something resembling an actual policy debate about the Supreme Court, gun rights, abortion and even immigration, the old Donald Trump – the one who constantly interrupted his opponent, sparred with the moderator and lashed out at enemies real and perceived – emerged.” And concludes with “Mr Trump has called American democracy into question – and when he shakes that particular tree, it's impossible to determine who might get crushed by falling branches.”
On the Dutch national news site Sander Warmerdam warns: “The big question remains what happens when Trump doesn't win this time. Clinton is doing very well in the polls. This debate will go down well with the angry Trump supporters but will move few undecided voters.” [my translation]
There is a certain feeling of unease emanating from the European and Australian comments since Donald Trump became the Republican nominee and that becomes most apparent in statements about the Trump’s voters pointing out that his supporters stay loyal to him no matter how many of his statement are debunked by fact checkers or how many times his statements are called bigoted, racist, misogynist or islamophobic. Much attention is payed to Trump voters not believing the facts that are revealed about his personal life and behavior nor of his disdain for them as group. The fact that about 40% of Americans still favor Trump is both baffling and worrying to the media, but also a grateful subject to keep ratings high.
This has also been noted by TV reviewers like Hans Beerekamp who noted: “I’m starting to find the outrage in the media about the American circus quite hypocritical, because many of the same media have always eagerly reported on the polarization and to a large extent have created it. It's TV that has given birth to Trump (Verdonk, Wilders), not the other way around. By the excessive media attention for their views, these have become more acceptable. [translation mine]" Beerenkamp refers here to Rita Verdonk and Geert Wilders, two Dutch populists, and by doing so uncovers the source of the unease felt by many in the West: large groups of voters, unhappy with the way their country is run, looking for leaders who appear to listen to them.
Europe and Australia are no strangers to a growing population of grudging, anti-establishment or protest voters who are willing to throw in their lot with populist politicians and parties. The Dutch have their Geert Wilders and his PVV, claiming to be Prime Minister after next year’s elections, France has her Marine Le Pen and her Front National who did very well in the local elections this year, Australia has seen the return of Pauline Hanson and her One Nation in the senate. And of course Nigel Farage and UKIP have made their indelible mark on the British Brexit referendum.
Britons, edged on by UKIP and some conservatives in the Tory party (Boris Johnson), have voted to leave the European Union and have left Europeans and its economies, especially that of the UK itself) in a state of shock and have made leaders more aware of the attraction populist have to dissatisfied and angry people, both in Europe and in America. Even “establishment” institute like the IMF have seen the writing on the wall and are willing to (partly) put blame where blame is due. In a report released at the beginning of the month the IMF said “Globally, concerns are growing about political discontent, income inequality and populist policies, threatening to derail globalization.” IMF chief economist Obstfeld said "that persistently weak growth that leaves lower-income people behind has fueled a political movement "that blames globalization for all woes" adding that the vote for "Brexit" was one example of this. He warned governments that "Without a determined policy action to support economic activity over the short and longer terms subpar growth at recent levels risks feeding on itself through the negative economic and political forces it is unleashing." In other words: governments should invest more in those that have not benefitted from growth in the past and decrease income inequality instead of widening the gap if they want to see economic growth in their country.
Words Hillary Clinton would do well to heed, because when she wins the election, Donald Trump may soon fade from the political scene, but his voters, and those of all the other populists in the world, will still be there.