Republican 2016 U.S. presidential candidate businessman Donald Trump, August 6, 2015.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Donald Trump continues to surprise us.
When he first began surging ahead of the crowded Republican pack, many assumed it was the novelty of his candidacy to be president of the US, and that his popularity would tank quickly.
After the first candidate’s debate in Cleveland on August 6 – when he used the term “stupid” to describe current leaders, and got into a public spat with one of the debate moderators – it was all but assured that he would be overtaken by the other candidates.
Yet his numbers continued to rise. Even when he made a condescending comment about that same female moderator – and we were now sure the end was near – his numbers still climbed, reaching 32 percent in a recent poll of Republicans, with Jeb Bush the next closest contender at 18 percent.
Trump’s success is not limited to his contest against Republican candidates. He has closed the gap between himself and Hillary Clinton in a national election to just 6 percentage points, after trailing by more than 20 points just two months ago.
President Donald Trump? Really? How are we to understand this astonishing development, and what does it say about voters? I believe that last weekend’s Trump rally attended by 30,000 people in a football stadium in Mobile, Alabama, gives us a clue. For almost the entire 53-minute speech, Trump mentioned only three policy issues. First he talked about illegal immigration, saying that Americans have been killed and raped by illegal immigrants, and that the only solution is his famed plan to build a wall between the United States and Mexico.
Then Trump talked about Ford and Nabisco moving their factories and jobs to Mexico, and that the only solutions is his plan to tax them to the point that they are forced to move their plants back to America. It touched a nerve: When voters believe that their physical and economic security is at stake, and only one person is willing to raise those issues and present a simple solution to tackle them, they will overlook all his other failings and rally behind him.
Finally, Trump reiterated that he would not accept money from lobbyists who now have complete control over American politics.
Voters know that the best leaders with the best intentions must look out for those who helped elect them, and this often clouds their judgment and ultimately spoils their plans to make real change. And here they see one man who has no need for those donations, who will be free to execute his plans to solve the country’s problems.
There is one additional element to Trump’s success which cannot be ignored. During that 53-minute speech in Mobile, he did not read from a teleprompter or from notes.
Indeed, it did not feel like much of a speech at all, but simply a presidential candidate having a candid conversation with the audience.
And the people loved it. He was folksy.
He was spontaneous. He was all over the place. He was human.
During the last few minutes, Trump spoke of repealing Obamacare, he condemned the Iranian nuclear deal, and he urged strengthening the military – the standard Republican Party line. But these were almost afterthoughts.
The rally was about a candidate wanting to “Make America Great Again,” by speaking in the most believable manner, talking from the heart without a script, and by addressing two very real and legitimate fears, with quite basic and easy to understand solutions: A wall along the Mexican border, exorbitantly high taxes for American companies that dare to move across the border, and the ability to say that he will not be bought off and can actually carry out what he says he plans to do.
It remains to be seen whether Trump can continue his momentum and win the Republican nomination. As a political commentator for i24 News with a weekly slot on the US presidential election, I am on record after that first debate appearance saying that his campaign was over. Trump threw us all for a loop.
But regardless of the final result, the Trump Factor has added a fascinating and enlightening dynamic to both the Republican primaries and the overall presidential election.
I believe that we in Israel can use a high dose of that “Trumpiness” in our own political scene. Israelis crave straight talk and more simplified solutions; are tired of out-of-touch politicians coming up with complicated and incomprehensible plans to solve the country’s problems; and despise the political tendency to sell out to large corporations and special interests.
Granted, some of our most pressing challenges cannot be solved by simply constructing a wall and higher taxation. But as I saw during my time in the Knesset, many of the answers to our problems are simple, staring us right in the face. There are pieces of legislation and policy initiatives – already written and ready for implementation – that would make Israel a better place to live. Unfortunately, they have been rejected by the ruling party.
Israel is in dire need of a leader with the Trump Factor: “A man of the people” who recognizes the need to address the “smaller” day-to-day concerns of the population; who has the will and courage to think outside the box to find the most simple solutions to our challenges; and someone with the freedom and moral clarity to make decisions that are in the best interest of the country completely independent of special interests.
Such a leader will get Israel back on course, and make Israel great again.The author served in the 19th Knesset with the Yesh Atid party and currently serves as chairman of Anglo and Diaspora Affairs for Yesh Atid.