Trump – A Guide for the Perplexed

American presidential politics as portrayed in Israeli media errs but closely resembles the mainstream media narrative, summarized nicely by Michael Goodwin in “She’s warm, he’s crazy…A tale of two front-runners” ( Inherent in her (Clinton’s) “warmth” is a tilt left and in his (Trump’s) “craziness” is an assumption of fascism. The narrative oversimplifies and exaggerates at the same time.
Orly Azulai typifies the tilt and the assumption (Hebrew,7340,L-4778489,00.html). From a “grandiose, pompous” Trump rally in Florida, Azulai writes that the “mostly-white” crowd waits hours for “King Donald the First”, is openly racist and laps up his braggadocio about his success. Trump has “no platform”, has “difficulty finishing a sentence” and talks only about “me, me, me” to the adoration of the crowd, which loves that he will build a wall, “deport immigrants”, “remove Muslims” and restore America’s greatness.
In contrast, Obama’s crowds came at a time filled with “excitement and hope”, adoring him out of “happiness”, “yearning for the future” and a “desire to change the world”. Trump has followers because he “knows how to express their rage … playing on the sum of their fears”.
Azulai says Trump’s crowds are all about “fear”. She implies conspiracy in the absence of protesters inside the auditorium, blaming Trump’s personal direction to “suppress opposition” for the ejection of those who do get in. Protesters are “prevented from approaching the event” by “large forces of security and police”.
Actually, Trump speaks simply and coherently. His platform is clear – secure the border, rebuild the military, stop the war on Christianity, make better trade deals, bring back industry and put an end to ISIS.
As a recovered politician, I offer the following insider’s short guide to American presidential campaigns.
The president is the only official elected nationally. That’s it. It happens only once in four years. Americans have an understandable tendency to place on presidential candidates all their hopes – the chance to change the future is rare.
Presidential politics is grand spectacle, choreographed happenstance, the Super Bowl times ten. Enthusiasm and adulation are much-desired, absent which a candidate is seen as failed. To idolize is not to deify nor does rowdiness portend fascism. In America, a Nazi salute in a confrontation almost always means those saluted are the Nazis and not the other way round. Police presence is necessary – every crowd has crazies and too many crazies have had their way. Large police presence does not mean suppression of free speech. Crashing someone else’s party and disrupting it does.
An argument has long been made that a successful businessman would do a better job as president than a politician. Admiring a non-politician billionaire is not groveling. Average Joes see in business success something of what they would want for themselves and what they would wish for their country.
American politicians must be approachable. Those who are not approachable fail. If somebody greets a senator on the street, the senator had better acknowledge the greeting. Successful candidates remember names, not just of Big Donor but of Average Joe.
Political egos are legend. Obama’s is an outstanding example. A truism holds that a politician without an ego problem is in the wrong line of work. Ego does not automatically imply dictatorial ambition.
The Trump half of the media narrative is employed elsewhere. China’s “Global Times” decries that “Trump's mischief has overthrown a lot of conventional norms ... His remarks are abusively racist and extremist … The rise of a racist in the US political arena worries the whole world … He has even been called another Benito Mussolini or Adolf Hitler...” The Times warns “The US had better watch itself for not being a source of destructive forces against world peace, more than pointing fingers at other countries for their so-called nationalism and tyranny.” Tough words, passed freely by Western media to the undaunted sponsors of nuclear North Korea and the unrepentant occupiers of Tibet (
America went missing over the last eight years. Not only does the world mourn but so does America herself. One is free to agree with the Obama track – it is they who agree who are afraid. One is free to disagree as well – these are called “the opposition”. Free countries have an opposition.
America longs for herself. At Trump rallies this longing holds sway and is not reducible to “anger” and “fear”. Exuberance is not red-neck rage but longing fulfilled.
At this time in America hope rests with an approachable egotistical billionaire named Trump.