Quirky urban terminology attempts a clever word-merge with the word “inbetweener” – an individual or personality at the cusp of a tipping point in their life. An apt word to describe me surely but, it is also an apt word to describe the state of current affairs at this point in time: November 2016.
Donald Trump, the business savant, who had once enthralled my teenage couch potato self (The Apprentice made me want to “fire” lazy group members at school), came out victorious in a hugely melodramatic US Presidential election (and we thought the events of House of Cards seemed unlikely!). Over the course of many months this year, the man, in perpetual denial about his hair, tarnished the favorable views I had held of him. I had known him as a shrewd negotiator with polished intellectual capabilities and superior branding stratagems (I must confess that I had not been exposed to Trump’s personal eccentricities back in Dhaka, but, my only exposure to him was to his seemingly successful business empire depicted on his show). Instead, I saw a brazen bully barking off unjust racial biases (formed against the likes of me), riling up similarly narrow-minded individuals like him.
Racial divide accounts for a dark history in America (and most of the Western world) yet, there have been more strides taken over the past four decades than the past four centuries. Eradicating racial tensions is a perpetual work-in-motion in the country and it is generally frowned upon to be an unabashed racist. Yet, many Americans decided to elect one. Is it then safe to say that whoever voted for Trump (47% of the voting population) is also narrow-minded as him? The answer lies in understanding Trump’s road to victory i.e. in his transformation from an inbetweener Republican nominee to the eventual victor in the election race.
The Road to Victory
Raging the Bullies
Out of my pre-conceived notions about Trump (pre-election year), he stayed true to a few: he used his master-branding tactics and his arm-twisting bullying ways. He bullied the weaker candidates – namely Jeb Bush (because of his last name) to ward off their competition at the start of the race. Next, he bullied the visible minorities (recognizing their inconsequential support for him), using repetitive, simple twang to convey outlandish ideas and inspire the bigots (all of which are winning elements of successful marketing campaigns). This surely brought the bigots, in droves, to stand by Trump. Then, over the course of the campaign, his transgressions as a chauvinistic man became known, possibly inspiring sexist men to join his bandwagon as well. Sexist men being bullies of their own right. However, the bigots and the sexists do not account for the whole 47% of the population that voted for him.
"making AMERICA great AGAIN"
What brought in droves of voters included the great chunk of people who simply warmed to his ideas of the zero-sum ideology. These people may have degrees of chauvinism and racism in themselves as well, but, for whatever reason, they really did want the focus shifted to themselves and their country. These folks were mired in a perpetual pool of inbetween – unsure about the status quo of their country, unaware of the benefits of global foreign policy – an opaque concept to grasp as is. Strutting in to save their day was an individual like Trump, who was going to bring their country to the top of the charts again. These voters grew up in the 70s and 80s when America enjoyed the top spot in terms of technological advancement, GDP wealth but oft late, had been dwindling. They wanted the top spot yet AGAIN and they wanted it NOW.
The Zero-Sum Policy = Isolationism
Isolationist America was a doctrine adopted by presidents following Woodrow Wilson, namely Hoover and Coolidge, as and when Wilson’s League of Nations faltered. America had been reeling from an economic depression after a spiteful war (fought for other countries) and the country’s citizens did not see the need for protecting others until, well, Pearl Harbour happened. The 1930s-1940s represent the current state of affairs today: there have been wars fought (some for their own interests: Afghanistan and most for others’ interests: ISIS, Iraq, etc.), there was an economic turmoil in quick succession over the past decade and the politicians seem more focused on external affairs than their own domestic ones. Thus, Trump’s semi-isolationist, zero-sum policy clicked!
Inbetween No More
Now, post-election, how can the 49% of the population that voted for America stand behind a highly unlikable man? From Trump and his voters’ state of inbetween, his non-voters have been thrown into one of their own – unsure about what the future holds for them and their country.
I recently spoke to a brash-nosed, wrongfully informed, yet, woefully opinionated young man who found that the oil price slump of today was an unheard of scenario. His folly, like many others’, was the belief that what we fail to see in our lifetime equates to an unlikely scenario. He had no knowledge of the oil price slump of the 70s but, history repeats itself and all of our answers lie in the past. Thus, although Trump may seem like an unforeseen force, there were individuals documented some time back in history who resemble him.
The tell-tale signs for a break-away non-global strategy were in the making (the unsuccessful global wars, the fall of the great US economy and the recession) so, if we look back at history, maybe something big will happen to enforce America back into the global stage again? But, what do I know? I’m no harbinger like Nostradamus, simply a history nerd who studies patterns.