Trump’s Dangerous Populist Appeal

This has been a long time coming. The two-party system is tribal politics at its worst, which has lead members and leaders of each party to become more divided and polarized with every passing year. It’s a vilification that, as a Democrat, I have often fell victim to, and which only entrenched the other side further in their beliefs, and makes true joint efforts impossible. The rhetoric used by one side against the other has become more extreme and insular in its views, whether or not I agree with those views. Public address is not just what it is said, but how it is said. And in the current political climate, a combination of these issues have created the perfect conditions under which Hurricane Donald prevailed.

Although I am a Democrat, I think Romney would have made a fine president. Maybe I don’t agree with him on very many social issues, but he proved his worth as a moderate Republican governor of Massachusetts. Unfortunately, that’s not the platform he ran on for president. He sacrificed his own beliefs to align himself with the right. Every move he made seemed calculated. He came across as robotic. When he was caught on video saying his “47 percent” quote, I thought, well, at least he’s being real. That’s the Romney I wanted to see more of. That’s the Romney I wanted to see run for president. That’s the Romney that might have won.

Real or not, Romney wouldn’t have stood a chance against Trump in the primaries. And there’s a reason none of the other candidates did. The staunch conservatives couldn’t match Trump in tone or quips, and the moderates couldn’t match Trump in tone or message. Kasich would have done a fine job; he never stood a chance. Speaker Paul Ryan seemed vehemently opposed to Trump, then endorsed him, then said he wouldn’t defend Trump anymore, but still endorsed him. In a move that he may think his politically savvy, his hedging of bets will go down in history as the cowardice that it is.

And it will do nothing to stop the Trumps of the world. That requires taking a stand. It takes guts. Few have been willing or able to do so. I think Biden would have swept him, but his heart wasn’t in it. I think Biden should have sacrificed himself for the country.

Trump’s negativity, ego, and persona spoke to large swaths of people, some of whom may be impoverished, some of whom may feel disenfranchised, and many of whom want to believe in what Trump promises, even if its sometimes the hate that he spews. Trump didn’t bow to the establishment. He barely cared about his constitutes. In fact, he only cared about himself. But he said what he wanted, he didn’t mince words, he never apologized for it. Yes, he wants to make “America Great Again,” but he has sold that promise with a message of fear, hate, and narcissism.

No-one else with a positive message could match his energy and charisma. This is as much Trump’s fault as it is his contenders’ failure of imagination.

I believe we are a country of moderates. I admire the Bernies of the world, and idealists in general, but that a candidate with such extreme politics will only divide us further. Trump—who has no verifiable policy, and which but he often bypassed and spoke to the heart of what some on the far right seem to hold as true, and which retroactively has become a policy that is sort of foregone conclusion, even if never implemented, and which is a corruption of what true conservatism represents.

But what both Bernie and Trump have proven that it is not necessary to toe the establishment line in order to reach the people. That you can stop worrying about what everyone thinks and just say what you believe. That the public sees through calculation and sees it as artifice. It was only a matter of time before someone truly outside of the establishment exploited this need in our political system. It is sad that Trump was the one to do this.

I don’t want someone outside the system—I want someone experienced—I just want that person to have the vigor to stand up to the Trumps and bullies and the assholes and the ability to effectively communicate a healthy message to the public, to properly empathize with those who feel left out, and in a way that doesn’t appeal to our lesser selves. We are more than just a product of being nurtured in reality television and punditry, and its up to us to prove the Trumps of the world wrong.

I have hope.

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