Even if he doesn’t become president, Donald Trump has already made history. The success of the billionaire from Palm Beach against all the odds and all the forecasts has changed the face of the United States. More precisely, it has demonstrated that the face of the United States has changed.
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After the astounding victories of the vulgar populist in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, it is clear to all that America is no longer the country we have known. It is no longer a nation with a prudent economic establishment, a contented middle class and a stable political system. It is no longer a nation confident in itself, its identity and its future. It is a frightened, angry America. An America that has lost its way.
To an Israeli who spends considerable time in debates about Israel between Boston and San Francisco, Trump is a relief. Suddenly Israeli politics seem a little less embarrassing. How can one be shocked by Uri Ariel, Miri Regev and Yariv Levin, when the big talent is electrifying millions of Americans by inciting against Muslims? How can one express disgust at the goings on in Jerusalem, when the man marching toward Washington is breaking every basic rule of American democracy?
But to an Israeli who loves America and believes it has no substitute, Trump is a cause of deep worry. Why is it that what’s going on in this election campaign hasn’t happened in any election campaign in the last century? What enables a brilliant, dangerous, repulsive, rude clown to take one step after another toward the White House?
The first reason for Trump’s success is fear for the nation’s identity. American demography is changing fast. White Christian America is becoming a minority. In the two election campaigns won by Barack Obama, American politics celebrated the change. Now comes the reaction. Something dark and horrible is rising from parts of the conservative white population, which feels it’s losing its hegemony over the land it has built.
The second reason for Trump’s success is economic fear. In the last 30 years American capitalism has become rapacious as it hasn’t been since the end of the 19th century. Massive concentration of capital, huge social gaps and an eroding middle class are breaking the American dream to bits. In the absence of real mobility and the lack of confidence in a better future, American stability and optimism have been undermined.
The third reason for Trump’s success is fear of decline. All those who will be voting in the November election are children of the American century. They grew up in a world dominated in one way or another by the United States. But in the last 15 years these voters have seen America lose its place of leadership in the world. China’s rise, Russia’s provocation and the Middle East’s despair prove that Washington is no longer in command of the world as it was in the past. Thus was created the yearning for a new commander, an unrestrained one.
These three deep fears coalesced in recent years to become a quiet dread. While on the surface the economy seemed to be more or less recovering, the world more or less peaceful, and life more or less reasonable – down below this dread gripped the heart of the American masses. In the lack of job security, communal security and security in the future, the dread intensified.
Until Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders came along and brought it to the surface, to the light. So even if the real estate tycoon is ultimately defeated – he has already made his mark. This man who offers himself as a grotesquerie of Ronald Reagan has not only brought American politics to an unprecedented low, he endangers all that America has been and all that America is supposed to be.