Beth McHugh argues he has actually become distressing.
On June 16th 2015 I saw on my Twitter feed that Donald Trump – business magnate, television personality, caricature of himself – had announced he was running for president. I quote tweeted the news with a simple ‘lol.’ To me, and to most followers of American politics, this was hilarious: I assumed Trump had not a shot in hell, but he was sure to be worthy entertainment value along the way. Oh, how I was wrong. Just five months on, Trump commands a double-digit lead over his closest Republican rival. He has sure fulfilled on entertainment value level; but as his lead grows bigger and the primaries draw nearer, this is not a laughing matter anymore.
How has this happened? From the disrespect he shows his opponents, to his mouthy slanging-match style of debate, his villainising of Syrian refugees, or even just his hairstyle – Donald Trump embodies more makings of a cartoon villain than he does of a President of the United States. Yet, here he stands with more chance than anybody else of becoming the Republican Party nominee for the 2016 Presidential Election.
Much like Nigel Farage has achieved with UKIP in the UK, Trump has tapped into a disillusioned section of voters within America. Those who lean right and are disgruntled with Washington see him as their best option to send a middle finger to the establishment, just as those who lean left do so with Bernie Sanders.
There is consensus amongst a portion of the white middle class that Trump is the only candidate that embodies their indignation. One supporter told The Atlantic that they would be voting for him, as “Wall Street, the banks, and even illegal immigrants seem to be prospering more than the average American citizen. We are desperate.” It is in this atmosphere of desperation and fear that Trump’s campaign is ignited.
The tactics that have got Trump to where he is today are simply that of blatant lying and scare mongering. In the wake of the horrific Paris terrorist attacks, he wasted no time in placing the context back home in America. He gave statements: “You can say what you want, but if they had guns, if our people had guns, if they were allowed to carry it would’ve been a much, much different situation.” Nope. Lie. Not only is there no evidence to support this statement, but what self-respecting politician uses a heart-wrenching national tragedy to further their own deluded political agenda?
Just a few days later he then attempted to villainize the US Muslim population, attaching them as terrorist supporters: “There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down.” Again, nope. A lie. This claim has been disputed. To most, we understand that terrorism holds no religion. We understand there is a night and day, black and white, hot and cold level differentiation between Muslims and Islamist extremists. Trump and his supporters do not – and sickeningly, it has got him in a winning position.
His campaign thrives where the population feels insecure. Some are scared of ISIS, some are scared of refugees, some are scared their guns will be taken, and others are simply scared of government. Trump exploits these fears and paints a picture of what it will be like when Hillary Clinton wins in 2016. She is coming for your guns. She will expand government and taxes. She will open the country to Syrian refugees, which to Trump is synonymic with opening the country to terrorists. It may sound ridiculous to most – but it is clearly resonating with many as his support expands.
The proof is in the polls that this fear mongering is worryingly working. We used to laugh at Trump. Yes he may still make statements such as “My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars,” or “it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass,” but it is no longer actually funny. His ideas are becoming so offensive and disgraceful that we cannot sit back and laugh anymore. Trump has actually proposed that American Muslims should be required to carry ID identifying their religion, just as Hitler did with European Jews. In blatant terms: the Republican frontrunner has a policy that is interchangeable with a policy from the evilest man in history.
The fact that people are supporting this indicates a dark time in America. This is not the America that prides itself on liberty and democracy. This is an America rife with racism, fear and persecution – and Donald Trump is its poster boy.
Donald Trump is not funny anymore. He is terrifying.
word by Beth McHugh