A Second Trump Will Rise

September 1st, 2016 | M. Menuck

Whatever the outcome in November, books will be written on the 2016 Presidential Campaign for decades to come. Endless ink will be spilt on countless pages of paper dissecting every aspect and angle of this most unusual election. The hows and whys of what brought it to pass will be speculated on. The wise and most serious pronouncements on what it means for America as a people and a nation will flow freely.

After the year of unexpected events and surprises we have had, I have officially given up on trying to predict the future. That being said, at this point it is fair to say that the odds are in Hillary Clinton's favour in the race for the White House. Despite a lifetime of baggage, an uninspiring campaign consisting mostly of microwaved leftovers of the status quo, and a still unfolding scandal involving her private email server and the very sketchy actions of the Clinton Foundation, the former Secretary of State maintains a thin but largely consistent lead over her Republican opponent both nationally and in most swing states. This, combined with the organizational edge Clinton's campaign holds over Trump's largely ramshackle organization, will likely prove sufficient for the Democrats to maintain their hold over the Oval Office in November.

The great mistake that progressives can make, should this happen, would be to take this for a victory they have achieved rather than a large, self-inflicted defeat by Donald Trump upon himself. Should he fail to win on Election Day, it will not be because of any wholesale rejection of his policies and platform, but rather unease with the candidate himself. Trump's temperament has been a consistent reservation for me since his candidacy began and, if he loses, it shall largely be because of his poor impulse control, his unwillingness to think before he speaks, and his inability to maintain message discipline and not be goaded into rising to the bait of obvious traps and pratfalls.

Despite all these weaknesses, Trump has managed to come this far in the election, and still maintains a not insignificant chance at winning, due to the simple fact that he was the first person to recognize the potential of the base of supporters who propelled him to the GOP nomination. This pool of poorer, less educated, largely white and male voters had no voice before Donald Trump and could quite accurately be labelled a forgotten section of the electorate, but now that they have shown their power, they will be forgotten no longer. If in defeat Trump's candidacy - and more importantly the issues that propelled him to the nomination is treated as a misnomer or bad dream, the base of support he has relied on all this time will still be there, along with the resentments and legitimate grievances that galvanized it in the first place. Republicans can certainly go back to ignoring these voters if they wish, just as Democrats can return to openly despising them, but neither should be surprised when another Donald Trump (perhaps lacking in the present one's handicaps) comes along and dusts off the ready made playbook that brought the first one within a hair's breath of the presidency.
It is my sneaking suspicion that this is precisely what will happen, however, for doing anything else would force the establishment of both the left and the right to confront the uncomfortable deficiencies of their own ideologies. It's easy for progressives to demand equal pay between male and female CEOs; it would be far harder for them to acknowledge that for much of the working class pay equity was already achieved years ago and since then wages for both men and women have not just hit a speed bump, but gone into reverse, the primary culprit being the illegal influx of over ten million near illiterate Mexican immigrants into the lower end of the job market. Free-marketeers love to tout the rising GDP and stock market indexes that have come from free-trade but are far more hesitant to acknowledge that trade off has been a hollowing out of the old industrial manufacturing base, leaving many workers with nothing but a rise in precarious unemployment and a loss of benefits, security and self-esteem.

The ugly and unwelcome truth that Trump was revealed is that, at this time, the Western world is very much a story of two realities. For one, consisting of the highly educated, the economically skilled, and the financially flush (from which almost all of the political class hail from these days), things truly have never been better as the forces of globalization, technological progress and modernity have ushered in a golden era of prosperity. For the other, encompassing the poor, the unskilled, and the obsolete, life has become an unstable grind where the smug residents of the former camp look down on them with sneering condescension either as bigoted rubes or shiftless layabouts and seek to placate them with welfare cheques, and puffed up culture wars and cheap crap imported from China.

Donald Trump may well have fallen upon his own sword but, like it or not, this latter group that embraced him as their voice may very well have realized the previously unknown power they possessed. Should proponents of the status quo simply revert after November to their tired old refrain of  "just do what the smart people are telling you, dummies", they may well find that their audience is no longer willing to listen. The sleeper has awoken and will not be easily lulled back into slumber. Ignore this, and the reckoning for it may well prove to be dear.