Sunday, April 21, 2024

SHANTAL MUNRO-KNIGHT: Bring on Trump phenomenon

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I HAVE BEEN following the American political news in the run-up to the Republican and Democratic nominations. Anyone who has been even remotely tuning in would know that currently all of the political pundits are completely baffled by what is being referred to as the Donald Trump phenomenon.  

Trump emerged as the front runner in many states, despite having absolutely no specific political platform of any kind whatsoever.

He spouts anti-immigrant and American ascendency rhetoric with all of the finesse and know-how of a three-year-old learning to read. Trump picks fights; he is insulting to women; he flaunts his wealth in a way that is insulting and has absolutely no respect whatsoever for protocol. 

He has become both the laughing stock and wow factor in the Republican presidential primaries. If he were operating in the Bajan context, the phrase “he is a real idiot, though” would become synonymous with any description of Trump and his current performance.  

Despite all of this, the latest’s national US poll on August 27 showed Trump leading the other Republican candidates with 28 per cent, up from 20 per cent in a July 30 national survey.

According to the poll, this is the “highest tally and widest margin for any Republican so far in this election”. Not surprisingly, Trump also tops the Republican voters’ “no way” list as pick for the presidential nomination, followed by Jeb Bush, who was once thought of as the front runner for the Republican pick. 

Of interest also is that the man behind Trump with the second highest tally is Dr Ben Carson, a black American physician who is also not the typical Republican candidate.

Dr Carson announced his candidacy under the banner A Breath Of Fresh Air: A New Prescription For American Politics” and has also admitted that his political voice does not fall squarely within the typical Republican stance, an approach which, according to one political commentator, makes him more appealing to an American public looking for someone outside the normal political realm.

Apparently, what Trump and perhaps Carson have tapped into is a section of the American public looking for a different type of Republican candidate. I would suggest that this is the same phenomenon that is behind Hilary Clinton’s continual slide in popularity. People are tired of the typical politician spouting the same rhetoric, tired promises and wishy-washy political ideals. In this environment Trump, with all his idiocy, stands out among the crowd.

We have heard it said that when America sneezes, we catch a cold. While I am certainly neither predicting the rise of nor wishing for a Trump-like persona on our political landscape, I think that we are in a political moment when the Trump phenomenon certainly has relevance.

Underlying the inherent impatience and frustration with the Freundel Stuart administration is a disappointment that the administration has failed to infuse “a breath a fresh air” into its policy approaches. This has been so whether one is talking economics, strict politics, or social policy.  

On the side of the Opposition, care needs to be taken that the party does not repeat the same mistakes and present to the public the same old tired candidates and Opposition hoopla which becomes background noise. In such a scenario no one wins. 

Like the American politicians, our political hopefuls will meet a Barbadian public hungry for change, not just of Government but also for a different kind of politics. 

For the first time I am willing to catch a cold from the Americans – bring on the Trump phenomenon!

Shantal Munroe-Knight is a development specialist executive coordinator at the Caribbean Policy Development Centre. Email shantalmunro@gmail.com

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