By Blake Osmond, Social Research & Policy Majoring in International Relations/ Law IV
After the primaries begin in earnest, and Americans start to think about who they actually want walking into the Oval Office on January 21st 2017 as Commander-in-Chief of the worldâ€™s largest military, the star of Donald Trump will surely fade.
That was the near universal feeling just six months ago amongst political observers and pundits, who all loudly proclaimed that the flamboyant, bombastic style of The Don couldnâ€™t last in a contemporary presidential election campaign once people began to realise the future was at stake.
How wrong they all were.
With more big wins in this weekâ€™s primary states, and moderate candidates such as Rubio, Kasich and Bush all failing by the wayside, Trump is on the verge of clinching the Republic Nomination. His only real competition seems to be Senator Ted Cruz, whose extreme conservatism probably makes him as equally concerning as Trump to most political moderates.
But how did it happen?
When you look at the demographics of Trump supporters, it appears the cult of Trump boils down to two words: anger and insecurity.
Trumpâ€™s supporters are predominantly white, blue-collar workers with limited formal education. Most are decent, hardworking Americans who were hit hardest by the global recession of 2008, and have experienced economic dislocation ever since. They are genuinely well intentioned lower to middle class Americans, who genuinely want the next generation to experience a better life than they have enjoyed.
However, they fear the America of Reagan and Clinton, arguably the most economically successful Presidents of the 20th century, has somehow been taken from them and their children. During the 80s and 90s, their high-paying, relatively low-skilled jobs ensured their place in the American middle class. Yet today, they struggle to pay the bills and provide for their families. Trump has played right into this fear.
The figures alone speak for themselves. In 1971, the US middle class was said to be over 60% of the population. Today, the number of families considered middle class barely reaches 50%. In effect, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Trump knows this, and has shamelessly used it to his advantage during this election.
In a way you canâ€™t blame people for being fearful – a walk down the main street of city like Detroit, Michigan shows America is still recovering from the second Great Depression. This is a similar story to many American towns and cities, which despite the economic success of the Obama Presidency, have struggled to create a diversified 21st century economy with high paying jobs.
Trump has played right into this fear â€“ deliberately ignoring the nuances of trying to diversify the economy, he has used one line rhetoric to claim trade agreements, immigration and poor economic management by President Obama is somehow solely responsible for the nationâ€™s economic woes. All America needs to be made great again, he claims, is his election as President.
Yet, Americanâ€™s economic woes are not a silo in the 2016 election. The anger and insecurity created by this economic dislocation has coincided with the rise of global terrorism and the 24-hour new cycle, which ensures the qualms of the Middle East are broadcast by Fox, CNN and CNBC into the lounge rooms of Americans everyday. This seems to have only made the fear and insecurity of Americanâ€™s worse. However, it would be wrong to see Trump as the exclusive beneficiary of this demographic. It is similar feelings that have propelled the populist candidacy of Bernie Sanders, and has seen candidates such as Rubio pushed so far to the extremes of the political spectrum that he now supports an immigration policy which would have prevented his own parents from immigrating to the United States.
But how exactly did the born-rich, multi-billionaire property developer, whose name adorns buildings, motels and private aircraft, become the champion of the average, simple American? How did the thrice-married Trump claim the evangelical vote in a number of states? How did the man from a world of butlers and chauffeurs become the champion of the Detroit autoworkers and North Carolinian military family?
I mean, Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™m not the only one to note the irony of the multi-billionaire property developer, whose name adorns building and aircraft, become the champion of the average, simple American?
If you look deeply at his policies, or more importantly his rhetoric, he has managed to speak to the economic and social fears of this specific demographic as opposed to outline clear and concise policies that address these very fears.
His promise to Make America Great Again has spoken directly to these lower and middle-income workers who yearn for the economic upturn of the 80s and 90s.
His rhetoric against those opposed to him has struck a cord with Americans who believe their countries respectability and place in the world has somehow weakened during the Obama Administration.
His anger and frustration has resinated with millions of Americans who despite working hard, still struggle to get ahead.
And, most shockingly, his statements on immigration, Muslims and Mexicans has applied to the absolute lowest common denominator amongst mankind: racism.
Donald Trump might have used his rhetoric and bombastic tone to apply to the deep fears of so many Americans, yet in this election more than ever, it is likely American voters need a president who speaks to their hopes and aspirations for a new American. Donald Trump is just not that President.