Realities That Cannot Be Ignored

Wil McLaughlin, Contributing Columnist

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I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus recently, but I’m back. Part of senior year is swamping you with so much work that you are actually gasping for your life back at the end. Anyway, let’s talk about this election: It’s been absolutely nuts.

I don’t even want to recap the past few weeks, let alone the past few months, but I will anyway. Ted Cruz roasted bacon on the barrel of an assault rifle, Ben Carson claimed that the Pyramids were used to store grain, Bernie Sanders danced to ‘Hotline Bling,’ Hillary Clinton said that she was “broke” in 2001, and Twitterverse dubbed Marco Rubio as the ‘Rubiobot’ after he repeated the same sentence (“Barack Obama knows exactly what he’s doing”) four times in a Republican debate. And this is only the beginning. And then there’s Trump.

I honestly don’t know what to say about him. I believe that the more you talk about him, the more momentum he gets. Yet, here I am, writing about him.

 The New York Times has an ongoing list of insults that he’s dished out on Twitter and it’s quite a read. His speeches are inciting violence and he’s saying he’ll pay for his supporters’ legal fees if sued. He’s questioned whether Obama is an American citizen, argued that Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycle affected his debate performance, and said that the size of his “something else… isn’t a problem.” It’s disgusting and is something you’d see on ‘South Park.’ He’s also essentially the GOP nominee.

Regardless what you think about him, Trump has support. I tend to think that this support is drastically over polled and over hyped, but it demonstrates a reality of the United States: Many people dislike globalization, free trade, and reduction of government social programs.

This is not a new or unknown phenomenon. This sense of popular nationalism has a long and colorful history (often paired with ugly racism and xenophobia) throughout the United States, but has been noticeably missing in recent years. Furthermore, this populism is not limited to the Republicans. If interested in further reading, look up ‘The Return of the Middle American Radical.’ It’s an excellent dissection of why people are voting Trump.

The darling of the youth and disenfranchised voters, Sanders has also opposed expansion and continuation of many international trade deals (e.g., NAFTA, TPP, etc.). Furthermore, he has proposed expanding healthcare and social programs (i.e., Social Security). Sanders and Trump, while hugely opposed to each other, have major similarities. They are playing on the concerns of specific and overlapping voting groups. As a general rule, Trump appeals to white, working and middle class men (sometimes unionized). As a general rule, Sanders plays on the finicky Millennial and working class Democrat (often unionized).

That being said, I don’t think Trump has the same thought or legitimacy behind his campaign. Just Googling platforms on their websites: Trump has six articles of what he will do when President, Sanders has 24, Clinton has 29, Cruz has nine (with a lot of sublinks), and Rubio had 27. To summarize: Trump’s platform is minimal and revolves around the mantra of “Make America Great Again” with no real substance. But, hey, most people should know that already.

My point is that some of his ideas appeal to more people than just the people supporting him. Furthermore, on some things, even traditional Republicans can agree with Democrats. I’ve seen some analysts claim that about 35 percent of the party is supporting Trump, with the rest of the voters divided between Cruz, Rubio (formerly, anyway), and Kasich. Furthermore, Trump is also gaining independent support. I’m also saying that Trump is right on some things.

Talk to essentially anyone around here: People hate free trade agreements. A big part of why Clinton lost to Sanders in the Michigan Primary last week is because he started trashing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive free trade agreement (like NAFTA) with the Pacific Rim nations. Trump is playing on the same sentiments. Manufacturing workers, especially textile and unionized ones, utterly despise agreements like that. They feel that the high cost of American work (in terms of the U.S. Dollar to foreign currency) cannot compete with industry in the developing world (i.e., China, Mexico, etc.).

When it comes to trade, Trump isn’t really conservative. Both mainstream Democrats and Republicans have supported free trade agreements in recent years, but trade barriers have traditionally been a more liberal platform (such as cotton tariffs). While most politicians would suffer severe domestic and foreign policy setbacks if they actually did repeal these laws (looking at you, Sanders), Trump is no ordinary politician.

On healthcare, Trump has been inconsistent. His Web site says that he wants to repeal Obamacare (though he said he does agree with a lot of it), but he has pledged to expand Medicaid massively (I think he means Medicare, but whatever) to pick up the slack, and also not privatizing it.

This is a huge difference from the Tea Party positions of simply repealing Obamacare and the fiscal conservatism that Rubio and especially Cruz have been spouting. They want to replace the ACA, but not expand the federal government’s power. Of course, these two planks of Trump’s platform are somewhat low-key, as most associate him with a Game of Thrones-esque wall with Mexico and amping up the War on Terror.

Trump is ‘dangerous’ because he does have these populist, unifying principles. A lot of people would agree that the ACA is a mediocre program, and that free trade really doesn’t help American workers. Personally, I think that Trump’s way of changing them is wrong and he’s a terrible person in general, but they are legitimate grievances to Americans. That’s why he’s getting this kind of support (and therefore the attention). If Republican voters and the Trump people both line up behind him, things get mighty interesting.

Trump is also the best shot the GOP has at winning the White House (probably). Cruz is despised and Kasich isn’t energetic enough. Trump appears to have independent support, and he’s known by so many for being wealthy. Against a blundering and detested candidate like Clinton who cannot inspire voter turnout, Trump may have a shot. He could gain independents and the disenfranchised vote, and Hillary may be unable to attract the unreliable (though highly liberal) youth vote. That is, of course, if the GOP doesn’t split between the establishment coalition and the Trump camp.

We’ve gotten to the point where the nominees are basically chosen. Now, we wait and see how stupid they make themselves look before November. I don’t think that we’ll have Trump as President, but I’ve been wrong before. It’s a sad world we live in.

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Realities That Cannot Be Ignored