As my flight descends into Los Angeles Airport I begin chatting with the young American man sitting next to me. We speak of our travels and I ask what state he is from. He laughs with a scoff “I’m Canadian, thank god! Have you seen what’s going on here? Race, guns and now Trump!” At first I’m a little taken a back. Isn’t Trump’s candidacy for President a total joke?
To many in Australia, the business tycoon turned controversial politician is nothing short of a racist republican who is a big believer in misogyny and deportation of immigrants. Seems like the perfect candidate to ‘Make America Great Again’ am I right?
As a whole, Trump has been represented as a bit of a joke amongst Australia media outlets. Channel Ten’s The Project recently described Trump as “ranting, bullying and lying republican” whose potential leadership is “downright scary”. Such representation has led many to believe that the American population could not possibly elect this man as their leader. However after spending a few weeks in the United States recently, it is evident that Trump is not only no joke, he is a political powerhouse with a staggering following.
Results from the last five polls indicate that Trump is only 2.8% behind Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, as of September 4th 2016. And Trump’s support is represented in more ways than stats. Political rallies and press conferences hosted by Trump have brought thousands of supporters out, including several famous folk such as Kid Rock, Mike Tyson, Azealia Banks and Jon Voight.
So how exactly did this former reality TV star gain so much popularity whilst achieving highly improbable success in the republican race?
There is no denying Trump is confident and self-assured. A few of his famous self enhancing quotes include “The people love me”, “I’m really really really rich” and “I have built great structures, I have had tremendous success.” So clearly self-promotion and confidence has contributed to his image. However Pilitzer winning writer and author of ‘The Making of Donald Trump’, Donald Cay Johnston claims Trump has reached this level of success within his political campaign because he is professional “con – man”.
Along with another few, dozen explosive allegations against Trump, Johnston explains that the two major keys to Trumps success are self-confidence and a conservative stance. In the words of Johnston, Trump believes “he is the greatest person that has ever lived and the rest of us are mere mortals.”
Having observing Trump’s constant media presence, questionable televised behavior and traditional views it is obvious that Trump has gained this level of political momentum through exemplifying the historical political pyramid, the three C’s – confidence, conservatism, controversy.
In fact these are perhaps the three greatest words to describe ‘The Donald’, who’s open support of conservative policies including immigration reform and objection to gay marriage, has huge support from many Americans. These conservative beliefs are one of the major reasons why Trump has such a large following.
A 2014 PEW Research Centre survey suggested that 42% of American citizens identified their political and social beliefs as conservative. So he isn’t complete on his own when it comes to his right wing beliefs! And these shared beliefs are perhaps what has lead to the rising disapproval of democratic candidate, Hilary Clinton.
Clinton, although no stranger to controversy herself, has become a champion for equality, gay rights and other traditionally ‘liberal’ ideals. This political standpoint has gained her popularity with a large percentage of young women (aged 18-29) as well as the gay community and countless celebrities. But has not helped her connect with traditionally conservative voters.
It can be assumed that these traditionally conservative voters and possible Trump supporters are also fans of ‘the American Dream’ concept, a pillar in Trumps campaign. This concept embodies the support of ‘hard working Americans’, traditional families and financial security’. Something many Americans can relate and aspire to.
Regardless of Trump’s political standpoints, ‘The Donald’ manages to find himself front and centre of media headlines daily. Having well and truly embraced the concept ‘any press is good press’. This constant media presence is perhaps another contributing factor towards his popularity, whether intended or not.
So what does this all mean?
At present Trump remains a strong contender for the presidency, which will be voted on early November 2016. Until then, the world is left biting their fingernails in anticipation and watching re-runs of the Apprentice!