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Making Sense Of The World's Strangest Political Phenomenon

15/05/2016 2:08 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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Donald Trump supporters listen to U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speak at a campaign rally in Spokane, Washington, U.S., May 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jake Parrish

Billionaire Donald Trump's rise as the premier name, face (and hair) of the Republicans has not just caused much surprise around the world, but has jolted the Grand Old Party (GOP) from within as well. He seems to have studied Harlan K. Ullman and James P. Wade's famous 1996 military theory of "shock and awe", taken this spectacularly failed doctrine of the 2003 Iraq war and applied it politically on the Republicans themselves, but this time actually gotten good use out of it.

Trump's bulldozing of his rivals such as Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and others through the nominations process has seemingly been designed around digging up the land around conservative politics in America, and digging it deeper than anyone else before. The aim has been to gain not just the conservative vote but to ensure that the ultra-conservative, racist, xenophobic and ignorant voices in America get some mainstream exposure as well.

[His] campaign... should have been a train-wreck but is bizarrely successful and unstoppable instead.

He has used every contentious issue possible. He's announced that he'll build a wall between the US and Mexico to stop illegal immigration (and make Mexico pay for it too), he's spoken of banning Muslims from coming into America, he has shown himself to be a climate change sceptic and has propagated exclusionist economic policies for his country. Between all of that, he has mocked India's call centres, raised questions about Obama's birth certificate, announced that he'd have dated Ivanka Trump had he not been her father, and made a slew of other cringe-worthy statements to build a campaign that should have been a train-wreck but is bizarrely successful and unstoppable instead.

He knew what nerve to pinch to awaken a certain type of supporter in the US, but perhaps even he did not expect such a rousing response to his usually blatant yet unintelligible ramblings masquerading under the guise of potential policy ideas to "make America great again".

Interestingly, many [in India] seem to be understanding (if not supporting) why ´The Donald´ has become such a phenomenon.

Trump's rise has not just made many Americans uneasy, but also most global players, from Europe to South America, Asia and Australia. In India, in particular, the response to Trump as a presidential candidate has been interesting to observe. American elections, like in most countries, get a good amount of attention in India as well. Interestingly, many seem to be understanding (if not supporting) why ´The Donald´ has become such a phenomenon. One general point that arises regularly in Delhi's talkative policy circles is the consensus that Republicans in the White House usually means good news for India. However, this time it is not quite the same -- many Republicans, even though they may detest Trump, could vote for him just so Hillary Clinton, despised by many for belonging to the elite Washington establishment, doesn't win. This has shades of India's own general elections in 2014 -- many Congress voters in India didn't want to vote for the BJP, but did so to showcase their anger against the corrupt 'Lutyens' establishment.

Recently, the fringe nationalist Hindu group Hindu Sena, armed with 12 or so of their best and most unemployed people, went to Jantar Mantar in the heart of Delhi (which has become like the hipster Hauz Khas Village of protests now) to organize a Hindu ceremony in order to bring good luck to Trump in his campaign to become the most powerful man in the world.

[H]is antics and public performances have created an audience that looks at him as an alternative -- ironically, a change from the "change" that Obama sold so well...

"Going by the statements of Donald Trump, we think he will be the lone protector of mankind," said Vishnu Gupta, president of the Hindu Sena. These 12 odd people managed to make it to the global news cycle while sitting in a small corner of Delhi. They are not the only ones - on Facebook a group called Hindus for Trump exists with a humble 1,220 members seemingly subscribing to the idea of Trump as messiah, and has also earned attention from the international press. On the page, the Hindus for Trump group has endorsed the Hindu Sena's prayers for a Trump victory. "Hindus for Trump and Hindu Sena are brothers in the cause," the group's page posted, a typical and expected (male) view.

There is no denying Trump is a popular character in American, and perhaps even global politics today. While he is perhaps politically popular just in the US Republican voter base for the moment, his antics and public performances have created an audience that looks at him as an alternative -- ironically, a change from the "change" that Obama sold so well during his winning campaigns of 2008 and 2012. For most others, Trump has just turned out to be the greatest satirist in America today.

Trump is also not a fool (I think). He is expected to start pulling back from his current cowboy-from-hell bravado, and start taking more moderate stands...

But Trump is also not a fool (I think). He is expected to start pulling back from his current cowboy-from-hell bravado, and start taking more moderate stands as the final few months before elections approach. This process may have already started. He has backtracked on his Muslim ban suggestion (specifically after British politician Sadiq Khan became Mayor of London) claiming that everything he is currently saying are mere suggestions, since he is not the President. In his extremely coherent style, he explained, "Yeah, it (Muslim ban) was a suggestion. Look anything I say right now, I am not the President. Everything is a suggestion, no matter what you say, it's a suggestion."

Trump is almost certain to be the main candidate against Hillary Clinton. Over time, many of his detractors within the GOP, including those who stood against him as candidates, may line up to offer their support in the final sprint to the White House. Why? Because none of these gentlemen are in this for charity; they are in it for power and if they can get a taste of it via Trump, then so be it. Trump's recent meeting with House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and the subsequent press conference by Ryan showed that efforts to fix the fault lines within the GOP are being made, and a compromise may be inevitable.

Many of his detractors... may line up to offer their support. Why? Because none of these gentlemen are in this for charity; they are in it for power...

As I am finishing writing this, CNN is flashing a newsbreak that says, "Trump denies posing as his own spokesman"-- clearly another tale is taking shape to add to Trump's saga as one of the most bizarre presidential runners in modern US history. There are probably many more to come.

This is democracy at work, and as Jon Stewart said, "You have to remember one thing about the will of the people: it wasn't that long ago that we were swept away by the Macarena."

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