There has been no shortage of outrageous statements by Republican candidate Donald Trump in the US presidential election campaign. However, the one that shocked me most was this boast about the loyalty of his supporters:
“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters, ok? It’s, like, incredible.” (Donald Trump, 23-Jan-2016)
The statement says something about both Trump and his supporters.
It would never occur to most people to even think about murdering someone, let alone boasting about the hypothetical ability to get away with murder — not because murder is illegal, but because killing is wrong. It’s one of the most basic moral rules in any society. That this doesn’t apply to Trump is revealing. He doesn’t have this moral compass that most people at any layer of society have. He’s the ultimate narcissist who would do anything that he thinks benefits him, from stiffing his contractors to “grabbing (women) by the pussy”. That makes him totally unsuitable for the most powerful position on the planet.
Trump has said many things that would have sunk the campaigns of ordinary politicians, but this is not politics as usual any more. For a certain segment of voters, the fact that he does not behave like a regular politician is the very reason they vote for him. Decades of rabid propaganda and conspiracy theories on talk radio by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and on Fox News have established an alternate reality for them where the system is totally broken and has to be trashed before it can be rebuilt from scratch. In this alternate reality crime is at an all-time high, rather than 50% below what it was under President Reagan as it actually is. Facts don’t matter.
These people are scared and prepared take their chances, almost regardless of the evidence. In reality, Trump has no solution for them. He will not bring back the lost industrial jobs that largely went to computers rather than to Mexico. His anti-trade policies would send the economy into a tail spin and his budget proposals would drown the country in debt. His victory would have foreign dictators cheering and would encourage imitators in other countries.
When Hitler came to power in my homeland in 1933, he did not win a majority in free elections, but he managed to get enough support from other parties and politicians who feared a communist revolution more than they disliked the Nazis. Most of Hitler’s plans that he executed so brutally once firmly in power, from “Lebensraum im Osten” (living space to the east, i.e. the invasion of Poland and the Soviet Union) to the mass murder of Jews had already been openly announced in “Mein Kampf” a decade before the Nazi takeover, but people on the right did not care too much about that. They were happy as long as Hitler was going to smash the communists.
Likewise, most of what Trump says doesn’t really matter to his followers, as long as he is the anti-Obama. No other Republican candidate was as different from Obama as Trump is. People voting for Trump despite his glaringly obvious character flaws are willing to write him a blank check, the same way the German Reichstag gave Hitler a blank check when it signed the Enabling Act (Ermächtigungsgesetz) that effectively gave him unlimited powers and put parliament out of business.
Even if, as most of the world hopes, voters will manage to stop Trump this coming Tuesday, this alone will not end the problem. His voters and their alternate reality views will still be there. They will impact the political culture for years to come. The Republican party and its media circus has nurtured an ever more toxic political base that it now has trouble controlling. In some ways it reminds me of the jihadists the US supported in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 1970s/80s against the Soviet Union, which now have become the West’s enemy #1.
Unfortunately, even if the most unqualified US presidential candidate ever is defeated at the polls it will take a long time for the US to recover from the political poison the Republicans have been brewing for decades in order to secure power to further the interests of the top 1%.