Thursday, July 21, 2016

If the answer is Trump, what is the question?

So Donald J Trump is now the nominated candidate of the Republican Party for this year's US presidential election. I seem to be a lot less surprised by this outcome than many other New Zealanders, probably because I have spent more time in the United States in recent years and have regular contact with a lot more people living in America than the average New Zealander. I don't think you need to be very politically astute to understand why Trump has secured the Republican Party's nomination.

Firstly, there is the fact that America continues to languish in the economic doldrums it has been in since 2008. Despite endless pump-priming by the Federal Reserve, and talking up of the anaemic recovery by President Obama and his bureaucrats, many Americans cannot find work (the unemployment rate for men between the ages of 25 and 54 is 16%) and many are still 'underwater' in terms of wealth, having not regained the equity they lost in property and pension funds during the global financial crisis.

Secondly, there is disillusionment with the existing political institutions to deal with America's problems. Many Americans bought Obama's message of 'hope and change' but after eight years there has been no real change except for a much more expensive compulsory health insurance system, and no hope left. The Republicans are seen as equally hopeless, having been in control of both houses of Congress for the last two years with seemingly nothing to show for it.

Thirdly, there was the uninspiring line-up of alternative candidates in the presidential primaries. As National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg puts it, "the prospect of watching a Bush-Clinton race was so disgusting" that many people decided they would rather have a billionaire buffoon or a dyed-in-the-wool Socialist than either of the candidates from the two dynasties that account for three of the last four presidents.

Trump is a consummate populist, even more so than that other populist, Barack Obama. He doesn't have any discernible political philosophy - his position on any issue, whether it is immigration, trade or terrorism, is whatever will make him popular. Perhaps the only political label you could justifiably put on him is that he is a nationalist. He certainly does not have any credible solutions to America's problems. The Republican Party has decided he is the answer, but no one seems to know what is the question.

How will Trump perform as president? No one knows that either, but I expect that we are going to find out because (as I have written before) I believe he will beat Hillary Clinton to become the next President of the United States.

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