Political theorists have sometimes been seen as a group of people who predict (the result of an election) wrongly and later explain why they predicted wrongly.
This perfectly describes those who initially predicted the 2016 United States elections. Every political analyst, political observer, political scientist or commentator was so sure that Donald J. Trump will not emerge as presidential nominee of the Grand Old Party (GOP) in 2016. Many were equally sure that Trump is not going to be sworn in as the 45th US President in January, 2017. Does the reality which stares us in the face prove them all wrong?
If the results from the primaries in the states are anything to go by, Trump is leading comfortably in at least 14 states and is likely to pocket many of the delegates and super-delegates during the party’s convention in July. So far, every poll in the media appears to strengthen his grip on the process. No one told us of a possible Trump lead at this time few months ago. No one predicted or saw the possibility of Mr Trump winning even a state primary, let alone in big ones. The past few weeks have shown that his candidacy has the capacity to survive what professional political observers all think are obviously fatal gaffes and flubs.
If there is anything the Trump campaign has done well, it is his ability to redefine electoral campaign by breaking all known rules. He has also, for the first time in a long while, shaken the GOP establishment to its very root. Those who took his presidential ambition with the wave of the hands must now be having a rethink. They are now either endorsing him, as the case of Chris Christie and Ben Carson, both former Republican presidential candidates; or John McCain and Mitt Romney, both former GOP candidates. Romney had nothing but strong words for the real estate mogul in his recent speech where he said, ‘His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing members of the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat.’ In any case, one thing is sure, seriously or otherwise, Trump is having it his way and seems to be enjoying it!
Another thing that seems to be working for Trump is his theatrics. As a host of the popular NBC reality show, The Apprentice, he surely knows how to get the audience excited or get them to weep. He seems to know how to capitalize on basic human emotions and turn it to his own advantage. He can boldly and unapologetically call for the banning of Muslims from entering the United States. Only Trump can remind Africans of their colonial masters not doing a poor job of colonizing and get away with it. It takes only Trump to do this. He can say obviously ignorant things like calling Mexicans rapists, drug peddlers and criminals and get away with it because there are always those who like to hear these lines like nursery rhymes. Another exciting part of this is that he wants to protect the border by building a wall but he wants to coerce the Mexican government to pay for it! He does everything he is quoted as doing or saying because there are ready audiences for his movies. He says what his colleagues would have loved to say but for political correctness, a virtue Trump detests with a passion.
Let us make an important point here that there is nothing Trump is saying or alluding to that has not been said in varying degrees by other Republican candidates. The only difference, perhaps, is that he is more direct or raw unlike others. He is flying high on the fears of the average American, or Republican, putting the party’s establishment in a serious dilemma. The recent outbursts of pro-Establishment kinds like Romney, recently, may just be an indication of the difficult situation the party may find itself. Trump has earlier been quoted to have said he would run as a third party or independent should the Republican establishment frustrate him out of the race. Can he do that? Only those who do not know that to succeed in real estate means you must have strong negotiation skills. For Trump to have come this far in real estate means that he has perfected his art of negotiation. Of what reality are Trump’s chances in the election?
There is a big possibility that Trump will win the 2016 election and he may win the November election. His supporters have argued that not many smart people thought Ronald Reagan would become the President in 1980. They also told their critics that few experts successfully predicted Jimmy Carter to win in 1976.
Trump has a reputation for making controversial remarks. His critics point out that this makes him look unpresidential and may cost him the election ultimately. That is one possibility. Another possibility is that when people really hate you, they strangely may still connect with you and share a portion of their mental and emotional bandwidth with you. Eventually, if Trump Campaign strategists get their permutations right, they may be able to convert these haters to lovers using a well-crafted strategy. No one recalls liking Adolf Hitler (except for his most fanatical supporters) when his party, the National Socialist Party or Nazi, was seeking power in the 1930s. The rest, as they say, is history!
Our worst fear, perhaps, for Trump winning is that his administration may end up leading people to convergence by stirring up discussions on controversial topics or by steering clear of being politically correct. Notice that Trump takes the most controversial and often eccentric approach when he throws a spanner in the works, waits for the stirred up discussion to settle down, goes quiet for few days and then plays the same cycle again. He hasn’t changed his views on racism. Trump once attacked Megyn Kelly (a presenter with Fox News) for daring to ask him tough questions. She has to be observing her period since blood is coming out of her wherever. This was after he once described women as fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals. If the perception strengthens that Trump is against women as a segment itself, things may go bad for him in this space where candidates have a no-go zone. He has not bothered to apologize for the foul language he used late last year on fellow contestant, Clary Fiorina. His rallies have often turned violent, with Trump himself urging his supporters on promising to pay the legal fees for bullying others. We can continue, but will these stop him?
The Law of Gravity exists, but if we throw an object up and it does not come down, what will you think? Maybe it landed on the roof or got stuck on a tree. We will not doubt this Law because we think it cannot be repealed. But by now, many will be doing their best trying to find out why Donald Trump has stunned the political establishment. We need not abandon the assumption about politics. Let us ask a serious question: When and why do voters behave in ways that seem to break the rules? When are bedrock assumptions about campaigns rendered at least temporarily inoperative? In this context, poll numbers taken months before an election won’t count; while they can measure a public mood, the choice of a candidate is something like a customer in a store trying on hats.
Coming from a showbiz background, Trump handlers should know when to draw the line between popularity (or beauty) contests and electoral campaigns. A lot of people often fail to realize the differences between the two. The former is won by those who keep the media busy while the latter is won by politicians. The fact that the business mogul does not see himself as a politician can reduce his campaign to a pageant!
If the main parameters for measuring performance of his campaign are simply his name recognition and media mentions (as he once boasted in Chicago), then it only shows that Trump is yet to get over the fact that it is an election, not a showbiz.
All these notwithstanding, should Donald Trump win come November, then some things are involved. First, like I posted on Twitter some days ago, we should start preparing boys quarters in my small village in Kwara to cater for the influx of deportees, many of whom have left us many years ago. Second, and more seriously, the boundaries in American politics would have been shifted by wide margin. And lastly, a Trump win will only strengthen the arguments that there are really no rules of engagement as far as politics is concerned, making many political theorists to look for new jobs!
But the question is: will Donald Trump ever win?