Most people are confounded by the Donald Trump phenomenon. The media and the Republican establishment are against him. So how does this orange-faced nightmare continue to prevail despite the outrageous things he says? The answer is simple. Ignore the text. Look at the subtext.
The text, according to the American media and punditry, is that Trump is “an outsider” tapping into the “anger” of the populace against “Washington”. Indeed, they lump it into the same category as Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign, which is a totally different phenomenon.
When you start to analyse that narrative, you realize how vague and useless the terms are for understanding what is going on. How is Trump an outsider? He is the quintessential, greedy, corporate, sleazy insider who has greased the palms of politicians and bureaucrats at local, state and federal levels.
Okay, he says he’s not a politician. But you can’t find a slimier, shape-shifting, promising-the-world politician than Trump in his present incarnation. The truth is that Trump has successfully turned this electoral campaign into reality TV on a grand scale. And his “low-information” supporters love it.
And what is this “anger” about? Washington politicians? It was the Republican-controlled Congress that stymied everything that Barack Obama tried to do. The economy? Obama has rescued the economy from the pit it was in when George W. Bush left office. The national debt? Let us not forget that Bill Clinton passed on to Bush a surplus who then blew it all in a totally unnecessary war in Iraq while cutting taxes at the same time.
The text makes no sense.
But look at the subtext.
The non-whitish demographic tide of America is threatening to make the Republican Party irrelevant. The post-mortem analysis by the political establishment of the party after the 2012 presidential election argued that they needed to reach out to minorities, especially Hispanics.
But they failed to understand that the party of Abraham Lincoln has been seized by a militant core of extremist rightwing white supremacists who see Trump as their last gasp.
Trump, with his slogan Making America Great Again, has raised brazenly and outrageously the idea that appeals to this fanatical core of the new Republican Party: recreating a mythical white America with a “manifest destiny” to rule the world.
Hence the emphasis on building a wall to keep out non-white Hispanic migrants, and changing immigration policy to keep out Muslims, Asians and other non-Whites.
And when it comes to Blacks, it is necessary to reinforce policies to keep them in their place (prison and the morgue) and disenfranchise them. And, most important of all, erase all traces of a black president from American history.
Hence the demonization and vilification of Obama. The refusal to recognize that he was legitimate (the birther issue, championed strongly by Trump); the refusal of the Republicans in Congress to cooperate with him from day one; the determination to deny him his constitutional right to appoint a Supreme Court justice. And on and on and on. This is a concerted white racist assault on the greatest modern era president since Franklin Roosevelt, and the savviest intellectual in modern-day politics since Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau of Canada.
Have no doubt about it: this is a watershed election in American politics. The Republicans, led by Trump, will either reassert white supremacy with all its racist consequences, or they will fail disastrously. And with Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee they will fail. Trump will do to the Republicans what Barry Goldwater did in 1964: almost wipe them out.
This media narrative meme of an outsider tapping into the anger of people against Washington is a useful camouflage for the reality of what is happening. It is sad that the party of Lincoln has morphed into a vehicle for a bombastic, egomaniacal, orange-faced demagogue. But he is offering the party a bold new strategy.
Instead of trying to capture more of the Hispanic vote, write it off and use Hispanics and other minorities as a target for the simmering outrage that many white Americans feel about the demographic direction of the country.
Trump is betting that he will win so huge a majority of the white vote, that Republicans won’t need the Hispanic or the African-American vote. But that means Trump will need much more than 65 per cent of the white vote, which was last achieved by Ronald Reagan when carrying 49 states in 1984.
Fortunately, Trump will win the Republican primary, but lose the general election. His loss will set back the Republican Party for decades.
Footnote: The pope said that people building walls and not bridges were not Christian. Trump asked his people who could help him with bridges. The answer: Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey who knows a lot about bridges.
(Peter Laurie, a former Barbados diplomat, is a noted social commentator.)