US Election and Descent of Chaos

Finance Desk
US Election and Descent of Chaos
US Election and Descent of Chaos

This week it became official. Donald J. Trump was nominated as the GOP’s candidate for president after a last-ditch attempt by anti-Trump delegates to stop him was defeated.

What seemed a mere impossibility only months ago is now staring the electorate in the face.

The real-estate titan has emerged victorious from a brutal primary season marked by acrimony and personal attacks. The 2016 election has, indeed, become peculiar in many respects.

The takeover of a party by a renegade outsider may be nothing new in US presidential races, but the deep rift that the meteoric rise of Donald Trump has laid bare in the Republican Party is unprecedented in contemporary US history.

The fractures became grossly evident in the party’s National Convention in Cleveland with many of the party’s elders shunning the key event. Conspicuous by their absence were the Bush family; while a member of the influential clan has participated in every GOP convention since 1980, none attended this year’s event in a total break from history.

For a dozen more Republican stalwarts, the idea of becoming associated with the New York businessman was too dicey. John McCain, the party’s 2008 nominee chose to hike the Grand Canyon, saying he had to worry about his own reelection for the senate.

Larry Hogan, the governor of Maryland, was having a good time by Chesapeake Bay some 500 miles away from the convention.

The last hope of party leaders for some sort of unification was dashed on Wednesday night when Ted Cruz, refused to endorse Trump in his prime time speech, drawing jeers and boos from the crowd.

Instead of urging voters to rally behind Trump, a man who had mocked his wife’s appearance and accused his father of having complicity in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Texas Senator exhorted them to “vote their conscience”.

All this mean nothing to Donald Trump and his supporters. Win or lose in November, Trump has already upended his party’s long-held conventions and wreaked havoc on his country’s global standing.

Trump is no Republican in the traditional sense of the word: he is not strongly ant-abortion, he wants to raise taxes and unlike all his predecessors since World War II, he has called for an isolationist US foreign policy. Just after accepting the nomination, Trump told the New York Times that he would not automatically defend US NATO allies if they are attacked, saying he would first look at their contributions to the alliance. He also said America has “no right to lecture” other countries when it itself has to “fix its own mess”. He is neither a religious conservative: while he has board support among Evangelical voters, he has admitted to have never asked God for forgiveness.

The Trump phenomenon, however, is a symptom of a wider breakdown in the US political system marked by a crisis of leadership. When Paul Ryan took over as the speaker of the House of Representatives in October, he complained about the “chaos” overtaking Washington.

Only two months later, Jeb Bush, with his primary race at a dead end, called Trump a “chaos candidate” who would be a “chaos president”. The erosion of leadership is so intense that some have even suggested that there is no longer such thing as “party leader” in its conventional sense.

This very chaos has given birth to rebel candidates like Trump and Bernie Sanders. Since 1987, Trump has been a Republican, then an independent, then a Democrat, then a Republican, then “I do not wish to enroll in a party,” then a Republican; he has donated to both parties but has shown loyalty to neither.

Trump is promising to “put America first” (for many minority voters that means putting the white nativists first.) By rousing an angry electorate, he has drawn more votes than any other Republican candidate in the history of primaries.

But whether or not he can make good on his promises to build a wall on the Mexican border, tearing up the Iran nuclear deal or deport 11 million foreigners living illegally in the US, he has already reshaped the US politics by raising them.

Former president George W. Bush is said to have told a group of former aides and advisers in April that he was worried he could be the “last Republican president”. But not that Trump cares; he believes “the rest of the world should learn to adjust to his approach”.