The Republican Party leadership’s last and always slender hopes of preventing Donald Trump from becoming their presidential candidate were killed off last week with the maverick tycoon’s securing of a majority of the party delegates who officially choose the nominee at the party convention in July.
The leadership had vaguely hoped that a Trump who failed to secure a majority of delegates at the time of the convention, thus forcing the vote into two or more rounds, could be thwarted by procedural means and the promotion of another candidate. If anything, just discussing the idea played to Trump’s image as the anti establishment outsider battling an out-of-touch metropolitan elite.
Trump, the presidential candidate, has been paralleled by the continuing ability of Bernie Sanders, another outsider, to inflict electoral humiliations on the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The two themes that seem to be emerging from the United States presidential campaign are two sides of the same coin. One is that voters are down on those who claim to represent the status quo or are even perceived to represent the same. With the race heading to a Trump versus Clinton battle, this would mean the latter will be burdened with a major handicap that she will find hard to get rid of. The other is that, in the case of Trump and Sanders, the US party system is starting to fissure. What makes Trump’s candidacy most peculiar is that he does not adhere to most of the ideological principles associated with a Republican candidate. Clinton is actually closer to the pro-trade, pro-immigrant, tough defence and foreign policy agenda that has been the hallmark of conservative candidates in the past.
Trump may prove, inadvertently, to be the catalyst for a major shift in the political landscape of the US on a scale not seen since the presidencies of Ronald Reagan or even Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His ability to combine leftwing economics with nativist ethnic politics is already causing many fissures in the Republican ranks, especially between its socially conservative base and it’s free market elite.
The possibility that the combination of Trump’s agenda and his abrasive personality could lead to the defection of a large portion of urban Republican voters to the Democratic camp cannot be ruled out. Something similar could happen on the Sanders side with many of his white working class supporters seeing more in Trump than they do in Clinton. A Trump revolution may be in the offing. But it is not about Mexican walls or the dismantling of the Atlantic alliance. It is about shining a bright, if prejudiced and comical, light on the Republican and Democratic Parties as they exist today and showing that they need to both be restructured to keep up with the new realities of American society and polity.
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