No, the title isn’t a typo. Trump’s campaign has for some time now not been about Trump. Also, it does not matter if he wins anymore. This quick note on Trump’s campaign will not follow the usual musing over Trump’s intentions, frequent flip-flops, or popularity. Neither will it turn ad hominem. No, in the following few paragraphs I focus on two worrying affects the Trump campaign already has on political discourse in the USA.
First, Trump functions as a mediator and enabler. Yes, Trump is a popular, even mythical, creature akin to other American celebrities who have K’s in their first or last names. Such stars enable people to enliven their most gullible selves. Celebrities posting business ideas and asking for loans on Twitter is harmless enough. What worries me about Trump is the hidden people he’s legitimising, enabling, and sometimes, encouraging to violence. Say, for argument’s sake, Trump becomes president. Can we imagine what his rowdy allies will do when they realise it is not within his power to enact his promises? Even if such a horrifying near future does not come to pass, which I hope it doesn’t, then the second longer term effect is even worse and less reversible.
Second, whatever Trump’s ambitions, even if he quits the race tomorrow, he has networked a silent and potentially violent minority fed up with the establishment. Trump has given the smouldering voiceless a voice. In other words, he has connected a portion of the populace which before, sometimes maybe even politely, would have abstained from public outbursts against immigrants. Also, from stories circulating in the media and from focus groups we know some people don’t even tell their spouse or colleagues they’re voting for Trump. Now, from Trump’s flip-flops on policies, I think it’s safe to say that even he does not know what he thinks about big issues. However, can you imagine what will happen if somebody who believes the radical things Trump spews forth steps into this newly legitimated network and mobilises it?
In late capitalism, politicians are per definition people with agendas who need to promote themselves as a product. This needn’t be evil in itself. Angela Merkel, such as, promotes herself as a no-nonsense politician that want to get to work (and even mentioning her in the same paragraph as Mr T is shameful). Trump, however, has created an unstable brand which he no longer controls (that is if he ever controlled it).