February 21, 2016

BHOWMICK | Decoding the Donald

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During the Presidential Debates last Fall, it was remarkable how the ubiquitous Trump emerged as one of the most talked about candidates according to Twitter real-time metrics. Over the past few months, Donald Trump has become a hackneyed name in every household for both his calumny and éclat. As for me, I cannot help being thoroughly intrigued by this outrageous political figure who clearly does not hold back. Despite being a radical liberal, I decided to give Trump the benefit of the doubt and really parse through his proposed policies.

Given that Trump has championed a “total and complete shutdown of all Muslims entering the United States,” claimed that Mexican immigrants are “ rapists, and some, are good people,” and has publicly denigrated fellow Republican candidates for how they look, comparing one of them to a “child molester,”  it is indeed a predicament that he has come so far in the 2016 Presidential election. On the other hand, I am also somewhat confounded by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (D-VT.) growing popularity in a society which appears to be chary about any ideology remotely affiliated with socialism.

The materialization of both Trump and Sanders as formidable candidates in the 2016 presidential election elucidates a sense of disillusionment among the electorate which is not necessarily partisan. It is a manifestation of democracy taking a stand and a coherent voice rising above the bedlam. It is really not that unusual for incendiary politicians and demagogues to emerge in a democracy. A popular demagogue is indeed a sign that the electorate has acknowledged a crisis. It is also a sign that the American masses are tired of inequality and socio-economic problems that emerges from it. It is an indicator that the American electorate is facing the music and a clear signal that American voters are looking for parsimony in politics. At this point, people seem to be choosing between two extreme roads out of the mess. Their choice, of course, is informed by their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, religion, they are picking two vastly divergent sides.

There is, nevertheless, a very meaningful consensus between the two poles that have emerged in the 2016 election. Ardent supporters of both Sanders and Trump want a government which is more populist in nature. This is a significant fact that Clinton and her menagerie should pay attention to. It is time for political leaders upholding Obama’s legacy to think about the problems posed by alienation of the masses.

The way this election has unfolded indicates a deep chasm between the intellectual elite and the American public. This cleavage needs to be addressed by those in power before they become parables of bureaucratic elite and reckless political figures disrupt the balance in domestic and international policies further exacerbating the problems faced by the political order today. It is time for political leaders to take the divide between Wall Street and the rest of American society seriously and address the deleterious collective public memory of suffering caused by the recession.

Finally, it is very crucial to react to the glaring indication that a vast majority of American society does not relate to the decisions and approach of the federal government. The 2016 presidential election, so far, has been an admonition that populism cannot be wished away in a democracy. The other presidential candidates who are relatively more conventional should constantly be asking themselves how Trump made it so far and how Bernie Sanders became such a formidable candidate. The answers to these poignant questions will be crucial for the future president if he or she is committed to doing justice to the electorate.

Aditi Bhowmick is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Abstruse Musings appears alternate Mondays this semester. She may be reached at ab738@cornell.edu.

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