By: Dianne Heath
|Image Courtesy Gage Skidmore via Flickr.|
The Figures are Off
Media and news outlets are clamoring for a generous sip of the turbulent yet refreshing revenue streams in this heated presidential election season. Ironically as the election season inspires viewers to approach the media with dutiful civic intent and gather objective information, media outlets are motivated to profile political affairs with less delicacy. The ridiculous resembles an irresistibly profitable siren call. Brute force methods are collectively employed by these media and news outlets to generate sustained interest in the presidential elections and then selfishly funnel this interest into their specific channels. The growth imperative, incentivizes attracting and prioritizing demographics who constitute a new, energetic (and less critical) market. This priority is the gateway in prioritizing insanity and parading the infamous. For example, a flurry of articles from media ( from a broad spectrum of ideologies, but all driven by the profit motive) have descended by the supposedly bizarre triumph of the Trump. Although these articles continue to spin around Donald Trump like salaried entourage, the media feigns surprise at his sudden surge in popularity.
However New York Times, revealed a minor crack in this mysterious momentum... According to the Civis Analytics data among those who regularly cast ballots in primary elections, Trump is at 16 with Ben Carson at 11 and Bush at 10 percent ...less than dominant. But in the demographics that is media is aggressively catering to, less frequent voter and unaffiliated voters, Trump captures 18 of voters unaffiliated with a party and 22 of Republicans leaning adults who did not vote in the 2012 general election. They can be attributed to the bulk of Trump's surge. Although I appreciate the media efforts to generate long term interest in the elections and I'm sensitive to their revenue needs, I'm disheartened that integrity is sacrificed in favor of interpreting political affairs that meet viewership goals. Perhaps the polls numbers don't tell the who story and are being manipulated to manufacture a narrative that conveniently generates controversy.
Donald Trump's superficial sound bites about illegal immigration carved out a stage for both parties to safely and boldly perform ideology. The Democrats were able to champion an opposing position and openly chastise him for being racist. While the Republicans confidently planted themselves in a position polar to the Democrats and shame them for being too soft to be patriotic. This performance, freely broadcast throughout the media, impelled party solidarity. Donald Trump's personalized outlook on illegal immigration were devoid of any abstract concepts and invited both parties to interpret his statements based on narrow and demagogue like conceptions their ideologies. His blasts about illegal immigration silenced other complex issues that risked fracturing parties such as the heated debate over the Patriot Act. Illegal immigration is a complex issue that is interconnected with a host of other issues such as globalization, poverty and the market's need for a cheap, controlled and marginalized labor. Yet his soundbites attacking identities, a personal aspect of someone, were removed from an economic or political context and instead he disassembled illegal immigration into an one dimensional issue. This would increase the ease to form a hearty opinion about and that is reinforced by prior sentiments about those particular identities. This bestows possible voters with the internal resources and intrinsic will to confidently vote. In addition, there is broader incentive during election seasons to recklessly simplify complex issues in hopes of demarcating demographic who will be predictably loyal to your candidate and an irritate army of vocal enemies who will produce an urgency to vote against.
So Is Donald Trump a Popular Candidate?
The first question is whether Donald Trump is a candidate. Yes a baffling question! Officially Donald Trump is a candidate but his treatment by the media and both parties and even how he strategically represents himself, suggests that he is not a multidimensional candidate holding stances on a collection of convenient and ... inconvenient issues. But instead a one dimensional figure representing a complex issue that has been conveniently disassembled into a one dimensional opinion, a pseudo issue. In fact Donald Trump is not even really representing a pseudo issue but according to the New York Times, emotions such as anger, or as I term angst and disenchantment with the system. Donald Trump is presenting himself as a powerful outsider who can give a one dimensional voice to the multidimensional multitudes whose frustration are mounting from all angles.
Donald Trump could had embarked on his campaign trail saddled with another bold, controversial and obviously conservative personal opinion however illegal immigrants were suited to the task. For example, abortion who had been too risky since it is framed as both a woman's and moral issue. This splits a gender (identity) across political lines and risks destroying cohesiveness. Instead lambasting illegal immigration endeared him to the Republican Party and even working class Democrats, since it is an issue that has been framed as a purely economic issue caused by the unsavory other who can easily disposed of. But surprisingly, no word on disposing on the powers that drew up the NAFTA agreement or businesses that continue to hire illegal immigrants.
Donald Trump can connect with raw yet suppressed poignant emotions about government in a manner that appears dangerous for candidates but his figure status (heightened by his celebrity) shelters him from the full impacts of his behavior. Now he appears more appealing and stronger in comparison to the candidates who are playing it safe and balancing their stances on a number of issues. The core problem is that people's angst is not one dimensional but developed from three dimensional sources, experiences and perspectives. They will be disappointed if this complexity if stuffed into a one dimensional pseudo issue, represented by a one dimensional figure who is actually representing the one dimensional emotions of an archetypal outsider. A whole candidate, represents people who are affected by a myriad of complex and interacting issues, who have contradictory outlooks, beliefs, opinions, histories and yet even emotions.Unfortunately the media's sacrifice of integrity could have ripple effects. Other candidates may be tempted to mimic representing pseudo issues to capitalize on emotion. Although the poll numbers appear to reflect cold hard reality they are most likely inflated.
Escapism is Our Business
Instead of being judged as a weak political candidate he appears to be strong and powerful outsiders, a convenient escape from politics primarily due to his business background (as if one professional identity makes him wholly divergent from other political actors). Once again he is not being held accountable by the critical lens used for political candidates but through the forgiving and ambiguous lens for a businessman. Hilary Clinton is deservingly mired in a political scandal and has been silently branded and dismissed as corrupt. We understand that political corruption is violating the public interest for personal gain. Clinton moved her server from the place of public interest to a private place for private interest. However, Donald Trump is not as deeply scrutinized because pursuing private interest is the capstone in business. His methods for becoming successful in business will clash with how to be a successful president, but people believe that his business skills can be neatly transferred. He has been implicated for being involved in a scam by endorsing fake colleges but this has not been fodder for the media that consumes his image. As a politician would it be acceptable that he has admitted to taking advantage of the bankruptcy laws? Economic survival within a capitalistic economic order is rooted in self interest so this coincides with business, while for politicians economic gains seems contradictory thus Wall Street Journal pointing how Hillary Clinton charges $250,000 for speeches, takes donations from countries that whip rape victims and support Keystone. All these actions seem contradictory for a politicians.
Once again Donald Trump the candidate is concealed but his popularity rests on him not actually being a candidate and especially not a political candidate. For example Jan Mannarino, commended Donald Trump to New York Times stating, "Even if he doesn't win, he's teaching other politicians to stop being politicians. He comes on strong. He could say it gently. But I think no one would listen." Or As Tom Krzyminski revealed to New York Times, "We don't need a politician for president; we need a businessman". That's what we need to get out of the mess we're in." Business cloaks him from scrutiny just as Obama's freshness did unlike Clinton and other political candidates who have years to make horrible mistakes that permanently tarnish their image.
Will Donald Trump ride this wave to the presidency only to disappoint the electorate once in office, like other one dimensional figures ? Only time will tale.