The Simpsons’ writers were right; a Donald Trump presidency is quite possible. And it shouldn’t be surprising that his campaign has been so successful. In many ways, Donald Trump was born to reach such success as a presidential candidate in today’s America. He is, simply, perfect for today’s American society.
Besides being a controversial politician, Donald Trump is a successful billionaire and businessman and a former reality TV star. He embodies certain aspects of the American Dream, and many aspects of American society. He boasts without the slightest hesitation about his billions and about his success; he speaks in an all-American no-nonsense manner; and his style is clear-cut and direct. Never do you see “The Donald” – as he is nicknamed – go into a long intellectual explanation regarding an issue. His solutions are simple and radical. And he is a man of action.
These attributes go down well with American society. Trump’s forceful ways are no more than the exaggeration of the competitive traits of a capitalist society; and his lack of interest in the politically correct very well suits voters who have been surrounded by controversial shows. There were times when Fox News was considered a radical network. Seen from Europe, such a network would even be considered extremist and dangerous. But, in America, Fox News is a leading network that many turn to for their daily dose of news and information. One shouldn’t judge it with European criteria; it should be judged based on American criteria, which are quite different. The same goes for Donald Trump. He would not be a credible candidate in most European countries. But, in the United States, he is.
Societies are different. And they look for people who resemble them and whose messages resonate with them. This is where the problem really is. Donald Trump is to Americans what capitalism is to America. He is the embodiment of the capitalist system, with his drive for excessive competition, his materialism, and his lack of interest in intellectual and philosophical pursuits. In short, he is a perfect match for voters who believe in capitalism and uphold competition, and who measure life by financial and professional success. From reality TV shows to Hollywood movies, Americans are subjected to different variations of such a worldview. And such reality TV shows and Hollywood movies would not attract them if they did not believe in that worldview to start with.
Besides being a presidential candidate, Donald Trump is in himself a successful brand. His businesses are not dissociable from his name and his persona. His gold trademark is a symbol of his success and of his wealth. But if gold is a positive trademark, he also has a negative one: his “You’re fired!” catchphrase. Both have worked in his favor. One might naturally think that while gold brings to mind positive experiences, the “You’re fired!” catchphrase would make a person unpopular as it would remind a regular public of a negative experience, one to be avoided. But that is not true in Trump’s case. “You’re fired!” is a symbol of Trump’s power and, having been the sad end for candidates who failed on his former reality TV show The Apprentice, it revives into many Americans the fires of the American dream, with the competitive spirit that comes with it, as the well as the power that money provides.
If American society is attached to such a Darwinian value system, Barack Obama’s success in winning the presidential election in 2008 as an underdog should not be considered as an outlier; for despite the appearances and the political differences between Obama and Trump, Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign benefitted from two trends that are currently favoring Trump’s campaign as well. First, Barack Obama profited, as Donald Trump is currently profiting, from something Americans love: a success story. Be it Obama’s struggle to become an influential political figure in America in spite of his background or Trump’s business adventures, both their personal stories symbolize the very American ideal of success. Second, Donald Trump is running as an anti-system candidate, which is very similar, in essence and from a marketing point of view, to the positioning adopted by the Barack Obama of 2008. Of course, Obama ran, back then, as a leftwinger; and Trump is a hardline rightwinger. But in both cases, the candidacy was presented as a bid to brake a rotten political system. Obama’s “Yes, we can!” and Trump’s “Make America great again!” are different politically, based on the respective programs behind them, but they are similar as promises to comprehensively overturn a situation that is unfavorable for the entire country.
It should not be a surprise that Donald Trump might become the next president of a society that idolizes Steve Jobs, who did business in a nasty manner and who sent plenty of jobs abroad to maximize his company’s profits, a society that has exported to the rest of the world The Kardashians and violent wrestling, a society where gun control is nearly impossible by law. Donald Trump is not a phenomenon. His aggressiveness, his materialism, and his disrespect for competitors are in tune with the American value system.
Only time will tell if The Simpsons’ writers were able to predict the future, with “Bart to the Future”. But, no matter the result of the American presidential election, respect should be paid to them, as they have, once more, been proven excellent observers of American society. Donald Trump is not an accident.
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