On Donald Trump’s Campaign for the Republican Nomination: 1
The decision by Donald Trump, a few weeks ago, to enter the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination was initially seen by many as just another short-lived publicity stunt to drum up ratings for the 15th season of his reality show or perhaps a future replacement for that show. This particular assessment was largely based on his rather long and extensive history of using declarations of intent to run for political office to get tons of free publicity. It is also no secret that he has always loved public attention and consequently has been involved in the promotion of various sport competitions and beauty pageants.
As many of you know- there is no shortage of opinions, articles and posts about his campaign for getting the republican nomination. Some say that his campaign is a plant by the Clintons to derail the process of choosing an electable republican candidate, and that might be true. In any case, his entry in the race has certainly sucked the oxygen out of the competing campaign of many republican contenders such as Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker. His posturing on issues such as illegal immigration has also made many of his republican competitors try to adopt similar postures- something they will regret if they ever have to actually run against any democratic candidate for president.
But there is one aspect of his campaign that has puzzled many observers- from republican and democrat insiders to presstitues. How can a guy who has insulted almost every republican holy cow from John McCain (veterans), Megyn Kelly (photogenic white women), Jeb Bush and other “serious” contenders (insiders in the republican insiders) and Fox News (right-wing mass media) still be a viable candidate, let alone possess a commanding lead, for the republican nomination? Why have all those negative articles and hit pieces by main stream media pundits (in print, television and on the internet) had no worthwhile impact on his ascendancy?
There are those who ascribe this apparent invulnerability to his past experience in business negotiations and reality television shows. Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) has recently written a few posts about how Trump is using language tricks to get his way-Link 1, Link 2, Link 3 and Link 4. While I certainly don’t deny that he has far more experience with being in the media’s spotlight and dealing with them than his competitors, it cannot explain his remarkable ascendancy for reasons I will explain now.
So, here is the question you should ask yourself.. Given that rich people with Trump’s personality and media savvy have always existed in the USA, why weren’t they ever serious front-runners for the presidential nomination in either party? Sure, we have had many memorable third-part candidates (especially in the 19th century) and who can forget the impact of Ross Perot on the result of the 1992 election. But that still does not answer the question- How could somebody with the background and personality of Donald Trump be a serious contender for the presidential nomination for one of the two major political parties in USA?
I believe that the answer to that particular question lies in something far deeper than open demagoguery and being especially adept at handling presstitutes. In my opinion, the ability of Trump to dominate the process for presidential nomination by one of the two main parties in USA is a symptom of an ongoing slow-motion failure of the modern nation-state.
To comprehend what I am talking about, you have to first understand the concept of a ‘modern nation state’ and why this type of institution was so successful for over a hundred years. Modern nation states are a product of the 2nd wave of the industrial revolution and it is no coincidence that many of them came into existence at about the same time (mid-1800s- early 1900s) as the areas they are situated in starting industrializing on a large scale. While they differed from previous kingdoms and nations in many ways, the most important (and relevant) difference between them and their predecessors arises from one specific arrangement between the government and people of such entities.
Modern nation states, unlike any of their predecessors, explicitly promised and largely delivered a very significant increase in the living standards of their general populace. In return for this prosperity (often gained through war and hard or soft colonialism) the average person living in such political entities was expected to be unquestioningly loyal towards the “nation” and do whatever he or she was told to do. While this bargain did result in some of the most horrific wars in history (various late 19th century colonial wars, WW1 and WW2) it worked pretty well for most people living in modern nation states.
The modern nation state model did, however, have a series of systemic structural flaws- many of which took decades (and a series of technological advances) to fully manifest themselves. Principal among this series of inter-linked flaws was the problem of maintaining an image of governmental authority and competence. But why would that be a problem? Aren’t people selected, elected or promoted to high offices of governance in modern nation states supposed to be very competent at their jobs?
Well.. not really.
See, here is the problem. The actual difference in mental capacity and competence between those who are supposed to be the “best and brightest” and the “rest” is, in reality, rather insignificant. Furthermore opaque hierarchical systems that protect insiders from the consequences of their actions tend to select and promote people who are good at lying, stealing, scamming and generally playing politics. Simply put, members of the ruling class of modern nation states are not particularly competent at their supposed jobs. Their lack of competence was, however, not that obvious in previous eras for two reasons. Firstly, the ability to steal resources from other parts of the world, often without serious opposition, made it easy for the ruling class to throw a few extra crumbs at the proles who did their dirty work. Secondly, the ability to control the flow of information via control of the mass media in the pre-internet era meant that it was actually possible to cover up many of the otherwise obvious failings (personal and professional) of members of the ruling class.
Sadly for them, both avenues for maintaining that facade of competence and authority have now disappeared. Politicians throughout the world now have a public image that has more in common with that of a used-car salesman than anything remotely suggestive of actual competence. While this process has been going on since the 1970s, the political class as a whole was able to retain their grasp on power by forming an ever closer (and subservient alliance) with rich people. The campaign of Donald Trump should therefore be seen as an attempt by a rich person to just get rid of the middleman (professional politician) who no longer commands public respect or authority.
Will write more about this topic in upcoming posts.
What do you think? Comments?