Americans, commentators & politicians the world over are amazed & horrified by the popularity of US Presidential hopeful Donald Trump with voters. In case you have been living under a rock, “The Donald”, is the leading candidate for the Republican Party in next year’s Presidential election.
Pundits have been predicting that the Trump campaign will run out of steam, as voters start to sober up and decide that a more conventional politician would be a better option than a loudmouthed, boorish, businessman. But it has not happened and it is starting to look like he may just make his way onto the ballot paper in 2016.
Why is this happening?
The answer is starting to look obvious to me and may have repercussions for democracies around the world.
People are getting sick of politicians and tired of politically correct statements. Donald Trump does neither. It may be easier to understand this change of mood, living in South Africa, because this is the country where the Deputy President is not allowed to say that he wants to become the President and where a problem is called a “challenge”.
The Donald allows Americans to consider the world where our leaders serve the tax generators rather than welfare recipients. In insular America, the idea of a President who builds higher walls to keep out immigrants is appealing. The USA has not learnt to deal with migrants the South African way, by burning them in the streets or dragging them behind police vans, so Trump’s isolationist thinking will always attract widespread support.
The idea of a community activist lawyer, who has never generated one dollar in profit in his life, running the largest economy in the world, could always have led to a backlash. And the idea of state employees running the American healthcare system must have Ronald Reagan spinning in his grave.
Politicians should be very concerned that this particular regional flame doesn’t lead to a full blown global bush fire. They should also consider how this happened. Most of us have not been alive long enough to remember a time when one of our political leaders has delivered a straight answer to a straight question. Taxpayers get tired of seeing elected officials living high on the hog while we are told to tighten our belts.
South Africa could be especially vulnerable to this trend. After all; this is a country where our politicians have only ever been employed by the state or the ruling party. The idea of a poorly educated politician telling us how to run our businesses, our finances is the height of madness. Remember it took just one reporter one week to uncover billions of rands of fraud at PRASA and this was after the government auditor-general gave them a clean bill of health.
Politicians, globally, have left people with very few defences. All we have left is our votes and we may soon enough use them to elect one of our own.