Donald Trump has seen his meteoric rise towards US presidency in his campaign with eventual clinching of the Republican Party Presidential ticket in unprecedented fashion. Very high on negative rhetoric and imposing himself in a party he was never an insider this man is within a shooting distance to the most powerful office on earth. In America and across the globe there are many who hope he doesn’t succeed but as they say all politics is local – it’s up to America. His campaign has been brash, abrasive, arrogant, racist, sexist that makes him disdainful. His style surprisingly won him the Republican ticket but thanks to the party own strategic mistakes during the Obama reign of eight years. The republicans spent all their time in their hate campaign against Obama and forgot they needed more serious and informed attention to issues of the day, a loophole Donald Trump fully exploited.
More fundamentally, we should be asking what has helped Trump overcome the established favourite Republicans him being ranked an outsider. We should be concerned with the dynamics in the American society that have assured his meteoric rise. How come he still commands a sizeable following and bar some serious campaigns and reason prevailing Trump could easily triumph in November 8 poll? There are certainly some issues within the American society. Among what is cited is that the blue colour jobs white workers are a disenchanted group. The effects of trade pacts and globalization that has adversely affected critical employing sectors like manufacturing which has heavily shifted to other destinations like China has had its toll on them.
Moreover, add the thorny issues of immigration and rise in global terrorism which they associate mainly with Islamic religion. It has made a large portion of American society wary of most of the rest of the world with bad undertones touching on religion on one hand. Not surprising also far right populist parties and politicians are on the rise in the Western world. Hitherto quieter places like Finland, Italy and Netherlands are seeing more intolerance to ideals that they find alien to their society. Indeed immigration is becoming quite thorny. Brexit was a signal for the hate for increased immigration and opening the society for greater continental integration for UK.
But what we should not lose sight of is that the world has changed greatly. Even societies long strangleheld by ruthless dictators particularly in third world is showing greater resistance and open to ruthless resistance and dangerous ideals. Poverty and lack of employment opportunities is providing a spark for intolerance to status quo. In a nutshell the challenges many of the nations are experiencing are a sure harbinger for the rise of extremism and spur growth of candidates like Donald trump. These are people who would rise with a lot of rhetoric and promise quick fix solutions some laced with hate messaging. It is easy to sell that kind of theme to people undergoing some form of economic and social malaise.
The American society despite having undergone plenty of transformation under President Obama still is grappling with some touchy matters such individual and segmental economic wellbeing all linked to quality of employment and the shift by heavy employers like manufacturing to cheaper destinations like China and Mexico. This is the kind of propaganda themes as propagated by Donald Trump that also allowed people like Hitler rise to power in Germany in the 1930’s and the rise of extreme ideologies such communism in Russia in the late 1910’s and in China at the time of Chairman Mao. All the proponents do is promise quick solutions which look magical in nature which upon success of getting to power the reality sinks in quite quickly leading to extreme measures which end rather badly for the citizens of those countries.
May I take a slight look at Kenya in the same context. With so many unemployed people, endemic poverty, extremes of corruption and tribalism imbued in the social fabric of the society it will take a populist to cause societal upheaval. Indeed with the culture of tokenism so entrenched plus people beholden to lies from politicians it is easy to create bad leadership sooner than later. All the Kenyan problems cannot be solved at once but we must quickly put measures and mechanisms to tame some of the problems the society is facing such as poverty and massive unemployment. Otherwise as can be observed populism that overrides common sense easily get room in the political psyche of people and many times with de devastating consequences. Leadership is also symptomatic of the conditions of the society as can be seen with the rise of Donald Trump and other extremist politicians earlier on.
Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda
THE WRITER IS A RESEARCHER AND CONSULTANT