Americans who have traveled or lived abroad in the last year have likely become tired of one question: “Why Donald Trump?”
It’s a question many have been asking at home as well, but imagine looking from outside in to see a candidate like Donald who does not shy away from racially charged rhetoric and promises, in no uncertain terms, to make America, almost universally considered the most powerful nation on earth, great again.
Trump, as many political scientists have noted, is essentially a populist; but whereas that word is often used in the Western hemisphere to speak about far-left leaders who focus on social programs, Donald much more closely resembles the classification’s European counterparts. A recent editorial for Al-Jazeera America further argued that Trump fits the populist description.
“A real populist is not just a critic of powerful elites. He or she is a politician who claims to be the one and only legitimate representative of the true people. In the populist imagination, the people are always fully unified and morally infallible; there is no such thing as a legitimate opposition, nor are there minorities who might legitimately disagree with the savior of the people. Populists always pose a danger to democracy because they deny the pluralism inherent in modern democratic societies.”
Foreigners living within the United States hold a unique perspective on the Donald phenomenon, and none quite as much as ambassadors. Sir Peter Westmacott, England’s current representative to the U.S. recently sat down with The Guardian to talk about the relationship between the two countries. He, too, was not immune from the “Why Trump?” question.
“I think he’s pushing a few important buttons. It is not accidental that on the front of his baseball cap it says, ‘Make America great again’. For whatever reason, there are people who feel America is not at the moment the world’s dominant power who snaps its fingers and the rest of the world falls into place, that America has become a more reluctant leader, shall we say, and [Donald] is out there saying the opposite, and people say, ‘That’s great, that’s what America should be.’”
Westmacott also touched on some other important reasons that play into Trump’s surge in the polls. One contributing factor is that Donald operates without a filter, he said, which puts him in the unique position of making statements that are too toxic for other candidates to touch.
“There is a pushback against political correctness. There are a lot of people who love seeing Trump say stuff which nobody else is saying, which nobody else should say or does say, and people think, ‘You know, that’s what I feel but I’m not allowed to say it.’ There’s a kind of mischievousness in the support Donald is getting from that point of view.”
Yet the British ambassador says concerns that America is lagging behind are preposterous. Although he does concede that money and power have become concentrated into the hands of the few due to political influence, he also says that the U.S., despite what Trump says, is already great.
“It’s an extraordinary place. This is still the most prosperous and successful country in the world, the biggest economy. It is still the leader of the free world; I don’t see that changing any time soon.”
Despite many claims that his support would fade, Donald Trump and his so-called populism have still stayed stubbornly ahead in the Republican presidential polls. In an average of December data from Real Clear Politics, he still holds support of 36.5 percent, more than double that of his closest competitor Ted Cruz.
[Image via Scott Olson/Getty Images]