Donald Trump : the nationalist messiah from the Wild West
Posted on November 22nd, 2016

H.L. D. Mahindapala

If there is one slogan that swung the political pendulum and placed Donald Trump in the presidential seat it is the one that screamed : MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. It summed up in a simple and digestible pill the pre-election plight, frustrations, and failures of America’s policies – both domestic and foreign. It expressed succinctly Donald Trump’s version  of American nationalism + racism. It was also his panacea for all the  ills of America. In his brash style he marketed his slogan which resonated well with the disillusioned voters looking for a change. Donald Trump was the right man who came from nowhere to capture the right mood of a disenchanted nation that was made to believe  it was under siege by the alien enemies.

Inherent in the catchy slogan is the admission that America had failed abroad and at home. Only a failed project / adventure / history needs to be made great again. Greatness is in being at the peak. Greatness need not be restored if it had maintained its greatness of being at the peak. For  instance, there  is no need to add greatness to the Himalayas. Its irrefutable  stature is there for all to acknowledge. It is  only if it looses  its pre-eminent  height that greatness has to be restored, if possible. The promise of making American great again meant, in essence, that America has failed and, therefore, the need of the  hour was to make it great again.

Underlying this cry was American patriotism. Trump convinced his compatriots that America, “the indispensable  nation” of the world, was not great because  it  is infested with the Muslims, Latinos, homosexuals,  the corrupt  establishment, the  biased media, anti-Trump women, the “rigged” electoral system and whoever  else came within his sights. In  short, he  raised the banner for reformation and revivalism. It is a cry that went down well in the American electorate. Using this slogan he presented himself as the saviour  of America to make it great again. And the Americans bought it, from coast to coast.

His message went deep into the insecure  psyche of the frustrated Americans. The exploding  cities, schools, suburbia and neighbourhoods were threatening to turn the American  dream into a nightmare.  Terrorists both at home  and abroad were targeting the certainties and values of American society driven almost to the edge. Besides, unfolding global events confirmed that America has entered the new age of decline. Apart from the irreversible rise of China, challenging American hegemony in the global arena, it is the failures of the Obama-Clinton administration that energised and pumped oxygen into  Trump’s slogan, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. With this slogan, Trump tapped into the roots of American nationalism, combined with a heavy dose of racism. His campaign rhetoric ruthlessly targeted the minorities making  it clear that America belonged to the consolidated front of WARMs – the White American Right-wing Males. And he won!

Trump’s victory is proof of the power of grass root politics. His campaign  is remarkable for stripping all the cant with  which America’s image  of a liberal society was clothed. He turned himself into a one-man  juggernaut that ran  over all those who stood  in his way.  Human rights, minority rights, the rigid establishment, theoretical academics, mega millions of the well-oiled Clinton machinery, and even sections of the Republican Party were swept away in Trump’s tsunami of down-to-earth politics. Not even the Tamil coconuts of Jaffna, dashed to invoke the blessings of Tamil gods, could stop the epic Odyssey of Trump that triumphed all the way to the White House. As an aside, it should be noted that  the gods have once again rejected the Tamil fantasies by defeating Clinton. .

The Obama-Clinton administration must take full responsibility for their failure. They had dug their grave abroad more than at home. Obama had rescued the economy from one of its greatest falls and was climbing  back, slowly but surely. But like all imperialist masters, they believed that America’s interests abroad can be served best by replacing the anti-American status quo with pro-American stooges. The failure of planting stooges is a lesson they never learnt from the time CIA engineered the murder of Dinh Diem, the Catholic stooge they installed in Buddhist Vietnam. When things don’t go the American way they do not hesitate to eliminate their political mates swiftly. Or change the regime. Or buy deals like in Iran which are, at best, dicey gambles that can give some breathing  space for some time.

Trump painted Hillary Clinton as the mother of all American disasters. Each time Trump went for  her the crowd responded by yelling : “Lock her  up!” Like her foreign  policy she misread the election campaign.  She was either caught napping  on the job (Where  the hell was she when the Libyans were killing American diplomats?), or backing the wrong  horse. Example: At the critical moment when the Sri Lankan forces were on the verge of crushing the Tamil Tiger terrorists she went  all out to save them by putting pressure on the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL). Her private e-mails reveal that  she  was  turning the screws on the  IMF to stop funding  GOSL. As usual she  backed the wrong  horse. Nor  did the  coloured revolutions  that began in Tunisia turn out  to be roses. Hilary had to pay dearly for her Libyan disaster. What has America and UK got  in return for regime change in Libya?

Regime change became  the standard strategy of Obama-Clinton administration. The Middle Eastern instability that is spinning out of American control today is the result of Obama-Clinton’s regime changes gone awry. Of course, it began with Bush’s messy invasion of Iraq. Obama-Clinton administration refined it, reinforced it, and pursued it to the bitter end, leaving a legacy that had dragged down America to its flat bottom. After Obama-Clinton failures there was nowhere to go except up. Trump’s slogan MAKE AMERICA GREAT captured the despair and the frustrations of the American public who saw no way out of  the Americans sliding down the greasy pole.

This slogan was not confined to politics. It extended to economic nationalism too. On the one  hand, it  meant keeping  the Mexicans, the Muslims and other selected aliens out of America. And, on the other, it meant keeping  the  jobs, American capital, and American investors at home. The Mexican Wall, like the Chinese Wall, became the highest symbol that was going to keep the alien hordes out of America and save the economy, ensure security and protect purity of American values threatened by aliens. The Mexican Wall became the shining symbol of Trump’s politics. It signified his willingness to do the repugnant and the unthinkable to save America. Primarily, he played on the security of Americans which, he said, was threatened on all fronts. He went all out to play his unconventional cards to beat all conventional politics of Washington. He provided his  own media coverage by shooting  from the  hip, a la John Wayne. He took the road that was less travelled – and that made all the difference.

The commentariat see him repeating successfully the new wave of anti-globalisation movement that took Britain out of EU. The  new nationalism  is essentially economic, rebelling against globalisation. As in Brexit, the people are recoiling from threats to  their sovereignty, identity and  security. Donald Trump led a movement of economic nationalism which was anathema to even the Republican establishment. At a time when globalisation meant free flow  of capital and labour across  borders he led a movement to build walls. He is the  new messiah of nationalist  capitalism. He aims to renegotiate the borderless order of globalisation. A billionaire who built  his fortune on Chinese steel, cheap Mexican labour, and cutting deals with foreigners  is  now planning to do a U-turn. He has already declared that his first job on the first day in offiice will be to cancel the TransPacific Partnership deal (TPP).

Can he achieve his ambitious  goal? Well, the fears of UK crumbling after Brexit have vanished. Economic nationalism  has cleared its first hurdle. Trump’s economic nationalism  may prove to be the turning point to make America great again. Let’s face it, Trump has been a gambler and he has been on a non-stop winning streak. Whether we like it or not, Trump’s journey from nowhere – without  even his Party’s support at one  stage – to the peak of political  power is an astounding  phenomenon. Normally it  is the party that carries the  candidates to victory. But this time  round, it  was Trump that carried the Party to victory. He swept  the board. It was a  one-man show.

The style and the  substance belonged to Trump – and to him alone. It was crude. It was rough. It was blunt but the masses  lapped it up as if  it was manna from heaven. His message, his confident  tone and his messianic attitude resonated well with the voters that took him to power. Looking back  it is seems that Trump was the messiah that America  was waiting  for. He articulated all their frustrations and  aspirations. He is the street fighter who took on the  elitist  establishment  dressed  in Emperor’s clothes and beat them hollow.

In  short, the Americans have embraced him as the messiah who would take them to the promised land. His followers have implicit faith in him. By and large, they are the WARMists who are bent on taking American back to its basic roots. Trapped in his  own creation, Trump has little room to deviate from the promises he made – all of which were defined by him. His success is due not only to his remarkable ability to define America his way but also to plot his  political path to victory on his terms. How far deep he can go from where  he is now depends on the unforeseen forces that will confront Trump on  his way forward and trip him. Can he, for instance, make America great again without building porous walls? Sooner or  later, someone in his camp will, no doubt, remind him  of the memorable lines of Robert Frost: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, / That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, / And spills the upper boulders in the sun.”

He is bound find out  that his  idiosyncratic but populist answers he handed out  to the cheering crowds in the campaign may not be valid when  he sits down  to face the nitty-gritty in his Oval Office. Translating  promises into reality has been bane of all politicians. Can he, for  instance, make America great again by dismantling the time-tested global alliance put together in the post-WWII decades? Can he withdraw into “Fortress America” abandoning the traditional allies to fend  for themselves? Is he going  to abandon the far-flung American empire, with nearly 1,000 bases girdling  the globe? Isn’t America’s greatness in the global theatre dependent on the greatness of its allies?

The ideological Trump who went over the top in the campaign will have to tone down the aggressive rhetoric and, no  doubt, come down to viable pragmatism.

If he shot like an arrow from the back of nowhere straight to the White House the next phase is not  going to be that smooth. The hard liners he has appointed so far to his Cabinet indicate  that  he is gearing  up for  the gruelling battles awaiting him round the corner. Some see him as a loose  cannon.  Apart from his unpredictability, he seems to be obsessed with his mission of “making America great again”. Therein lies the rub. In an ominous – or is it imperial? – statement he has sworn to make Mexico pay for the wall that is going to protect America. Is there a message in this for the rest of the world? He is declaring that even the long  time  allies will now  have to  pay their share if they want to be America’s friends and partners. In Trump’s world there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone, of course, will have to pay to make America great again. Being the hard-nosed businessman Trump’s declared policy is to demand for his pound  of flesh.

Is the post-Obama  world ready to pay all the way to make Trump’s America great again? Why should the world be made to pay for the self-inflicted  wounds of America?

9 Responses to “Donald Trump : the nationalist messiah from the Wild West”

  1. Christie Says:

    What ever he does. I pray he will not appoint an Indian vermin Haley-Randhawa to the job of Secretary of State.

    There are 5 Indian vermin in thr Congress including one Senator who are all Democrats.

    These are the issued that will affect the Sinhalese the majority in the island nation.

  2. Ananda-USA Says:

    Mahindapala,

    I have to disagree with you on your negative characterization of some of Donald Trump’s positions, especially on his “racism”.

    You have bought into the MUD slung by the Democrats and the ultra-liberals at Donald Trump, and labelled him a RACIST, when all he wants to do is to end the massive invasion of the USA by illegal immigrants, and end the influx of Muslim refugees who cannot be adequately checked for security.

    It is a FACT that Mexico is overrun by vicious drug mafias and drug and gun runners, and they are trickling into the US with the illegal immigrants from Mexico. Allowing Muslim refugees whose backgrounds cannot be checked in their home countries is a surefire way to let in Muslim terrorists into the country, as EU countries, especially I ally Germany, have found out and will soon pay for in the blood of their citizens. Donald’s short and sweet solutions sound drastic, but they gave hope to Americans that the issues will be addressed effectively, something that other politicians seem inherently incapable of doing.

    The USA is the PRIMARY TARGET of both illegal immigrants and Muslim terrorists, and both of these issues are a matter of great concern to most law-abiding patriotic Americans.

    Unfortunately, despite his billions, Donal Trump is not a polished speaker and announces his positions in short, often vague, sentences. He has difficulty adding explanatory material to explain those terse and vague statements. The American people have understood his speech impediment, but elected him President because no other candidate promised to solve his collection of issues that were critical to them.

    The problems Donald Trump promised to solve for the American people have their analogues for the Sinhala Buddhist majority of Sri Lanka today in areas of illegal immigration, trade deals leading to unrestricted immigration and loss of jobs and economic independence, and so forth.

    Donal Trump the President may prove to be quite different from Donal Trump the candidate, for the better or the worse. However, in my view, no one can be worse than Hillary Clinton for the American an people, Sri Lanka’s Sinhala Buddhist majority, and the developing world for many of the reasons you identified.

    Let us give Donald Trump a chance to do the right thing for all of us, without demonizing him in advance.

  3. Kumari Says:

    Most of what we think we know of Donald Trump is what the Mainstream Media told us. Therefore, I don’t consider Trump a Racist, a Sexist, a what ever else. To me he is only a businessman. When he was doing the TV show American Apprentice, the way some contestants dressed was way out of order. Most of the women would have loved to be in his company. If he was corrupt, media would have told us, only folly they found of him was a ten year old voice recording. He may not be politically correct, but he is more human like most Americans.

    I hear Apple is planning to bring back one of their factories from Mexico, Ford is not moving from Kentucky. He wants to give tax incentives to businesses to set up employment opportunities in the inner cities for the Black community. He appears to be loving his country and his people. I wish him, his country and our country well. Theruwan Saranai (May God bless you)!

  4. S.Gonsal Says:

    Kumari,
    He himself has admitted his SEXIST words and you can listen to it. It is not MUD but TRUTH.
    He is not corrupt but not honest either which is OK as we don’t expect saints.
    He mad many RACIST statements too. Since he won, it gives a message to your GOD MR to do it. I don’t mind him using it and openly saying ” Tamil shall not ge taught to Sinhala kids” , ” I will remove 13A “. But he says just the opposite, even today.

    You have to get your logic corrected, away from what you want towards the TRUTH.

    Your logic goes like,
    When media is forcasting his own words it is MUD. When media is not saying anything media is CORRECT.

  5. RohanJay Says:

    Mr Mahindapala, what are you smoking?
    you wrote..”Can he, for instance, make America great again by dismantling the time-tested global alliance put together in the post-WWII decades? Can he withdraw into “Fortress America” abandoning the traditional allies to fend for themselves?”
    Mr Mahindapala do you realise that time tested global alliance you speak of is NATO threatening Russian borders. Angering Putin.
    Did you realise that 12 months before the election Russians were mobilising for Global Thermonuclear war with this Global alliance you speak of, because they were convinced Hillary Clinton would get in?
    I am no big fan of the Republicans or Trump. But if I am to choose between Hillary Clinton and certain nuclear war with Russia and Trump who is prepared to sit down with Putin and talk peace. Then Mr Mahindapala?
    Who is the better candidate as a world citizen who wants global peace and stability as hard as that ideal is to attain?

  6. Christie Says:

    The writer knows well about the Indian power in the USA and elsewhere. Like his Wadukkodai an attempt to mislead.

    My fear is will the Indians use their money and influence to mislead Trump against Sinhalese and other subjects of the Indian Empire. There are a number of Trump Towers in India and few partners had met Trump after the election.

  7. Ananda-USA Says:

    Well said, Rohan Jay!

  8. plumblossom Says:

    This writer should realise that if Sri Lanka signs the ETCA, Indians who are unemployed i.e. almost 40 million Indians are unemployed, if even a few million came to Sri Lanka, what will happen to Sri Lankan people and their jobs when the Indians commence working for half the salaries that Sri Lankans are willing to work for? Therefore probably other countries face similar issues too. Sri Lanka should not sign the ETCA under any circumstances.

    One other thing, Sinhala people are the indigenous people of the island i.e. we are similar to the Native Americans of the US, the Inuit of Canada, the Maori of New Zealand, the Aborigines of Australia, the Polynesians of Fiji, the Malays and the Orang Asli of Malaysia etc. Therefore as far as Sri Lanka is concerned the Sinhala people should have ‘first peoples’ rights. We should tell UNESCO this and demand that they grant the Sinhala people ‘first peoples’ rights.

  9. Christie Says:

    I had high hopes from Trump. But then both Democrats and Republicans rely on Indian vermin and their money. Trump has appointed an Indian vermin to the UN who says she is in with the Indian vermin. Then Indian businessmen who are connected with Trump business have had the opportunity see him since the election I hear Trump has lots of businesses with USA Indian vermin and Indians in India and elsewhere. There could be some here through the Indian colonial parasites.
    But I hope and wish he will not be persuaded by the Indian imperialists.

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