As the US Presidential election finally hits culminating day, it is striking that the person people are talking about is not Hillary Clinton – still as of the time of writing the likely winner – but Donald Trump.
As has been correctly pointed out, there are very few American voters who will vote for Hillary Clinton because they positively like and support her. By contrast Donald Trump not only has an enthusiastic following, but he is being attacked like no candidate I have ever known in a US election.
Those who make the most ferocious attacks on Donald Trump typically say they do so because of the appalling things they say he says. A good example is this Jeremiad against Donald Trump by Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian: a British liberal newspaper which has a surprisingly influential following in liberal elite America
“Donald Trump has fought a presidential campaign like no other. He has mocked opponents for their looks, belittled women, disparaged war heroes, damned ethnic and other minorities in crude, bigoted language, jeered at disabled people, beaten his chest with bellicose promises of state-sponsored violence that would trample on the US constitution and trigger a third world war, and told dozens and dozens of lies every day. While his opponent has offered detailed and substantive policy prescriptions, those have barely got a mention: Trump’s knack for hogging media attention, usually by saying or tweeting something jaw-droppingly outrageous, has left no room. In the four-and-a-half hours of formal presidential debates between Trump and Hillary Clinton, climate change was discussed for not one minute.”
If one’s reading was confined to pieces like this, one would be forced to wonder why anyone was voting for Trump at all. As it is, this piece accurately reflects the sheer horror the Western political establishment – not just in the US but also in Europe – feels at the mere thought of “President Trump”.
In my opinion one key reason why this is so – and one which also explains many of the oddities of Trump’s campaign, which give pieces like Freedland’s their ammunition – is the largely ignored fact that in the matter of politics Donald Trump is a complete amateur.
This explains many of the weaknesses of his campaign, such its notorious lack of organisation, its failure to present a economic coherent programme, and Trump’s habit of firing off comments a professional and experienced politician would never make.
Unfortunately it also explains why Trump has failed to land punches on Hillary Clinton as effectively as he might have done.
A professional and experienced politician in Trump’s place would have focused on the fact that Hillary Clinton’s celebrated “experience” is one of a First Lady in her husband’s administration whose flagship health care reform was a total failure, and of a Secretary of State whose flagship war in Libya ended in total disaster.
A professional and experienced politician in Trump’s place would also have focused on the extent to which Hillary Clinton has taken influence peddling to the level of high art.
Such a politician would have pointed out what is actually true: that the fees paid to Hillary Clinton for her speeches to Goldman Sachs and the donations to her Foundation are payments in advance – bribes if you will – for future services to be rendered.
Such a politician would also have pointed out the highly dubious nature of some of the people who have paid these bribes, and how many of them are foreigners implicated in activities that have caused harm and injury to the United States.
A professional and experienced politician would also have focused on the dangerously confrontational nature of Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy – and not just towards Russia – and how this risks getting the US bogged down in still more wars, something which might have gained particular traction given the war weariness and disillusion with the foreign policy establishment that has become common with the American people.
A professional and experienced politician might also have pointed to Hillary Clinton’s historic ignorance and wilful indifference towards the military, who would be expected to carry out her aggressive foreign policy for her.
Lastly, a professional and experienced politician might also have pointed out how Hillary Clinton’s famous ‘leftism’ essentially boils down to a set of single issue causes, and how she has no overall plan or even the concept of a plan to help the middle class and lower income Americans a genuine leftist would be trying to help.
It is not exactly that Donald Trump does not know these things and has not tried to say them. Rather it is that because of his lack of experience he doesn’t know how to say them simply and clearly, and how to stay focused on them.
The result is that Trump is all too easily diverted into arguments a professional and experienced politician would avoid – such as a hopeless quarrel with the family of a war veteran who died in Iraq – and has been driven to say all sorts of unwise things a professional and experienced politician would never have said, in the process giving his enemies ammunition and allowing his own message to become blurred.
None of this is at all surprising. Donald Trump is anything but a professional and experienced politician. He has never stood for election before, and has never held political or public office, something which amongst US Presidential candidates makes him literally unique. To the extent that Trump has any experience of politics it is through appearing on talk shows and meeting with politicians in social situations.
As anyone who has any knowledge of professionals in any field knows, there is no-one they detest more than an amateur who has managed to insert himself or herself successfully amongst them. If that amateur is moreover more successful at what they do than they are, that is all but guaranteed to drive them mad.
Much of the venom directed at Donald Trump is in my opinion the product of this. The hardbitten veterans of the US political system – quite possibly the most ruthlessly professional political establishment in the world – are being bested by a rank amateur and complete outsider. Not surprisingly it is driving them mad.
The big question – to which they have no answer – is why it is happening at all.
In my opinion US voters – including those who are voting for Donald Trump – understand his amateurism perfectly well – better than the professional politicians do – which is why they have been cutting Donald Trump slack to an extent that they would never do for a professional politician.
This is why – to the bafflement of the professional politicians and the establishment media which is allied to them – Trump has survived errors and setbacks no professional politician would ever be able to.
The fact that the American people – or at least a potential plurality of them – is prepared contrary to all their traditions to consider entrusting the future of the US to a complete amateur in place of the professional politicians of their political class, is in fact quite extraordinary, and shows how angry with their professional political class they have become.
It truly is a case of the man against the machine, and regardless of whether Trump wins or loses today, it is truly astonishing – and says a huge amount about the state of America – that against such an awesomely powerful machine the man has come so far.