YONELA DIKO: Why is Trump still popular?
Donald J Trump has become a one-term president. He deserves less. The entire four years of his Presidency has been a daily torment to those swing American voters who decided to give him a chance in 2016 instead of Hillary Clinton. His Presidency has been a big circus of petulance and mischief and incitement that turned the office of the United State Presidency into a source of embarrassment and shame at a time its guidance and measured leadership was needed the most. Through this vote, Americans have made it clear that they have learnt their lesson. It's over.
It is important, however, to appreciate that Trump has still brought in more votes in these elections than he did in the last elections and has won the Republican party more seats in the House of Representatives than before. Why would a wrecking ball like Trump receive over 70 million votes, just a little less than half of the votes of the entire electorate?
The answer is quite simple. The greatest weakness of the Democratic Party, which oddly and unfortunately is also what defines it, is its inability to articulate a firm set of values anchored in a sound and recognisable moral doctrine. Unlike Democrats, Republicans underpin their values in Judeo-Christian values, on marriage (between men and women only), on homosexuals (abomination), and on abortion (murder). They also underpin their values on the so-called American values: family, guns, domination (especially of race) and "America first". At most, the Democratic Party correctly opposes these values. But then their own values are hard to follow, and each time you try to look for an anchor or a source beyond intellectualism, which itself is unstable, it's an infinite regress.
Despite these shortcomings, Democrats still possess a self righteousness that is unwavering even when they lose election after election. They continue to have a sense of being right and dismissive of others, through intellectualism that itself is deductive reasoning. It is Obama who acknowledged that Democrats do not allow any acknowledgement that people have a deeper hunger for life's meaning on this highway to nothingness we are all in. Obama knew that it was people's faith that provided meaning, that edified their lives, that gave them an ability to understand and appreciate their world, to understand their own personal morality and justice. Spirituality matters, people's faiths matter, it informs people's values and moral compasses, and dismissing it as buffoonery of the not-so-smart is dangerous.
It is this clarity on values that gave Obama the US presidency in a historic fashion. He had long identified this Democratic Party weakness. If you are watching TV with your kids, you don't want to see erectile dysfunction adverts every second, and being against it does not make you a helpless conservative using your moral righteousness to infringe on media freedom or the rights of marketing companies to do business in America. It's just an honest expression of protecting the innocence of your children, something that is not ideological or partisan. Liberals are wishy-washy on this and this opens a gap for true believers - the Republicans.
Trump is also an unapologetic racist. In liberal channels, overt racism is abominable and barbaric, especially in such civilised bubbles that dominate American news. The fact that he shares this overt view with half of America does not seem to register to the liberals that the bell is also tolling for them, that maybe deep down, Trump is also talking for them and that he is them.
Trump is so daring and comfortable in his black hate it drives home a point highlighted by Ibram X. Kendi, author of one of the most consequential books on race ever written titled Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas, _originally published in 2016. Kendi argues that white people change their views and behavior on racism only when it is advantageous to do so. White people don't change their racist views out of enlightenment or some new found revolutionary awakening. So when Trump was flying with Oprah in his aeroplanes and living it up with black rappers and being mentioned on every aspirational black song prior to his run for president, it was advantageous for him to seem like he has a black soul. When his fortunes started being tied to condemning a black president, questioning his American citizenship and telling other blacks to go back to their shit hole countries, he had seen an advantage and he took it.
When founder Rupert Murdoch started the right wing US news network Fox, this was exactly the point he was trying to prove - that much of America can take only so much of seemingly limitless liberalism. Murdoch's mission has been clear: to prove that America's majority is not liberal, despite being overwhelmed and drowned daily by liberal media like CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, MSNBC and_The New York Times. _His aim was to make Fox News the biggest TV channel in the country. Today, Fox News is actually the most watched TV channel in America. Murdoch has proven his point. Liberals think their views are mainstream and pump in a lot of PR machinery to ensure that their views dominate the airwaves. But behind closed doors, at home, at school, at the golf club, on issues of abortion, homosexuality, and biblical Christianity, Americans are not liberal at all.
One expert did a study of 116 mainstream US papers, including _The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, _and San Francisco Chronicle, and concluded that mainstream press in the United States tends to favor liberal viewpoints. This then makes an alternative view hard to put across, particularly in urbane communities.
Media has an ability to blow up liberal views and make it seem mainstream. Non-liberal people, who are the majority, then prefer to keep silent and just go about their lives through their values. This is exactly why a 2008 joint study by the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University and the Project for Excellence in Journalism found an irritation from the majority of people who thought that the media has a liberal bias, particularly news channels like CNN.
The media tends to employ journalists who will reinforce their liberal bias, as economists Tim Groseclose and Jeff Milyo concluded in their research. It is therefore not about Trump, but about people's honest values that liberals seem to trample on, calling them ignorant and backward. This is a dangerous posture that today dominates social media. Liberals can champion their message better, anchor their values more clearly and communicate their values without undermining others and making them feel stupid. Conservatives are scared to air their views on media platforms. But they are the ones left with the ballot.
Yonela Diko is the spokesperson to the Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation. He writes in his personal capacity, and can be followed on Twitter on @yonela_diko.