A liar, racist, demagogue and misogynist is the presidential candidate of the once great Republican Party. He won the nomination by exploiting the deep insecurities generated by decades of growing inequality in the United States. This in turn exacerbated and exposed the racist hostility to Mexicans, Muslims and African Americans, which lies just below the surface of American life.
The general consensus among progressives in the US is that the large and growing inequality is responsible for the rise of Donald Trump and the ‘angry white man.’ For conservatives, led by a Republican Party which has been moving further to the right since Barry Goldwater became its presidential candidate in 1964, the problem is President Barack Obama. The fact is, though, that the Republicans have now reaped in Trump the kind of politics they have been sowing since 1964. Nixon’s Southern strategy, designed to win the support of Southern whites from the Democrats by exploiting fear and hatred of African Americans, attained its apotheosis in the Republican leadership’s open hatred of Barack Obama.
One of the reasons for the runaway candidacy of Donald Trump has been the light treatment of him by the media, which has failed to confront his lies. This has reached such an extreme that one of the moderators of the presidential debates, Chris Wallace of Fox News, a vehemently right wing outfit, has announced that it is not his job to point out lies. This reckless and shallow opinion is shared by Chris Mathews, a liberal TV host, who said that when a journalist challenges a candidate on accuracy, the journalist is giving an opinion and that this should be eschewed.
This kid glove treatment of Trump by the media was pointed out by Paul Krugman, a prominent columnist for the New York Times, in a recent column. He referred to the tolerance of George W Bush’s lies in 2000 presidential campaign as opposed to the intense scrutiny of Al Gore by the same media, including perpetrating and promoting the lie that he said he had invented the internet. Krugman did not, however, mention the subservient and genuflecting media coverage over Bush’s campaign, based on lies, for war against Iraq that exceeded all bounds.
Media coverage of the candidates exploded into controversy during last week in an NBC programme, ‘Commander in Chief Forum’, in which Trump and Clinton were interviewed separately by Matt Lauer. Feeding the media frenzy against Clinton, Lauer spent one-third of the time he had with her confronting her over her use of her private email for official business about which she has been exonerated by the FBI. She repeated her apology but emphasized, which she had already done ad nauseam, that she dealt with no email marked Top Secret or Confidential. As on the email issue Mrs Clinton’s answers on other matters were detailed and thoughtful. Notwithstanding Lauer’s regular interruptions urging her to conclude a particular answer, Mrs Clinton displayed a commendable grasp of facts and knowledge of detail. She largely adhered to the request of the moderator not to criticize her opponent. Matt Lauer came over as forceful.
When Trump’s turn came around, Lauer’s now obsequious posture gave him an opening to attack Clinton by asking him, not to refrain from criticizing his opponent as he had asked Mrs Clinton, but to maintain any criticism at a minimum. Trump continually criticized Mrs Clinton without interruption throughout the interview. Lauer then proceeded to lob soft balls at Trump, thereby giving him the opportunity to repeat lies, to evade questions and to deal in generalities which Lauer did not challenge or did nothing to stop.
One of Trump’s biggest lies that he regularly repeats is that he opposed the Iraq war from the outset as well as the intervention against Libya. The overwhelming evidence is that he repeatedly supported the Iraq war and the intervention in Libya. He repeatedly criticizes the US withdrawal from Iraq, even though since 2007 he is on record as supporting the withdrawal. Matt Lauer did not challenge his lie that he did not support the war.
Interviewers of Donald Trump have conveniently forgotten that he was sued by the Justice Department for racial discrimination in 1973. He has criticized affirmative action and engaged in a series of actions and activities that display his racist inclinations. Until two weeks ago he refused to address the NAACP or African American audiences, preferring to call for their support when addressing white audiences. Interviewers of Trump carefully avoid confronting him about this issue which is of vital importance to Americans.
With one of the oldest and most sophisticated democratic systems in which the United States has rightly prided itself, it confuses many people around the world that such a system can not only throw up a character like Donald Trump but can propel him to the heights that he has now reached. Polls are currently tightening in the United States, especially in those states which are a must win for any successful candidate, such as Florida and Ohio, where latest polls show the candidates to be even. Donald Trump can still win the presidency. The true horror of such an outcome has not yet dawned on most people.