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Donkeys and Elephants by TheDrifterWithin

Two years ago, it was the presidential elections for my country, Brazil. It was a tight dispute between Dilma Rousseff for reelection versus Aécio Neves from the opposition, and the political climate among voters was extremely hostile. It was incredible to see how divided our nation was, but it was so because both candidates were inflaming voters by making use of demagogy and sometimes even falsehoods. Dilma kept on wrongly accusing her rivals of wanting to cut off the social programs that her government had stabilized over the years, while Aécio kept on blaming her party for disrupting the country’s economy. Their main goal wasn't so much to proclaim what they were going to do for the next four years in office, but to throw as much mud as possible at the adversary.

And you could clearly see that this division promoted by our candidates on the streets, inside houses. Neighbours who stopped talking at each other; friendships that ended abruptly; workplaces that would never be the same. It wasn't enough that Brazil had just got a historical whopping at a World Cup in home soil that year, for soon afterwards, we also went through the dirtiest, most stressful election of the post-dictatorial era. But it mattered not for the candidates: it was all on for their private goals.

Now, it's November 2016, and it’s hard not to have that feeling of déjà vu when perceiving how divided the United States became at these elections. So divided in fact that when you point that out, one side will blame the other as the one which started this division. You're stuck with that idea of “I’ve seen this before” by seeing how toxic that political environment became in these last months. The United States went into the same process that we went back in 2014, as it too had an insane election process that brought the absolute worse of its people.

I’m pretty sure some may believe that people from other countries should mind their own business (unless if they are conveniently agreeing with their points). That because they don’t live in America, they have no wisdom to analyse what is going on to what. But actually, the fact I’m Brazilian and better yet, one who doesn’t view himself as liberal or conservative gives me an unbiased and objective view of what just happened, and of what has been happening. In fact, it's amazing to see how some foreigners seem to have a better understanding of what is going on in America than many Americans themselves. And I think conceptualization played a serious role on how things got to the point they did.

Let’s go back to 2012, when Obama was re-elected over contestant Mitt Romney. There was obviously a rivalry there, but the whole environment was much less repugnant than what we saw at this election. And for all the propaganda on both sides, there was a feeling of respect for the opponent, a feeling of keeping the discussion adult and mature.

However, as
billionaire Donald Trump announced his candidacy last year, he wanted to do something different of what other politicians had been doing: to use his expertise as a state salesman as a tool, provided with a tough charisma and untrimmed confidence. He used a language that a substantial amount of Americans identified themselves with, tapping into demographics long ignored by other candidates. Trump wasn’t there to be yet another boring politician – he was there to set that crowd on fire, with corrosive speeches and a demagogue point of view. And this went very well with those who believe that the other side is literally the enemy, and that the country is at war with itself. Trump was their candidate first and last, their perfect representation they weren't seeing at the GOP.

During Obama's presidency, Trump emerged as one of the biggest - and loudest - voices of his opposition. Infamously contesting Obama's birth certificate and questioning nearly every decision he's ever made in office, Trump was becoming a point of focus to the media - the one everybody was turning their cameras at in hopes for an interesting story. The guy sure was helping to sell lots of newspapers. The man was essentially a human clickbait, and business were booming. You can rest assured now that many of those who covered him so dedicatedly have come to regret doing this, giving him free publicity in a silver plate.

It's important to remember that Trump hasn't always been like that. Back in the 80's and 90's, he was something of a good guy, less temperamental and more humble; a fun man, like James Corden once noticed. He already was a "celebrity" back then, making cameos in films like "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York", but he just wasn't the polemicist he is now. He was something of the billionaire of pop culture, but he turned bitter as the years went by.

At first, people didn't treat his candidacy seriously, considering the former reality show judge as a "joke candidate". But the joke started to get serious, as Trump was demolishing his Republican adversaries, with a proudly vulgar and unapologetic persona. Republicans were ready to say he didn't represent their ideals, but the truth is that
indeed Trump was basically an exaggerated, almost cartoonish representation of the ideals the Republican Party has been presenting in these last decades. If this is the man Trump will be at the White House, I don’t know (I don’t think he will), but his whole campaign was based on that persona. And there were consequences for that nationwide.

Trump supporters embraced his speeches with enthusiasm and joy. They were tired of the political correctness of our age, and they identified themselves with that one-man-show. They ceased to be the "silent majority" to became very vocal and passionate, as the internet became a battlefield where heated discussions spread like wild fire. And when it seemed that the movement was losing steam, when it seemed that maybe Ben Carson could stand up against Trump, when it seemed that it was all just a fad, Trump once again raised on the polls. He was bringing more and more people to his side.

But many of such supporters -
pejoratively dubbed as "trumpers", among other names - weren't thinking too deeply about the implications of what their candidate was promising. I mean, how is Trump gonna make Mexico pay for that wall? How much is the war against ISIS gonna cost? Has everybody forgotten the costs of the Iraq War already? And is nobody seriously going to notice how he actually seems to value the Second Amendment more than the first one? Here's a man that more than once displayed a showing ignorance over world affairs, and who had to be explained obvious things. And I'm not even mentioning his bigotry and scandalous unfounded declarations. However, even in face of such circumstances, his support continued to grow. But why?

It was then reported something that made perfect sense. Something that, to me, explained
with perfect grace the continuous ascension of his popularity: many Trump supporters wouldn’t care if he was going to keep his promises, if he was going to build that wall or not. And that’s because, by the end of the day, his supporters were not voting for Trump the candidate, or for Trump the person. They were voting for Trump the concept.

The Trump phenomenon was absolutely surprising and without any precedents, but there was a logic to it: Trump's massive popularity was due to what he was representing, and not what he was promising. They were voting against this massive politically correct wave of our time.
They were voting against the system, the ultra-liberals. They were voting for the outsider, the man with the swagger, someone they saw themselves into. If Trump had been a normal candidate like Obama was back in 2008, his campaign would have been over at the slightly provocation, at the first non-presidential attitude. But once again, Trump wasn’t a candidate. He was an idea, a concept (and if I was more cynical, I would say an internet meme) that many Americans identified themselves with. Trump normalized this sort of behaviour: now it's acceptable, because it's sign of strength and boldness. And to hell with common sense, or so much so facts and fair judgement.

With his inflammatory speeches, Trump inflamed the media. What we saw of everybody from late-night talk-show hosts such as Stephen Colbert, James Corden, Trevor Noah and Seth Meyers to even figures like Robert De Niro, Franz Ferdinand and members from "Star Trek" was a response to this persona. By seeing the progression of Colbert's videos, it's incredible to see how more and more hostile he was being towards Trump. The gloves were off, the enemy was real, and it was all on to defeat him.

One thing is simply to endorse Hillary Clinton, like the cast of “Will & Grace” did, and celebrity endorsement is the most natural thing ever. But what we’ve seen from many members of the media was a response in kind to Trump’s behaviour, a counter-strike. We saw celebrities adopting his tone against him, calling him by colourful terms such as "a racist, abusive coward", and this all was making the country more divided than it already was. Once again, remember that back when it was Obama versus Romney, the climate wasn’t so hostile, because no-one was taking things to the next level. And the media was simply keeping up with the tide, nice and easy. But Trump elevated (or should I saw, lowered) things to such a point that this sort of retaliation started to happen:

Can you image talk-show hosts tossing this much poison at John McCain back in 2008? A joke here and there, maybe, but not this. And like tossing nukes at Godzilla, this only made Trump's campaign stronger. They were fighting him by the wrong means: they were ridiculing a man who is beyond ridiculing. They were entering into his territory, and as
Sun Tzu once said (I think), never fight a battle on enemy territory.

All this hostility made people resentful of that elitist, liberal media, and more inspired to vote for Trump indeed. The more Bill Maher kept on calling Americans stupid, the more he was
isolating and alienating them, and the more they were determinate to elect Trump (naturally, Maher started cowardly saying it wasn't his fault or of people like him that such movement grew so large and resentful). By all means, this opposition was spreading his word, his popularity. He was a man fuelled by controversy, and all they were doing was making him bigger.

Now, you could adopt a respectful tone and point out all of his scandals, why he’s not such a good choice for the presidency, without being condescending or hostile, as some people like John Oliver tried to do. But then – once again – people were not voting for a candidate. That’s the thing people should all know: that Trump is a salesman, and he sold the nation not a proper plan, but a concept. Trump himself infamously said that he could shot somebody in the middle of the Fifth Avenue and he wouldn't lose any voters.
His following was perhaps the strongest case of blind admiration we have ever witnessed in our lifetimes. There was no fact or declaration that would keep people from voting for that concept, for the concept itself was unshakable.

It doesn't help that the Democratic Party chose Hillary to represent it against Trump. Once again working with a progressive agenda - instead of a realistic agenda -, the party elected someone "from a group that never had a president before", in this case a woman. But as the
Democratic Party must be painfully realizing by now, Bernie Sanders was a far better choice: someone who had insight for years, who is not involved in any scandals and has never been. Someone with a real grasp of politics, a man that is both smart, experienced and in tune with our era. Furthermore, if they were really serious about some progressive agenda, Bernie could have been the first Jewish president ever. There's not a lot that could be said against him, but he didn't have the momentum that Hillary had. Not that Bernie would have unquestionably won the presidency, but against someone like Trump, he was the better choice. Furthermore, Hillary was never really popular to begin with: when a substantial amount of her electors were declaring they weren't voting for her, but against Trump, you know there was something very wrong.

What happened in the United States is in much similar to what took place in the United Kingdom with the Brexit movement: it was a concept. An idea that the UK would be "free" from the cuffs of the European Union, as if it was imprisoned by it in the first place. And many people identified themselves with that concept, without thinking of consequences, facts, or implications. And my fear is that, in face of such impacting happenings, this is what is going to mould future politics from now on: politicians that will regard image and concepts over actual plans, reality, and implications. That in favour of their causes, our figures in power will finally take advantage of people’s passion and lack of knowledge (if they weren't doing it already).

I genuinely feel bad for America. It’s not that I wouldn’t if anyone else had been elected: if feel bad to see how grotesque this whole process was. Grotesque and long, I might add. Trump has promised in his victory speech that he will be a president of “all Americans”, and that he will unite the nation, after his speeches torn it apart. Maybe, he was just doing all he could to win, proving that this strategy works - hell, it worked in both sides of the Atlantic. But now that he’s inside, he may not be that man anymore - it's not realistic for him to maintain that posture now. He will be actually presidential, precisely what his voters didn’t want – another politician. Many of his supporters didn’t really believe in his wildest plans, such as building the wall or putting Hillary in jail, but they may end up feeling betrayed that the most important thing he was selling – the idea, the concept – was discarded once he accomplished his goal.

What makes me sadder however is not the election of Trump itself. As Aaron Sorkin noticed in a letter he sent to his daughter, this was a victory for many of his most repulsive supporters. G
roups like Neo-Nazis and the KKK - people long condemned by civilized society, who came out from the shadows and stepped into light. In fact, the whole electoral process was so extreme that it brought a resurgence of such groups: Trump empowered them. I'm not saying all Trump supporters are like that, but when it comes to him and the nature he presented, his speeches draw these people more than any other candidate, making his electorate more toxic than any other I've ever seen. I don't remember Romney's or McCain's supporters being like that, as Trump really appealed to the worst kind of people. Hillary was right: there were a lot of deplorables standing with Trump. And it was all worth it in the end.

Trump was embraced by the so-called alt-right movement, which was strongly based on post-truth politics and that was partially generated from the insanity of the ultra-liberals in America. The far-left has to take its share of responsibility for this genesis, as they were screaming their convictions loud, and then the other side finally snapped and started screaming back.

All in all, it’s wonderful news to see Trump indeed doesn’t want to be that guy from these last months. In the best case scenario, he may indeed bring the people together, and even be a good president. But ironically, this may indeed lead to more division: those who wanted to see the Donald Trump they were promised at office may feel like they were deceived into voting for him. Again, Trump is a salesman, and a good salesman will sell you crap you don't need. And for all his (supposedly) good intentions, liberals will never accept him due to his deeds, his doings, what he did to reach that position. Like the Google searches about the possibility that Trump can be impeached, searches about moving to Canada just skyrocketed, and the Canadian Immigration site crashed more than once. Canada may very well build a wall at its border, and make America pay for it.

The specialists and political scientists were right all along. This is indeed the beginning of a new political era. And it doesn't look good.
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Submitted on
November 10, 2016
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