Tarnishing the Front-Runner: Treating Trump Like Netanyahu
Returning to New York for my yearly winter visit, it becomes unavoidable to deny what’s on everyone’s mind. The candidacy of Donald Trump has kindled a revolution, a tectonic change in the expected voting behavior of Middle America. His supporters believe — mistaken or not — that Donald Trump can bring back what once was.
Donald Trump represents for Middle America that sense of longing for better times that once were. Trump represents the very embodiment of not telling Middle America how to think, what to do, or how to vote. He has galvanized not only conservative voters but all voters who reject the dictates of the “establishment.”
The coming presidential election in November promises to shake up political givens not only for the Republican Party, but for the American nation as a whole. It seems as if we are in the midst of a major realignment of political forces that are charting a new course for Middle America and the American public as a voting public. Those in the media who are trying to make Trump lose his bid for the presidency reminds me of how the media in Israel and the Israeli establishment elites have made every effort to keep Benjamin Netanyahu from being prime minister, and the similarities are unmistakable.
Despite Netanyahu’s having been repeatedly re-elected over the past two decades, and despite continuing support for him among the Israeli voting public, every day brings new accusations and headlines attempting to tarnish the political viability of Netanyahu.
Yet in the last elections, Netanyahu was credited with being the only political candidate that brought out Israel’s silent majority, giving the Likud party a commanding lead taking the election at a walk. How did he do it? By speaking the truth, by not blaming the victims, by holding the Palestinian Arabs accountable for the lack of a peace agreement, by defending Israeli interests first and foremost, by making the economy strong and providing jobs, and by promising to make Israel more secure.
In America’s past national elections, nearly half of registered voters have stayed at home. The conventional explanation is apathy and indifference to the political process and harboring a sense of being disenfranchised from politicians and political parties in general. They have little faith that their vote can produce real change. Trump has tapped into a collective revulsion for politics-as-usual, and a collective feeling that the public has had enough.
Trump is connected to the people; he is accessible and available on TV, answering anchors’ questions, and hosting news conferences; he tweets and retweets at all hours, engaging his supporters and enraging his enemies, with thousands of people waiting in long lines and bad weather to attend his rallies. Many know Trump to be a flawed candidate, many think he is even a flawed man, yet they feel that this is no different than their own flaws, so he is translating a weakness into political strength. Amid much of the public’s disillusionment and disconnection toward politics, they hear Trump speaking on their behalf, and only for them.
Trump is shaking the very foundations of the two-party system in America, questioning the traditional liberal-vs-conservative paradigm. Trump has shown future political candidates how to amplify a potent message on platforms democratized by using technology and reaching out to everyone. Over the past decade, Americans have weathered historic economic changes, technological innovation leaving many behind, an immigrant invasion that does not mirror former waves of immigration, and two major wars. The nation’s institutions as led by Obama have failed to help Middle America to adapt and benefit from the immense changes that have transpired.
Trump is Middle America’s way of giving the establishment elitists an obscene hand gesture.
The writer, a 25-year veteran of the IDF, served as a field mental health officer and Commander of the Central Psychiatric Military Clinic for Reserve Soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty, he provides consultancy services to NGO’s implementing Psycho trauma and Psychoeducation programs to communities in the North and South of Israel. Today, he is a strategic advisor at the Office of the Chief Foreign Envoy of Judea and Samaria.