Trump to be confirmed Republican nominee

The Donald: ‘Show me someone without an ego, and I’ll show you a loser.’

Today, the Republican Convention will confirm what many once thought impossible: Donald Trump is the official nominee for President of the USA. Are his critics right to be worried?

This time last year, 17 people shared one goal: to represent the Republican Party in America’s 2016 election, and become president of the world’s leading superpower. Now, just one man is left standing. And today the party has gathered in Cleveland, Ohio to confirm that the name ‘Donald Trump’ will indeed be printed on the ballot in November.

The much-anticipated Republican Convention began yesterday, attracting politicians and protesters alike. But there are a few notable absences: several key figures are not attending, including former presidents who would usually take this chance to endorse the candidate. Most blame ‘scheduling conflicts’. But others are more flippant: ‘I will be mowing my lawn,’ said one senator. Or honest: ‘I don’t even want to be involved,’ said a governor. ‘It’s a mess. I hate the whole thing.’

Trump’s divisive message demonises immigrants, encourages violence, and presents him as America’s only hope of being ‘great again’. It has resonated with the anger felt by many Americans and has confounded elites, even within his own party.

But Trump’s rise is not just a problem for Republicans, or even America. Yesterday in the Financial Times, Edward Luce argued that it is a problem for democracy around the world. He gave three reasons.

First, Trump has proved that you can rise to the top ‘by scapegoating entire categories of people’. Whether it is Mexicans, Muslims, or ‘women he deems unattractive’, his insults only fuel his popularity.

Second, ‘he has made post-factual politics respectable’. The fact-checking website Politifact rates 89% of his statements as false — but he does not stop repeating them, let alone apologise for misleading the public.

Finally, he has ‘corroded faith that rules-based societies are self-sustaining’. Do we really think he will accept defeat by Hillary Clinton, asks Luce? His response to past setbacks has always been to challenge them in the courts. But democracy depends on a mutual trust in the system; without that, it will crumble.

Trumpification

‘Isn’t this an overreaction?’ ask some. Trump is expressing an anger towards the modern world that many people connect with. His behaviour may not be pleasant, but it is hardly the downfall of democracy itself. If voters do not like him, they should vote against him and life will go on.

But even if he fails, warns Luce, it will be hard to put the ‘genie’ back in the bottle. Trump has changed Western society by proving that its worst instincts can prevail. When he labels anyone who disagrees with him a ‘loser’ and a ‘crook’, he makes such language appear acceptable. And the world is taking note: if this can happen in America, it can happen anywhere.

You Decide

  1. Do you agree with Edward Luce’s assessment of Donald Trump’s effect on the world?
  2. Could your own country see a Donald Trump-like figure rise to power?

Activities

  1. Draw your own political cartoon about the US presidential race so far.
  2. The theme of this year’s Republican Convention is ‘Make America Great Again’. Imagine that you have been invited to give a short speech on the topic. Write around 350 words, and take it in turns to deliver it to the class.

Some People Say...

“The most important quality in a leader is that of being acknowledged as such.”

André Maurois

What do you think?

Q & A

What happens at the convention exactly?
The party conventions are hangovers from an earlier era, when presidential candidates would be nominated by official party delegates. Now, many of the delegates are decided by a public vote (in primary elections and caucuses). So today’s nomination is mostly a formality — and an opportunity for big speeches.
Does Trump really affect the rest of the world?
Yes. As the world’s leading superpower, American policies often affect other countries — whether they involve war, the economy, or climate change. Its democracy is also hugely symbolic. The Chinese venture capitalist Eric Li writes that pro-democracy campaigners in China are struggling to win support thanks to Trump’s success: ‘If the people can be so wrong, how can you give them the vote?’

Word Watch

Republican Convention
A four-day event marking the end of the nomination period.
Protesters
Much of Cleveland’s downtown (main business and commercial) area has been restricted due to planned protests against Trump and the Republican Party.
Former presidents
George W. Bush and his father George H.W. Bush are not attending, nor are former presidential nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney.
Immigrants
Trump’s two most notorious policies: a wall along the border with Mexico to stop illegal immigrants, and a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.
Violence
At his rallies, Trump has suggested that he would like to punch protesters in the face, and effectively endorsed his supporters if they choose to do so. Violent incidents have frequently occurred at his events.
Many Americans
Current polls put support for Trump at around 40%. His rival Hillary Clinton is polling at 44%.
Politifact
The Pulitzer Prize-winning website only labelled 11% of Trump’s statements ‘true’ or ‘mostly true’. In contrast, 19% were labelled ‘pants on fire’, meaning they are so untrue they are ‘ridiculous’.

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