Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
About us Latest news News

Trump or no trump, that is the question

22 April 2024
decorative image
Lisa Gaufman (photo: Henk Veenstra)

This year, around 4 billion people in almost 70 countries as well as in Europe will have the opportunity to vote. This year more than ever will reveal the state of democracy in the world. UG researchers Ritumbra Manuvie, Pieter de Wilde, and Lisa Gaufman look ahead to the elections in India, Europe, and the United States, respectively. This week: Lisa Gaufman. Even if Trump does not become the next president, democracy will suffer, she predicts.

The question that is preying on our mind is: will it be Trump or Biden? And, of course, with 'Biden’ we mean 'not Trump'. ‘Yes, that is the question many people ask themselves', says Lisa Gaufman. Her answer to this question is not very encouraging. In the recently published book The Trump Carnival – Populism, Transgression and the Far Right, assistant professors Lisa Gaufman of the UG and Bharath Ganesh of the University of Amsterdam show that it is perfectly possible that Trump will win the US presidential election in November.

Endless arguments

One problem, Gaufman points out, is that the media unconsciously normalize Trump. 'Trump can make endless, incoherent arguments with no apparent point. That goes from windmills to toilet flushers to a friend's yacht. The media turn this into a coherent story and distil his message from it. This way, they turn Trump into a normal politician and contribute to his popularity, whereas they should be writing down that his speeches do not add up.

Dictator from day one

Moreover, the American public has been battered by Trump's increasingly radical rhetoric, while it actually incites violence among his supporters. 'When Trump, during his first campaign, said that Mexicans bring drugs and crime, that was something new. But in a speech last November, Trump called immigrants vermin that poison the blood of the nation. The connotation, of course, is that vermin need to be exterminated. In December, he said that if he is president again, he will be a dictator from day one.

Eight years ago, he did not say such things yet, but it is now considered normal. Even The New York Times, a left-wing newspaper after all, presents Trump as an alpha male, whereas the reality is in fact quite a bit worse. They minimize the damage his rhetoric causes. Or they say he is just joking. You have to keep repeating that what he says is not okay. That it leads to violence, to deaths. Just look at the Capitol riots. And when Trump called coronavirus 'the China virus', it led to a peak in violence against Asians.

decorative image
'Trump can make endless, incoherent arguments with no apparent point. That goes from windmills to toilet flushers to a friend's yacht.' (photo: ANP/Eline van Nes)

God's imperfect tool

Trump uses this violence to hold the Republican Party in his grasp: many within the party are afraid of his violent supporters. At the same time, Trump made the racism that already existed within the party mainstream.  'He gives voice to what many republicans were already thinking but were afraid of saying. Because of Trump, they are no longer ashamed of their racism.’

Add to this the fact that Trump presents himself as a political outsider, and you can imagine that for many conservative Americans he is an appealing candidate. ‘Before, the presidential candidate was expected to be a real family man, otherwise they had no chance of winning. But look at Trump: multiple women, adultery, court cases. With him, people see it as something positive, because he is an outsider. This does not even matter to the white, evangelical, deeply religious Christians, because they see him as God's imperfect tool who will make America great again. Trump makes very clever use of this. He presents himself as the one who can fix it, because he is a so-called blue-collar billionaire, a successful businessman – which is, of course, nonsense.  But this is consistent with the populist idea that he is not from the corrupt elite but from the pure people. In America's political culture, it is mainly the republicans who have a deeply ingrained distrust of the government and its institutions.’

Explain things better

It is obvious: It does not look good for the US. You can just see things going wrong again. Is there a bright side to this? If so, what is it? Gaufman: ‘Our main hope is that the media will reflect on themselves about what they are doing when they talk about the far right and normalize racist and fascist rhetoric. Furthermore, I do not know whether the Democratic Party is actually using its full potential to mobilize its electorate. They really need to explain better that because of Trump, the national right to abortion was taken away by the Supreme Court. But with the two eldest candidates in the history of the US, 77 and 81, it is difficult to mobilize the electorate, especially young people. Last time, they were also the eldest candidates.’

That is not a very bright side. 'No,’ says Gaufman, ‘but I am an optimist and I still have hope that Trump will lose.  But even if Biden wins, there will be violence. Trump's supporters will resist violently because they will think that the results are not real.’

Text: Bert Platzer

Read also

More information

Last modified:02 May 2024 2.16 p.m.
View this page in: Nederlands

More news