Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
Published On: Wed, Dec 9th, 2015

Donald Trump and P.T. Barnum

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”

This phrase was first reported in the mid-19th century about the notorious American circus showman P.T. Barnum. The latest avatar of Barnum is Donald Trump, the media-made presidential candidate masquerading as a Republican. Despite Trump’s surviving lead in the opinion polls, which have little meaning this long before the actual primary voting takes place, the chances of The Donald becoming the GOP candidate next November are nil.

If you seriously think Trump could triumph, even given the weak field of hopefuls, then you are one of those people born every minute. Like Barnum, Trump is running to promote himself, not to serve his country. He is the temporary front runner of a dozen or so wannabes, but he has no viable ground support once the campaign starts in earnest. Nor does the GOP leadership want him to run.

Circus PosterThe fact that Trump dominates the news goes beyond the presidential campaign. His crusade against political correctness, in which he takes on Mexicans, women and now Muslims, resonates with a vocal segment of the American population. This is the macho, racist, jingoistic appeal that cuts across traditional parties and religious affiliations under the loose umbrella of tea party politics.

There is some irony in the ability of Trump to savage Latinos and women and not be knocked out of the running, but he finally seems to have run into a brick wall of protest in his tirade against all Muslims. It seems that with his recent call to stop all Muslims entering the United States he has done two distinct Muslim groups a favor. First, the floundering founders of ISIS are jumping for joy at a new recruiting tool for raw recruits of disgruntled youths from the West.

It is the perceived hatred of Islam that fuels the jihadis. But Trump has also given a welcome boost to the majority of American Muslims, who are as upset at the terrorism and jihadism propounded in the name of their faith as anyone, by their being the beneficiaries of a defense from the right. When Dick Cheney says it is unAmerican to discriminate against Muslims, you know Trump is in trouble.

Trump’s popularity on the right should not come as a surprise. After all, over half of Republicans currently say that President Obama is a Muslim. Trump’s long time insistence that Obama was not born an American citizen resonates well with this Republican majority. Trump appeals to those rightwingers who want America to be only a Christian nation and insist on only using English. As a lifetime member of the NRA, he falls into line with the anti-gun-control lobby. The poll numbers also reflect that he has the strongest support among those who are the least educated.

To claim that Trump is a Fascist or a Nazi is to miss the point. There is no ideology in his idiotic pronouncements apart from a desire to stay in the public’s eye. I doubt he actually has any real problem with the Islamic faith, which he no doubt is entirely ignorant of, but is simply taking his political incorrectness to its full extent with the latest news cycle. The worst thing anyone can do is take him seriously. He no more has a grasp of the issues a president needs to address than P.T. Barnum. As they say in Texas, he is all hat, even if his wavy hair seldom is donned with any kind of covering. He has made his run, and quite a successful one at that, but soon the media will dump him from the news cycle and put him back in the entertainment section where he belongs.

About the Author

- Anthropologist and historian with 40 years of experience researching and working in Yemen. Varisco is currently the President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, Senior Fellow at the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg of Bonn University, and an expert advisor to MENA Tidningen.

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