Trump’s presidential campaign, which seemed to us a very bad-taste joke when it began, has taken The Apprentice’s big dog in a bad wig Donald Trump to the front of the polls as preferred Republican candidate. But once you wade through the cesspit of media sensationalism, unflattering cartoons and outraged Facebook comments and start to take him seriously as a candidate, what does Trump really stand for? What kind of America will he strive to build if elected, and does his status as a billionaire and businessman really stand him in good stead to run a country?
At first glance, it seems to make perfect economic sense to have a successful businessman like Trump at the helm, but precedent shows that businessmen-turned-presidents (including Herbert Hoover, Warren Harding and both George Bush Jnr and Snr) have been notoriously unpopular with voters and historians alike. A government is not a business, and Congress is unlikely to be moved by Trump’s my-way-or-the-highway attitude.
Trump stands against raising the minimum wage, saying that it makes America less competitive, but is quick to remind the press that he has personally “created thousands of jobs and a great company”. Trump has claimed many times to be self-funding his campaign – however, very little digging is required to discover that he has received almost $4 million in “unsolicited donations”, far surpassing the $2 million that he has personally contributed.
Trump’s stance on immigration and the explicitly racist statements that he has made to accompany it (referring to Mexican immigrants as killers and rapists, for a start) has brought him a lot of attention, spawning significant debate and internet memes alike. Stating that he wants to build walls on America’s borders and ship millions back to Mexico, as well as claiming that Syrian refugees are a Trojan Horse and that Muslims should be temporarily banned from entering America, it is fair to say that non-progressive immigration reform would be high on Trump’s list of priorities if he became president.
Not much of an environmentalist, Trump has declared that he does not believe in climate change and, indeed, believes that it is a concept invented “by and for the Chinese to make US manufacturing non-competitive” despite extensive scientific study on the matter. He later admitted, in a very confusing statement, that “[he is] not saying there is zero but not nearly to the extent that [other’s say]” , and has also announced plans to cut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after labelling their work “a disgrace”.
He also plans to reduce the budget for both the Department of Education and the Common Core (a set of education/testing standards across all states of America, decided upon by state education chiefs and governors), saying that he is in favour of “local education” and that children should not be “educated by Washington, DC, bureaucrats”. This localised approach has the potential to discriminate against students in low-income or poorly serviced areas.
Referring to Obamacare as a “catastrophe that must be repealed and replaced”, Trump offers little suggestion of a solution. He does agree with Ben Carson’s push for Health Savings Accounts. A HSA works similarly like an Australian superannuation account – the account owner contributes money, which can be invested or withdrawn to pay for medical expenses without being taxed. HSA amounts and benefits roll over each year. However, individuals and families must have a high deductible health plan to use a HSA, and this doesn’t cover the significant numbers of average, uninsured Americans that Obamacare aimed to reach. Trump has previously suggested moving to a system that mirrors the Canadian healthcare system, in which the government acts as insurer.
Describing himself as “a big Second Amendment person”, Trump is definitely pro-gun ownership but also states that the regularity of mass shootings in America is due to mental health issues, attributing the shootings to “sick people…mentally imbalanced” rather than inadequate gun control. He adds that he thinks copycats are more likely to see the gun violence in America. However, his proposed plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act could leave significantly more Americans uninsured and unable to access the mental health services of which he speaks.
Trump is by no means a champion of civil rights. While he openly favoured abortion rights in 1999, he has recently flip-flopped, saying that Planned Parenthood should “absolutely be defunded”. Although he asserted earlier last year that “marriage is between a man and a woman”, he has accepted that gay marriage “is a reality”. Not a positive response, but at least a small improvement on his previous position.
He has referred to women in the past as “fat pigs”, “dogs” and “slobs”, both on his Twitter account and in person. Queried at the first GOP debate about his attitude towards women and his use of this dehumanising language to describe them, Trump casually responded that he only spoke that way about television personality Rosie O’Donnell. He has also made several sexual comments about his daughter over the years – most recently that she's “really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren't happily married and, ya know, her father…”. Fill in the blanks however you will – it’s not a pretty picture. When his sexist comments are pointed out for what they are, he waves the criticism off by stating that he doesn’t “have time for total political correctness” and points out he is not a misogynist because he has previously “put women in charge of big construction jobs”.
Although he proposed to strengthen military but act only defensively in October last year, he has also said that America must “deal with the maniac in North Korea with nukes” and suggested at a Columbus rally that “waterboarding and other interrogation methods” be resurrected.
In short, Donald Trump wants to halt immigration and increase deportation; he wants to prevent the raising of minimum wage and replace Obamacare with the Health Savings Account; he plans to cut the Department of Education budget and scrap the Environmental Protection Agency; he has no intention of implementing gun control but may try to increase the availability of mental health services instead; he may push for an amendment on gay marriage but has been consistently disrespectful to women prior to and during his campaign. His campaign is built around that old-fashioned notion of the American Dream which is apt as he seems to be looking backward to the past rather than imagining a stronger future.