A populist represents an individual, particularly a politician, who endeavors to please the ordinary folks who have a feeling that their issues are ignored by the recognized elite leaders or groups. Therefore, the practices of populists seek to divide people instead of uniting them. A populist splits a country into two rival groups with the people considered pure on one side and the corrupt elites on the opposite segment. Populists claim to be geared by the will of the people and not their interests. The US is an example of a setting that political experts refer to as liberal democracy since it is anchored in pluralism, the notion that there are varying groups with diverse values and interests that are all genuine. On the contrary, populists are not pluralists since they only support a single group, which they call the people (Waisbord, 2018). One may anticipate that the populists’ argument will fail the moment that they gain power and become established. Nonetheless, they continue to depict themselves as being victimized even in government by blaming local and foreign elites for their failures. A populist’s mark is not in the people that they support but in their separation of a nation into two warring factions.
Could Donald Trump Be a Populist?
One of the fundamental aspects of Trump’s political practices is his condemnation of the supposedly incompetent leaders in the United States for a long time. When Donald Trump was commencing his presidential campaigns, he was not acting as a populist. Nevertheless, over time, he has come to portray himself as one in practices that make it possible to evaluate his actions or speech during an occasion. Trump’s political language encompasses the corrupt elite although he desists from classifying American citizens. In its place, his speech centers on himself and the Americans (Chilton, 2017). While announcing his candidature and beyond, Trump has been categorical that America is the best country internationally and requires a prudent leader. The remarks by Trump speaking at the National Convention signifies a transitional approach. He affirmed that he could fix the wrecked systems and promised to act as the advocate of the forgotten American citizens.
By the time of his inauguration, Trump’s change was evident through his rhetoric that was characteristic of a populist. He asserted that the day he assumed the presidency would be remembered as a time when the American people became leaders of the country again. Trump changed from openly acting as the ruler to portraying himself as a spokesperson of the people (Guiso et al., 2017). This made his supporters feel like a section of a country that was bigger than the president. It is at that point that his practice as a genius manifested. Earlier, it was a single person, the president, guiding everyone. Trump made the people feel part of the movement for which he was their voice, and this highly energized them. The ethical perspective of populism elucidates why a person such as Trump can imagine being the voice of the people while he is not a commoner. Trump does not make the affirmation that he is as rich as some individuals but the argument that he shares similar values with the pure people of which he is part. This is the point at which Donald Trump’s philosophical position becomes vanity.
Trump is not the genuine representative of the people because that cannot reconcile with unglamorous crowd sizes or low ballot numbers. His assumption of people’s representation also fails to match his inability to attain the popular vote, increased protests by citizens who feel that they are not well represented, and meager coverage of the guidelines the public wants. Furthermore, it is unfathomable how Trump’s populism generates occurrences that lead to the taking of extraordinary actions such as prohibiting migrants and refugees from all nations or compelling Mexico into contributing to a boundary wall. The validity of a populist is given by mass view and not personal proclamations (Elchardus, 2017). Trump lacks such legitimacy, which is evident from the loss of the popular ballot. He fails to have such acceptability either through experience or the party (Republican) that has in the past had a bad relationship with him. Such facts show that Trump’s claims are only mythical connections with the people. It is indubitable that Trump believes that he is a populist because the chances of his becoming increasingly elitist are higher than for anybody who has been constantly populist.
Although Trump has inconsistently been a populist, he has constantly differed with elites, shown a nativist boldness towards refugees and migrants, and established authoritarian streaks, all of which form part of his unparalleled philosophies. Authoritarians have the thought that the fundamental task of the state is to impose law and order, avoid chaos and disorder, and impulsively react to the arising challenges through pursuing the supposed basis of the problem. Most authoritarians evade democracy despite claiming to uphold it. Trump does not fit to be authoritarian and has never criticized the democratic pillars that establish that the person elected by most of the people should assume the leadership position. Trump appears convinced that he was voted by a majority of Americans, which was not the case (Yujie and Fengjie, 2018). Since that is his frame, Trump feels that everybody should agree with what he does because he has the authority of the people. He endeavors to highlight his democratic rightfulness by publicizing expressions of support. Understanding Trump necessitates comprehension of his regime, populism, nativism, and authoritarianism since he assumes all of them at different times.
Many professionals in the US affirm that President Trump should double on his populism motives without making it a form of his campaign tool. Trump presents the qualities of a populist while at other times he is not anti-elitist enough. His populism practices are mainly, though not fully, a means of style that is aggressive, slashing, emotive, impressive, and changeable. “He is a demagogue who, under the cover of a contrived populism that traffics in resentment of “the other,” pursues a plutocratic course that betrays the very people he tricked into voting against themselves” (Hulse, 2017, para. 1). Following an electioneering period where he rode on people’s economic insecurities, Trump seeks to reduce taxes that are mainly paid by corporations, companies, and some individuals. Nevertheless, this move will not work for their good as purported; on the contrary, it will affect their medical coverage negatively, dismember protections for employees, and allow the highest bidder to contaminate drinkable water while polluting the air. The planned actions have other undesirable impacts such as resisting an increment of the lowest wage and promotion of draconian reductions in loan programs meant for the learners from underprivileged backgrounds.
For Trump and his supporters, the plan of making the United States regain its greatness signifies that instead of the allegedly corrupt deep state network, the president will restore the lost golden privileges that will make all things in America virtuous and right. It is not a wonder that such a golden age has never existed, and the envisaged past only acts as an influential political instrument. Political influence is being established for the reelection of Trump in 2020 and possibly thereafter if he manages to remove term limits as assumed. The actions of Trump show that he is not a democrat nor a populist but more of an autocrat (Elchardus, 2017). Under his presidency, the democratic pillars upon which the United States was founded are corroding gradually.
As the leading figure in the autocratic approach, Donald Trump has not been ideological, at least not for traditional political status. On the contrary, his maintenance of populism is anchored in the central notion strongly articulated in his inaugural address. Trump asserted that “for too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost” (Aoki, 2018, p. 104). Trump’s previous promise of draining the swamp that fed the corrupt leaders worked well in the framework of a populist who was pledging to begin by overthrowing before reviving the entire system. Therefore, it was not astounding that electing Trump was authorizing him to operate in an authoritarian approach since he had planned to eliminate some traditional practices that he claimed were part of the corrupt network. The network is comprised of the judiciary (including judges and lawyers), politicians, the opposition party, professional intelligence representatives, civil servants, and journalists. Trump blamed the system for all that had not succeeded with his striking disapproval for constitutional term restrictions falling in the same category.
Previous populists backed the right of employees to create unions, have an 8-hour workday, and even strike when necessary. During presidential campaigns, Trump affirmed that he would like America to become a country with anti-union employee work laws (Chacko and Jayasuriya, 2017). His government has enacted protection guidelines that will make sure that employees in the US are safe in their workplaces, obtain reasonable wages and benefits, save for their future, and receive quality training and development. Moreover, the set strategies will ensure that Americans articulate their concerns without being victimized. He is of the view that public unions for workers should be abolished. Trump is a billionaire while many populists were underprivileged with the majority being disadvantaged farmers. Some of them were poor employees who resided in urban places, slums, or despondent camps where they toiled at poor pay and in dangerous working conditions while their employers did all they could to fight the creation of unions that could push for the rights of workers.
Contrary to the position taken by Trump, populists did not have a habit of demonizing the government. Instead, they embraced the government as their platform to rectify social and economic problems, in addition to the redistribution of wealth downward. Most populists encouraged a comprehensive practice by the government to support all employees and farmers. In contrast, the Republicans and Trump detest regulations that safeguard the employees’ rights to become established or bargain jointly. They fail to acknowledge the fact that employment laws will enhance the protection of their security and health while defending consumers against substandard and dangerous items, over and above safeguarding the surroundings against contaminators. Both Trump and his party have the conviction that the government has minimal or no accountability to assist the people in need (Inglehart and Norris, 2017). Their actions seem to be keeping the government on the periphery except when enriching the already affluent or fighting employees’ unions out of the work environment. Referring to Trump as a populist is tantamount to undermining the idea of populism. People should refrain from calling Donald Trump a populist because he is not one.
A populist signifies an individual, mainly a politician, who seeks to please the ordinary folks who have fears that their issues are overlooked by the recognized elite leaders or groups. One may expect that the populists’ argument will wane the moment that they get into power and become reputable. However, they continue to portray themselves as being mistreated even in government by blaming indistinct local and foreign elites for their catastrophes. A populist’s identity is not in the people that they back but in their separation of a country into two warring groups. Trump is not the authentic representative of the people as he claims because such an affirmation fails to reconcile with his failure to attain the popular vote. Additionally, the assertions do not correspond with increased objections by citizens who feel that he does not represent them sufficiently. Under Trump’s leadership, there is skimpy coverage of strategies that the public needs. Understanding Trump requires comprehending his regime, populism, nativism, and autocracy since he assumes each of them at different times. People should avoid calling Donald Trump a populist since he is not one.
Aoki, K. (2018) ‘Where have all the laborers gone? Forgotten workers in twin peaks and the virgin suicides’, Correspondence: Hitotsubashi Journal of Arts and Literature, 3, pp. 103-124.
Chacko, P. and Jayasuriya, K. (2017) ‘Trump, the authoritarian populist revolt and the future of the rules-based order in Asia’, Australian Journal of International Affairs, 71(2), pp. 121-127.
Chilton, P. (2017) ‘“The people” in populist discourse: using neuro-cognitive linguistics to understand political meanings’, Journal of Language and Politics, 16(4), pp. 582-594.
Elchardus, M. (2017) ‘Declinism and populism’, Clingendael Spectator, 71, pp. 3-5.
Guiso, L. et al. (2017) Demand and supply of populism. London: Centre for Economic Policy Research.
Hulse, C. (2017) Trump’s message: ask what your government has done to you’, Politico Magazine, (August). Web.
Inglehart, R. and Norris, P. (2017) ‘Trump and the populist authoritarian parties: the silent revolution in reverse’, Perspectives on Politics, 15(2), pp. 443-454.
Waisbord, S. (2018) ‘Why populism is troubling for democratic communication’, Communication Culture & Critique, 11(1), pp. 21-34.
Yujie, Z. and Fengjie, L. (2018) ‘Transitivity analysis of American President Donald Trump’s inaugural address’, International Journal of Literature and Arts, 6(2), pp. 28-34.