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In Rise Of Trump, A Modi Triumph? – OpEd


By Aijaz Zaka Syed

In America, said Adlai Stevenson Jr, any boy may become president and I suppose it is just one of the risks he takes. Seriously though, it looks like the United States may be all set to elect its most obnoxious, divisive and bigoted president yet. Donald ‘Teflon’ Trump, once shrugged off as a big joke and minor nuisance, has emerged ahead of the pack, setting the cat among the pigeons.

The billionaire candidate is intolerably cruel, racist and revels in purveying hatred and bigotry. And yet he has been on a roll, winning primary after primary. On Tuesday, he won the Nevada caucus and now enjoys an unassailable 46.5% vote share.

The Republican nomination may already be in the bag and the battle for White House may eventually narrow down to a Trump versus Clinton thriller.

Given the many chinks in the former first lady’s shining armor and the popular yearning for change after eight years of a Democratic and ‘no-drama Obama’ presidency, Trump’s supporters may be forgiven for concluding that their candidate stands a fair chance, however outrageous the idea may be to the country’s ethnic and religious minorities.

But Trump’s stunning ascendancy is no flash in the pan. As Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times argues, it has been the logical and inevitable outcome of the myopic, intolerant politics that the Republican right has been practicing all these years.

The Republican front-runner “is the consequence of irresponsible politicking by Republican leaders — the culmination of decades of cultivating unrealistic expectations within the politics of resentment,” argues the New York Times columnist, reminding eerily me of my own country where similar ‘toxic politics of fear and resentment’ not too long ago paved the way for our own Trump.

From calling the Latinos rapists and criminals to demanding a blanket ban on Muslims, and from insulting African Americans to singling out women and immigrants for scorn, Trump loves to hate just about everyone.

The rest of the world may scratch its head in bafflement at the growing popularity of a candidate like Trump but as far as the Americans are concerned — at least white, Christian majority — they seem to love everything he says and does. The candidate’s popularity ratings have been shooting up not despite his intemperate, hateful barbs but because of them.

In his brief, eventful journey, the candidate has spread so much sweetness and light all around that many Americans are beginning to miss Barack Obama’s quiet dignity and respect with which he has treated his bitterest of adversaries and critics.

David Brooks, another New York Times columnist on the right, recently surprised everyone by declaring how amid the ongoing presidential campaign he is beginning to miss Obama. Noting the sharp “decline in behavioral standards across the board,” Brooks praises the integrity and basic humanity of the incumbent: “Many of the traits of character and leadership that Obama possesses have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply.”

Brooks also has a word of praise for Obama for choosing to visit the Baltimore mosque and standing with Muslims at a time when Trump and everyone else is picking on the community. Which, coming from a conservative pundit, is really something.

After his ambitious start on the Middle East, Obama dropped the issue like a hot potato after running into the blind wall of Israeli intransigence.

Returning to the phenomenon called Trump, what I find most fascinating about the candidate is the predictable and tested script of his campaign and the uncanny, unmistakable parallels with Prime Minister Modi’s breathtaking leap from Gujarat to Delhi. I don’t know if the Republican front-runner has met the Indian leader but apparently there exists much mutual admiration.

Like our hero who carefully cultivated his larger-than-life image and a cult following as a strong leader who knows how to deal with the pesky Pakistan and endlessly multiplying ranks of Muslims and ‘Bangladeshi infiltrators’, Trump has burnished his credentials as a tough-talking, no-nonsense strongman who could make America great again, whatever that means!

And as in India where the corporate media with the blessings of big business whitewashed 2002 and gave birth to the legend of a hardworking, incorruptible and assertive leader as against a soft-spoken, self-effacing prime minister, the US media hasn’t played an insignificant role in shaping the Trump candidacy. Ignoring his many scandals, profligacy and sheer meanness, he has been projected as a successful business baron with old-fashioned commonsense!

No wonder Trump has found support in the influential Indian American community which has formed a committee to support the candidate who they see as the “best hope for America.” A member of the Indian Americans for Trump committee told BBC that only a strong leader like Trump could take on the challenge of “Islamic terrorism” and illegal immigration.

Notwithstanding their own roots, Indian Americans have little patience for the nuisance called migrants and refugees and strongly support Trump’s call to build a high wall along the border with Mexico to keep out all those illegals and Muslims. They also believe Trump could and should join hands with their hero Modi in this mission to take on the global Islam.

Back home in India, the media went gaga when Trump had a passing word of praise for India during a chat with CNN saying India is doing great but no one is talking about it. The remark was made in comparison to China of course which Trump not surprisingly loves running down. Yet it was enough to set off celebrations all round, ignoring the many sterling qualities of candidate Trump.

Many are already dreaming about a grand Indian American alliance against you know who. After all, top US multinationals from Microsoft to Google to Pepsi are already headed by Indian Americans and the Silicon Valley is teeming with Indian techies. This could be a win-win partnership between the two great democracies. So what if it is brought about by the rise of the rabid Right that refuses to see beyond its nose?

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Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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