“There is certainly a good chance that Trump will be re-elected for a second term” was the shocking reply of a friend, an American academic, in answer to a question about the 2020 US presidential elections. Apart from US President Donald Trump’s controversial engagement in the Middle East, I am distressed at the thought that the world may have to live for another four years with the “Trump phobia” deliberately produced by the US media despite his legitimate presidency.
Many American media outlets that often operate within a corporate mission are key influencers in the evolution of our world, and they shape the minds of Americans who bring to power political candidates who eventually lead it. Additionally, many of the false perceptions that have been engraved in the minds of Americans and others were either created by the unintentional ignorance of the American media or deliberately articulated for hidden reasons.
Trump is indeed a confrontational, impulsive person who lacks many of the competences and skills that often come with US presidents. The exceptional political context has empowered some of the political scholars and pundits who dominate the American intellectual scene to flaunt their superiority over Trump’s instinctive approach by creating egoistical arguments from within their academic disciplines while declining to acknowledge that Trump came to power through the will of American citizens.
Politics is the exclusive business of politicians, especially in the United States, a nation that has functioning democratic mechanisms. American authors are entitled to speak their minds freely since they are protected by their nation’s rule of law that defines their role in a well-articulated democratic system. However, expressing personal opinions is completely different to trying to give voice to those of the bulk of the electorate, which is an essential ingredient of democracy that is rarely found in the American media today.
“Americans were fed up with people who knew better and wanted to vote for a person who knew less,” said one famous American media pundit when trying to explain the reasons behind Trump’s ascension to the presidency. Apparently, Americans, who have a privileged position in this world and live in a well-functioning democratic nation, are also human creatures trying hard to convey a message to their ruling elites, who then decline to listen.
At the beginning of Trump’s 2016 presidential elections campaign, I perceived him as a political “miscarriage,” expecting him to slip quite early in the primaries. Obviously, I was mistaken. While we can easily accept that Trump’s first presidential term was some kind of mistake, a second potential term in office cannot be seen as anything other than a clear endorsement from American voters that the media insists on neglecting.
Ordinary Americans tend to admit their limited knowledge about the rest of the world, even though the Internet and other forms of technology could easily expand their horizons. Many Americans seem to prefer to follow events through their favourite media channels, which work on shaping their minds, digging out facts that will help them to learn more about the world’s pivotal challenges.
The American political elites have been working hard to constrain Trump’s presidential powers, seeing him as a non-politician who has managed to penetrate the American political system and occupy the Oval Office. Nevertheless, they are not willing to address the possibility of altering the ruling system that brought Trump to power, a system that is not politically rewarding for most American citizens but that still serves the ruling elites best.
The intensive media harassment of which Trump has been the victim over the past few years should have diminished his political career and prevented him from coming to power. However, the fact that Trump still has an average approval rating of nearly 43 per cent in the polls and stands a good chance of being re-elected, should signal to the US media that many American citizens are dissatisfied with the ruling elites, including those that control the media.
*The writer is a liberal politician
* *A version of this article appears in print in the 18 July, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: The US media and Trump