Donald Trump is a candidate who needs no introduction. He has surprised many to become the republican front runner thanks to – or perhaps despite – his outspoken style. Behind the rhetoric, what does he actually stand for, and can he hold his lead to win the nomination?
Who is he?
Thanks to the huge popular and media interest in his campaign, as well as his pre-existing celebrity status, Trump’s story is well known. The son of a businessman, he was born in New York and after leaving his private school due to behavioural problems, received his education at a military academy. He went on to study economics at the University of Pennsylvania and avoided being drafted to Vietnam thanks to having heel spurs in his feet. After University he followed his father into property investment and construction and has assets across America and the globe. While property remains the largest part of his portfolio, he has invested in everything from Facebook to steaks, model agencies to vodka and boardgames.
It was through his investments that he made a name for himself, and even before his presidential campaign he was one of the most well-known businessmen in America. He spent considerable time and money developing his personal brand and creating an association between his name and successful business ventures. As part of this strategy he has appeared in numerous television shows such as The Apprentice, and even took part in a WWE wrestling match. While he bills himself as a successful businessman and undoubtedly has a high number of assets, he has also gone bankrupt five times and inherited large amounts from his father.
While Trump has long been outspoken on political issues, he has not been directly involved in politics for very long. He has donated money to the campaign of both Republicans and Democrats and was involved in the ‘birther’ movement that demanded proof that President Obama was born in the USA. He has discussed running for President several times in the past but never followed through on his plan until the current nomination campaign.
What are his policies?
Trump’s policies can be hard to pin down, and many have pointed out how his public statements often contradict each other. It seems likely however, that he would take a tough stance on subjects such as immigration and international relations. He has famously talked about building a wall along the border with Mexico, as well as making disparaging comments about Mexicans and Central Americans in general. He wants to end the birthright to citizenship of illegal immigrants in the USA, as well as tripling the number of immigration officers. He also drew criticism for proposing a total ban on Muslims entering the country. His statements on ISIS are contradictory, but he has at times expressed support for sending troops to Iraq. He has expressed a degree of respect for Putin’s strong stance in Syria and leadership style, believing that the goals of Russia and the USA are aligned in the Middle East. He also believes that China is using trade to undermine the USA and that a tougher stance must be taken to combat this.
On the domestic front, Trump holds typical republican positions. He wants to abolish Obama’s medicare system – saying that it takes too much tax money to uphold. He is also a vocal supporter of the right to bare arms, and wants to lower taxes (and government spending) to reduce, what he sees as, government interference in business.
Can he win?
Trump has surprised many by taking a strong lead in the Republican race, despite his lack of political connections and his extreme statements. Many expected his novelty to wear off, and the established Republican party – as well as left-wingers and moderates across the world – have expressed alarm at his success. Despite this, his popularity shows now sign of waning and he currently has 458 of the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination. His closest rival Cruz trails with 359, while third placed Rubio has just 151. About ¼ of the republican delegates are already committed, meaning that Trump winning is now a real possibility and time is running out for his competitors to catch up and overtake him. In two days – on March 15th – the important states of Florida and Ohio will vote, and a strong win in these states could see his lead become almost unassailable.
If Trump becomes the republican candidate, he will face either Clinton or Sanders in the presidential election later this year. If he were to face Clinton, the battle would be between the political mainstream (represented by Clinton) and Trump’s radical alternative politics. It remains to be seen if his right-wing views and outbursts would alienate moderate republicans and hand the presidency to Clinton – it was expected that this would have already happened during the nomination contest but it has not. A presidential contest against Sanders would be much more polarising with both representing the dissatisfied, anti-establishment side of their parties and the political spectrum. Many politically moderate Americans would find neither candidates to their liking and it would be hard to predict a winner. In that scenario however, one thing would be for sure – the problems with American politics would no longer be ignorable, and for better or worse the beleaguered system would likely come under scrutiny and change.