For Donald Trump, defying the odds in general elections will be a lot tougher
Bombastic billionaire may have secured Republican nomination for White House race, but taking on Hillary Clinton is a whole other ball game
Donald Trump has defied the odds, the critics, even those within his Republican Party who said he was unelectable. Having secured more votes than his rivals in elections for the party’s presidential nomination and each ideological opponent having now quit the race, his selection at the national convention in July is all but certain. But the bullying and outlandish tactics that have proven so popular with voters tired of traditional politicians will not work when it comes to taking on the Democrats’ Hillary Clinton for the US presidency. The television reality show he has turned campaigning into has to be replaced by policies and behaviour befitting a potential commander of the world’s most powerful economy and military.
There have so far been few signs of those attributes in Trump’s campaigning. He has bullied, insulted and out-shouted his rivals in ways that have put the US in the worst possible light. Mexicans have been referred to as rapists and Muslims told that they are not welcome in the US. These are the tactics used to win reality shows and have been deployed with great success now in politics.
Trump triumphed without laying out a single viable policy. Governments have been unnerved by rhetoric that to attain his pledge to “make America great again”, there may be a need for trade protectionism and security isolation. That would threaten the international trading system, alliances and the global economy.
His win in Indiana ensured the numbers to secure his party’s nomination and his last two Republican opponents, John Kasich and Ted Cruz, pulled out. Gradually, the party is giving its support to the billionaire who has a wealth of experience in business, but none in politics. Conservatives, particularly those from the religious right, and liberal Republicans, need more convincing and may prefer to either not vote on election day on November 8 or cast their ballot elsewhere. There are others among the electorate who, because of his crude and vulgar language, will think twice: women, Hispanics, African-Americans, Muslims, the overweight, the disabled and those who do not meet his ideal of beauty.
Clinton has her faults, as does the US political system, but experience in political office has taught her the value of moderation. Trump will have to move in that direction if he wants to be electable on the national stage. But he has already done great damage to his country’s reputation with his antics.