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There's Nothing Post-Truth About Poverty

21/06/2016 11:50

Donald Trump's rise to politics may appear as a soon-to-be-retired champion of Reaganomics, keen to make outlandishly false statements before being catapulted into oblivion. Trump's attempt to serve as a public official, however, is more conducive with 'truth telling' than any of us first thought, albeit on steroids. Trump has always had the ability to graft a specious sense of reality and project it back to us via the medium of television. Cast your mind back to 2009, when Mr Trump purchased WWE's Monday Night Raw from Vince McMahon, only to sell it back to the groveling CEO at twice the price. It is needless to mention that this was merely a storyline. This narrative, however, is believable enough because it relies on a loose sense of reality: a genuine billionaire playing the part of a billionaire buying a product that could conceivably be owned by Trump. Is it any wonder, then, that the Trump 'reality' brand has produced another hit: the Republican Party nomination?

Trump's ability to redefine the word reality, to mean both actual reality and a carefully crafted self-styled pseudo-television reality, has allowed him to play a plethora of different characters to a vast array of different consumers, including the American electorate. If you want to document the rise of a man who has warped the distinction between the tangible and the intangible then look no further than Donald Trump. After all, this is a presidential candidate who accepted an ALS ice-bucket challenge from Homer Simpson. Having discounted Donald Trump as a reality TV star only, where a dose of 'just laugh at him' 800 times a day is expected to fend off this pervasive virus, liberals scrambled for an alternate prognosis. As opponents dedicate more time to doing just this, Trump Shuttle touches down at another rally in a disaffected area of the country with an audience gagging to lend him an ear, and why wouldn't they?

An early indication that the American electorate might entertain an alternative approach to mainstream politics, was the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). President Bill Clinton promised an export boom that would result in a million jobs within the first five years. According the Economic Policy Institute, as Mexican imports outpaced American exports, job losses replaced job creation and by 2010 the Institute estimated that 682,900 U.S jobs had been eliminated. Bill Clinton proved he was a mistaken devotee of free trade ideology, not a saviour, just like the rest of its proponents. Keen to make amends for economic injustices, in 1997, the Clintons established the Clinton Foundation and diverted the vast majority of fund from the U.S to Latin America and Africa. For instance, in 2015, the foundation expended $143,041,357 - or 57.3% of its annual expenses - on the Health Access Initiative that helps improve access to health care for non-American, poor citizens. The foundation represents a philanthropic endeavour that must not be sneered at; however, when Bill Clinton's home state of Arkansas has a food insecurity rate of 19.9%, equating to nearly 1 in 5 people not having sufficient amounts of food, it seems that there is a lot of work still to be done at home. Bill Clinton's hometown of Hope, Arkansas, represents a symbolic flight of philanthropic dollars from poverty-stricken states to poverty stricken countries; creating a vacuum to be filled by anyone willing to voice the concerns of millions of hungry, poor, unemployed Americans. Cue Donald Trump.

Trump has focused nearly all of his campaign on job losses to foreign competitors. Despite the Financial Times interrupting to explain that Trump has over-exaggerated the job loss figures, his rhetoric portrays a sense of reality that is a lived experience for many Americans. Having absorbed this, Trump has successfully condensed this actuality into a narrative that reflects the grievance that the only export boom witnessed by many was that of their jobs, livelihood, and dignity. Therefore, Trump can continue to be sexist, racist, and even un-American in his views, because his slogan bears some truth: America is notcurrently great. Only a handful of statistics are required to highlight the partial-truth of his slogan: 46.7 million Americans live in poverty, 21.1% of children live in poverty, thousands of jobs losses in manufacturing, 48.1 million Americans live in food insecure households.

This may also be the reason that Bernie Sanders has been more successful than any of us first anticipated. Unfortunately, perhaps his platform of compassion and inclusion does not factor in the sheer urgency required to alter America's trajectory. Whether Trump is the redeemer of these social ills is irrelevant, as a political outsider, he has managed to grasp that America is not great and something - anything - needs to be done in order to assure the contrary. Trump has created his own Exceptionalist narrative: America can be great, if and only if, he is elected, and he can do it at half the cost and at twice as fast as his next competitor. As Democrats and Republicans alike continue to exacerbate an already dilapidated business model, it is unsurprising that millions of Americans are entrusting an insolvency consultant, eager for a return on their initial investment in the American Dream.

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