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Donald Trump: Thanks For All The Shock

28/10/2016 13:41

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What a ghastly spectacle the American presidential election has become: Tawdry, tendentious and abusive. And how we love it.

This really has been the antidote to politics as some dried out, dull search for middle ground by equally matched professional power pursuers. Finally we're all getting to indulge in the sort of emotions normally triggered by something eye-popping over the fence at Halloween. It is hard to remember not very long ago when politics was all about a careful triangulation towards the centre ground if you wanted to win power. Not now. Heir to Blair? More like heir to Blair Witch.

Donald Trump may not have elevated any debate or convinced anyone about his respect for women, but he has certainly engaged people with political process. If Hillary Clinton wasn't up against The Donald her campaign would have been wise to invent him.

Not that Mr Trump's bombastic behaviour, name calling, divisive positions and the accusations surrounding him are anything to shrug off. But they do make for a vivid challenger, someone to vote firmly for or against. I doubt anyone is sitting on the fence.

My personal bet is that more people will vote in this presidential election that any in recent history, which will reflect a level of engagement that democratic politics everywhere needs.

American voters have certainly been given a lot of extra-curricular activity to pore over. 'Trump and sex' pumped into Google produces more results (131 million) than 'Trump and economics'. But that still produces 113 million results, so people are clearly paying attention to the other stuff, too.

Of course, it's all really none of my business, except as a spectator with a general interest on the next incumbent leader-of-the-free-world. But the Brexit vote here, regularly cited by The Donald, is where the real spice to our fascination lies. We know from recent experience that polls and gut instinct can be plain wrong if unexpected forces are unleashed. What people say to polling organisation and do in the polling booth is now consistently different, if the experience from our last general election and the Brexit poll is any guide.

Politicians in the rest of the world may have noticed this, and perhaps it explains the sharp tack away from the centre we have seen from Mr Trump. There is every sign that the Republican presidential campaign has given up trying to build any kind of consensus or rainbow coalition of interests to represent, having barely bothered to try in the first place. Instead, it's heading for alienated and angry white men. Whether there are enough to swing it for Trump is questionable. Most polls have Mrs Clinton, who has run a calm policy-rich campaign, comfortably ahead. We shall see.

Historically, politics was often both highly personal and highly combative, but eventually settled by the Twentieth Century into a sort of cutting civility (think Michael Gove). Trump is really only taking Americans back to a more showman-like past: Gasps and outrage being the equivalent to bread and circuses as attention-grabbers in a social media era with short attention spans.

The presidential election is also particularly fascinating this time around because it just might be a proxy, as Brexit became, for other forms of fury trying to find an outlet. We might be angered, aghast and amazed at what has been said over the past months by Donald Trump. But nobody could say he hasn't provided us all with something to talk and twitter about. We may miss him.

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