The rise of Trump: 140 characters, anti-establishment or celebrity factor?

Donald Trump is a product of an age where we like our news in 140 characters. His outrageous comments scream to be made into memes. Trump is using social media technology to his advantage having accounts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Vine, Instagram and Periscope. In a 24/7 news cycle he always gives the goods. Our instant news era means we have a constant demand for news however trivial. This has help enable Trump, who lacks serious political experience and expertise, to become the nominee of the G.O.P.

However that is only part of the story and it cannot be denied that he has tapped into a feeling some Americans have about not getting a fair deal. His ‘say it like it is’ uncensored remarks have appealed greatly to many Americans who have been turned off by the political establishment’s polished, focus-group approved political narratives.

Donald Trump is one of the least experienced Presidential candidates in history. Trump would be the only President to have never held public office or served in the military and he's the only major nominee with no public office or military experience besides Wendell Willkie and Horace Greeley.

Trump straddles the worlds of politics, business and entertainment but is reported on more as a celebrity than as a serious politician and as such isn’t held to account by the press for what he says. Trump is not being held accountable for the negative consequences his words may inspire such as the violence at his campaign rallies.

Trump is testament to the cliché there is no such thing as bad publicity. Despite controversial comments which would have sunk the campaigns of any other politician, he seems to get more popular the more outrageous and offensive his remarks are which again is perhaps symptomatic of the Digital Age.

Two groups who Trump seems to focus most of his vitriol on are woman and Latinos which is perverse considering these are two groups Republicans are struggling with and who need to make inroads in with to win big in November.#As Hillary Clinton said of Trump, ‘He makes a habit of insulting women’. His misogynistic treatment of Fox news anchor Megyn Kelly is infamous. His gratuitous comment ‘You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her, wherever’ implying Kelly must be menstruating because of the tough debate questions she gave him beggars belief.

Even women in his own party have felt the brunt of his misogynistic attacks. Regarding his Republican opponent Carly Fiorina, Trump said, ‘Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?’

Trump’s most controversial and offensive comment has been his following comment about Mexicans: ‘When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.’  The fact that this vitriolic statement didn’t kill his presidential chances is testament to the unique phenomenon his candidacy is.

Perhaps more than any other presidential candidate since Barack Obama, Trump has been able to successfully harness the power of social media. Unlike most politicians, his tweets seem like they are personally written by him which gives him an authenticity. He also interacts more with followers than most politicians, often retweeting members of the public.

From a British perspective, the thought of a Trump presidency is both comical and terrifying. The obvious British equivalent is our new Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson - himself a politician who has used celebrity and a comic public persona to further his own political ambition.

Donald Trump as a presidential nominee is a symbol of the zeitgeist and a product of instant news, the cult of celebrity and public disillusion with the status quo. It’s up to Democrats to make sure it’s curtains up for ‘The Donald Trump Show’. As Elizabeth Warren tweeted in regards to Trump; ‘Your policies are dangerous. Your words are reckless. Your record is embarrassing. And your free ride is over’. Democrats and the media need to make sure Donald Trump’s free ride is over and he is held accountable for his words.

Cllr Marielle O'Neill is a Labour and Co-operative Councillor for Batley West and a Young Fabians member

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