The ‘Trump effect’ backfires
Real estate tycoon Donald Trump’s presidential bid is stirring up American politics. He recently made provocative remarks when he declared his candidacy. “The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. .?.?. 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,” he said.
Consequently, the Mexican government admonished him harshly, and Macy’s, NBC and Spanish-language network Univision ended business relationships with Trump. The football club LA Galaxy canceled a charity event at a golf course owned by Trump. There are many other cases of rejections and cancellations over his remarks. However, in opinion polls, Trump came in second after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush among the Republican candidates. The “Trump effect” reveals the dilemma of the Republican Party in the United States.
In the CNN/ORC poll in late June, Trump got 12 percent of voter support among the Republican candidates, following Bush’s 19 percent. They were the only two candidates with more than 10 percent. In the same poll in late May, Trump had garnered 3 percent support, but his popularity got a boost after the “Mexican rapist” remarks. Trump’s rise is backed by core Republican voters: Among the respondents who identify themselves as “conservative,” Trump and Bush got equal support at 12 percent. In the demographic over 50 years of age, both Trump and Bush got 14 percent. Trump’s growing popularity is based on the conservative, senior voters. They felt vicarious satisfaction when Trump voiced their opinion about illegal immigrants.
But Trump is not a dark horse threatening the Democratic Party’s Hillary Clinton. In the same survey, Clinton had a significant lead over Trump with 59 percent versus 34 percent. While Trump successfully captured the attention of the conservative voters with the Mexican remarks, it was insignificant for overall voters. He stole support from other Republican candidates, but not from Democrats.
Opinion polls show that no Republican candidate can win against Clinton in any matchup scenario. Therefore, the Republican Party must gain support by taking the votes from Clinton supporters. However, in the battle within the party, candidates can only get more support with clear direction. That’s why the Democratic Party welcomes the Trump effect. The more Republicans focus on appealing to conservatives, the more they end up driving away non-conservative voters.
The Trump effect can be applied to Korean politics as well. Both the United States and Korea have serious political polarization. When there is a clear line between allies and enemies, it is easy and convenient to bring the supporters together with provocative remarks highlighting clear direction. But the politicians need to learn that the tactic weakens competitiveness in the long run and leaves the nation divided in the end.
The author is a Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 7, Page 30
by CHAE BYUNG-GUN