Trump and the Rise of the Media-Industrial Complex in American Politics


Insight Turkey Volume 19 No. 3, 2017

Political pundits of all stripes and many political scientists have misread the prospects for Trump’s Presidency. Trump's election as the American President was seen almost as an ‘impossible’ venture on numerous grounds, but most notably, the Republican Party elite stood against his candidacy right from the onset and tried to block him. After all, the motto the ‘party decides’ is not just the title of a widely read political science book, it is an historical fact. And yet, against all odds, Donald J. Trump won the 2016 presidential race after a year and a half long, uphill battle becoming, the 45th President of the United States. A neophyte in politics, Trump avoided mainstream ideologies or affiliations, including that of the Republican Party itself. Instead, he appealed to the economic and physical fears of the voters with his politically incorrect messages and white nationalism. Seven months into the presidency, Trump has already deeply shaken the political order and the body politic as he continues the rebellion against the national and international liberal order since the primaries. Violating the norms (and sometimes rules) of democratic government has meanwhile become the order of the day. The growing political reaction to the Trump administration and the emergent showdown between different social forces has become a worrying fiat of American politics.

While controversies and debates abound, there is little analysis of the context and factors leading to his presidency and shaping his politics. The liberal wild card (Trump won, but Russia swayed the 2016 U.S. elections) often conceals from view a significant episode that involves new players and dynamics shifting the Republican Party and U.S. politics to the far right, which significantly contributed to Trump’s election. Why did the U.S. electorate radically alter its behavior and choose a candidate outside of the established Washington elite or political-economic order? Why did the preferences of U.S. citizens differ this time? Who will govern now? Admittedly fully addressing such questions would be difficult; nonetheless, it is necessary to pin down the factors, actors and context behind Trump's success. The success is often explained away as stemming from voter bases’ revenge, identity, ‘white men rage,’ ‘authoritarian voters,’ leadership-charisma and so on. Such views ignore, however, the political-economic structures and the underlying changes that have taken place in American politics.

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