by Njoki Mahiaini, 9th December 2015
1) Never underestimate your opponent
I’ve learned the hard way not to write-off anyone who runs for political office. I made that mistake once in 2008 when I scoffed at the notion of the libertarian Boris Johnson becoming mayor of a city as liberal and diverse as London. I’m ashamed to say I made the same mistake a few months ago when Jeremy Corbyn stood for the Labour leadership. Until the early polls were published, I thought his chances of success against three experienced and well-known candidates were precisely zero but, remembering the Johnson debacle and with Corbyn’s lead in the polls growing week on week, I soon changed my mind. Around the same time, Donald J Trump announced that he would be running for president of the United States. He was met with near-universal derision. Nevertheless, much as I wanted to dismiss the move as an egomaniac’s next logical step, I knew I couldn’t make the same mistake thrice.
Just when we thought a Hawaiian-born, (partly) Indonesia-raised, African-American named Barack Obama was destined to remain the 21st Century’s unlikeliest candidate for the presidency, in walks Donald Trump. While Obama’s photogenic family, Ivy League education and legal background proved he had far more in common with his predecessors than first perceived, Trump has made his name in the presidential race by giving the opposite impression. With every sexist comment, every racist jibe and each inflammatory statement, he distances himself further from the political mainstream while cementing his place in the hearts and minds of what he affectionately dubs ‘the silent majority’.
2) A reputation takes a lifetime to build, a moment to destroy
In some ways, Trump is simply the Bible’s Goliath in a lounge suit. Physically imposing, well-resourced and not short of confidence, Goliath shows us in 1 Samuel 17:8-10 that he is willing to gamble not only his own reputation but the freedom of his people the Philistines – so certain is he of success.
“Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, ‘Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.’”
By running such an unpredictable campaign, Trump has put his eponymous global brand on the line as well as the credibility of the Republican Party whose more moderate supporters must be anxious beyond measure at the electoral consequences a Trump candidacy could have. However, Trump’s actions have not been without repercussions. Following his infamous speech on Mexican immigration to the US where he stated “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people” Trump received widespread public condemnation. Moreover, he faced a severe backlash from Hispanic academics, business-owners (including a TV network who dropped the Trump-owned Miss World contest from its schedules) and Republican colleagues who said they would not vote for him even if he became their presidential candidate. With around 17% of the US population being of Hispanic and Latino origin, it is a blow from which Trump will struggle to recover.
3) You can be a Christian without being Christ-like
It will come as no surprise to anyone that Donald Trump has declared himself a proud Christian. It is, rightly or wrongly, practically a pre-requisite of running for the US presidency. Trump has stated that his favourite book is the Bible although his own bestselling book – The Art of the Deal comes a close second. Yet, in examining Trump’s character through his words and actions, I see little evidence of the person of Christ who he claims to follow. Even so, that is not to say he’s not a believer. Alas it is often the case that our behaviour as Christians falls far short of the standard God has set (Romans 3:23). Take for example world-champion heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury (nominative determinism perfectly demonstrated) and his Trump-esque record for sexism and perceived homophobia. Like Trump, Fury’s outspoken nature underwritten by religious fervour make for a volatile and hugely divisive combination. Both may be Christians but, where they are unrepentant, unwelcoming, unforgiving and unkind they are nothing like Christ.
It remains to be seen whether Trump’s peculiar brand of politics manages to convince his party that he is a president in waiting. Even so, what is clear is that his candidacy has set alight the Republican campaign and, if selected, the fiery New Yorker will have to work hard to mend some of the many bridges he has burned along the way.