Tuesday, January 23, 2024
Year : 2, Issue : 4
It’s a week since Donald Trump stormed to victory in Iowa. The polls predicted he would do well, but that didn’t make this first test of his re-electability any less remarkable. The four-times indicted, twice impeached, election-denying, global agitator won in all but one of the state’s 99 counties.
It was unprecedented on many levels. He secured 51% of the vote, winning by a margin of 30 points. For the former president’s many supporters, it represents the beginning of his second coming. His road back to the White House is clearer, they think.
But many in America and wellbeyond are baffled and alarmed. Why is a man so divisive, so polarising, so surrounded by chaos, so popular still?
As America’s media pundits packed up their glitzy pop-up Iowa studios and headed east back to their metropolitan bases.
Over the past few years, They are more like rock concerts than political events and they are where you’ll find the diehards; the people who’ll seemingly do anything for Mr Trump. They are the people for whom he is more than a political leader. He’s worshipped.
There is genuinely a strange gravity at the rallies. Conspiracies swirl. Truth and fiction blur. Reason is absent. The people at the rallies represent his base of support but they alone didn’t win him the White House before and they won’t do it again.
He won the White House in 2016 by convincing a broader group that he was the answer. In 2020, he failed to convince enough Americans that he deserved another four years, losing to Joe Biden. But now he hopes Iowa is the indicator that he can turn it all around again this November.
To the west of Iowa is Nebraska. It’s a conservative heartland. Farming is the main industry.
It’s the start of a journey to understand the broader and apparently enduring appeal of Mr Trump – beyond the rallies. First stop is the small town of Prague and a meeting with farmer Mike Kubik. His business is grain, his politics is conservative and his life is good.
Mr Kubik’s experience is a reflection of Nebraska’s economy. The midwestern state has among the nation’s largest gains in personal income, and unemployment is low.
Economically his experience mirrors the national story, too. America is booming but it’s not trickling down; people aren’t feeling it. “Our economy is going down,” Mr Kubik tells me from across his kitchen table.
“We’ve more than doubled our fuel costs. Our chemicals have gone up, our fertilizer has gone up, the cost of equipment has gone up. Food is terrible, and our government doesn’t seem to care.” Mr Kubik’s story reflects the puzzle of American politics right now. There is a disconnect between perception and reality in America.
Mr Kubik’s lot may be good, but it just felt better before. There is a lingering nostalgia compounded by stubborn inflation.
Mr Kubik adds: “Our government is not getting deals done, the export – our grain. It is hurting our bottom line, our prices are dropping.”
As we talk, Mr Kubik conveys a multi-layered nervousness – about the economy, about the “woke” direction of the nation, and about global security – all of which seem far removed from his good Nebraskan life.
Mr Kubik points out that no wars began under Mr Trump.
President Biden is managing two and is exposing the limited worth of American leadership – with Israel-Gaza, Russia-Ukraine and China’s century-defining rise.
He presents an argument you hear over and over among supporters of the former president – that Russian President Vladimir Putin wouldn’t have dared invade Ukraine with Mr Trump in the White House – a point Mr Trump likes to run with, probably because it’s neatly unprovable.
Trump ‘not afraid’ of ‘chaos’
At one level or another, most here are in agriculture. Deeper into Nebraska, my next conversation is with crop scientist Trey Stephens.
“I think now in these last four years, I haven’t felt a lot of attention to agriculture from this administration,” he said.
But quickly, Mr Stephens conveys that it’s about more than just business and the economy.
He returns to the same thought repeatedly in our conversation – that Mr Trump isn’t a politician. He was elected to shake things up and to return power to the American people.
‘I miss the America I grew up in’.
Rancher Jamie Grollmes says: “When Trump was in office, it was a lot more steady. You didn’t see the highs and lows. It was a lot more consistent, you knew what to expect. With Mr Biden we’re on a rollercoaster in terms of our markets.”
“I miss the America I grew up in,” it says.
I think Trump will change things around if he gets back in, I really do,” he answers. “I think he’s going to get our border closed up, get things back to normal.
“I think he’s not a politician, I think he’s a businessman. When he came in the first time, he changed a lot.”
“Biden’s side obviously has baggage. And Donald Trump seems to be in and out of court and there’s issues there. But we’re going to vote with whoever the nominees are.”
“And for you, that means Trump’s the man if he’s the nominee?” I ask.
“Absolutely. Absolutely. I’ll vote for Donald Trump again.”
Source: The Guardian