Fear of apocalypse and media coverage of Obama paved way for Trump
Trump’s goal of making US great is creating a deeply prejudiced nation, conference hears
Donald Trump: the alt-right and white supremacist groups’ love of Mr Trump is based on his “certainty of the imminent apocalypse”, says Harvard lecturer Timothy Patrick McCarthy. Photograph: Al Drago/The New York Times
Donald Trump: the alt-right and white supremacist groups’ love of Mr Trump is based on his “certainty of the imminent apocalypse”, says Harvard lecturer Timothy Patrick McCarthy. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Donald Trump’s ability to play on people’s fears of the apocalypse of American values combined with the mainstream media’s increased opposition to Obama during his presidency, played a direct role in the rise of the business mogul to presidential power, a UCD conference has heard.
Mr Trump secured a victory in the 2016 US presidential election by harnessing the paranoia that plagues modern American politics and positioning himself as the antidote to people’s distrust of the US government’s “insider culture”, according to Harvard lecturer Timothy Patrick McCarthy.
Speaking at the Clinton institute’s conference on Trump’s America and the American president’s first 100 days in power, Prof McCarthy argued that Mr Trump’s call to “Make America Great” and commitment to restoring America’s family value oriented society would not lead to greater prosperity but would rebuild the United States as a segregated and deeply prejudiced nation.
He added that social, economic and political developments in favour of women, ethnic minorities and the LGBT community during the Obama administration alongside the increasingly diverse America of the 21st century had created deep anxiety and resentment among many white, working-class voters.
“During the Obama era, so much of his presidency represented a realisation of previous social movements that sought to move people into greater positions of opportunities. On the one hand you have a multicultural American dream and yet the capitalist American dream is being paralysed or left behind.”
“When America leaps forward there is a corresponding reaction, often conservative, that rolls back or halts the advances that come legally, politically, socially and economically. History has a funny way of reproducing its worst elements.”
According to Prof McCarthy, the alt-right and white supremacist groups’ love of Mr Trump was based on his “certainty of the imminent apocalypse”.
“The alt-right saw Obama not just as an outsider who gained illegitimate power but as an anti-Christ. Trump and others saw Obama as the clearest sign of America’s inevitable decline and destruction.”
“He used the word ‘carnage’ twice in his inaugural address as president,” noted Prof McCarthy on Mr Trump’s speech on January 20th, 2017. “Never before has a president used the word ‘carnage’ in his inaugural address.”
Laura Burnham from Edge Hill University in England noted that the mainstream media’s shift towards the right during the Obama administration had provided the optimum environment for the rise of Trump. She added that the media’s right-hand turn towards conservatism and the normalisation of anti-Obama insults created an America where truth no longer mattered.
Ms Burnham underlined the appeal of conservative radio and TV personalities such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Alex Jones and their role in shaping the opinions of the American public by referring to Obama as a racist and a man with a “deep-seated hatred for white people and white culture”.
She added that Fox News’ declaration as the voice of the opposition following Obama’s election in 2008 only deepened the polarisation building among the American public.
“Commentators had the perfect platform for disseminating anti-Obama rhetoric, calling him a Marxist, a Bolshevik, a Fascist and a Nazi. Their discourse normalised these insults and brought the Republican listeners to the same page.
“They said if you’re not for us, you’re anti-American and you’re undemocratic. With these invigorated platforms truth no longer mattered. Anger and fear defined who was, and was not, a real American.”