Our political system, the circus show it has been this year, has shed light on an anomaly in society. Despite what some of us think, Donald Trump and “Make America Great Again” isn’t the crack I’m referencing. While Trump and political division seem like a new phenomenon, over the last fifty years, American politics has seen a slow knife slip between the left and right. In 2011, that knife twisted, and the most liberal republican no longer overlapped the most conservative democrat. A confusing statement, but at that point and since, the common ground our representatives stood on disappeared. The disappearance of that common ground has brought us the deadlocked, lame duck political standoff that has left us all frustrated.
Divisiveness between parties isn’t a true reflection of America though. As a country, if all issues were given the same weight and averaged, we would fall on a traditional bell curve. It’s the controversial topics, where we stand on one side or the other, that drive us apart. There have always been voters on the far ends of the spectrum and fringe candidates who represent them. These fringe candidates are important to the political system too. They force mainstream, more moderate politicians to debate and legislate topics that might otherwise might be ignored. The system has a safety measure though, ensuring fringe candidates aren’t elected to lead large populaces, the bell curve distribution of voters that forces candidates to appeal to the masses and not focus on one party.
This election is different though. The more middle of the road candidates on the right were quickly crushed. An anomaly in the political spectrum arose, far from the middle, lying in the controversial conservative landscape. Trump has defied reason yet rose to the occasion. He’s amassed significant political coverage and quickly converged on the Republican nomination. Despite commentary and kitchen gossip, his rise doesn’t signal a demise in American politics or a breakdown in the two-party system. Quite the opposite, Trump signals the discontentment of a large portion of America. This discontent is important, not for the sake of discontent, that has always existed, but because it now exists in significant size in the region multiple fringe candidates historically occupied. We needed Trump to bring together these historically separated groups, bringing them behind one candidate, so we can recognize the proportion of the population that wants something different.
Trump’s slogan doesn’t offer any conclusions itself. “Make America Great Again” is open ended, suggesting our country isn’t great. It’s doubtful there’ll be argument that there’s no room for improvement, but on paper the US is doing quite well. Unemployment is down, GDP growth rate is increasing, and the S&P 500 is near its peak. So what is it that’s driving this group towards a candidate so far from what most traditionally believe in?
The answer isn’t readily identifiable yet. When it is identified, that doesn’t mean we should rush to fix it either. Democracy dictates we do what is best for the majority. Donald Trump and his followers likely don’t represent majority of America. That said, we needed Donald Trump to bring this to our attention because America isn’t a country where a significant portion of voters (even if they don’t represent the majority) should be extremely unhappy. We compromise, finding solutions that work in everyone’s favor, because that’s what makes a country great to live in. So while we needed Trump to bring this issue to our attention, he isn’t going to be the leader that can compromise and make the country a better place for all, and that’s why we don’t need him anymore.