Anybody who has not been living under a rock for the best part of 2016 will know all about the recent US election and its results. Donald Trump shocked the world by defeating Hillary Clinton in the electoral college to ensure he would become America’s 45th President, calling into question whether it is right for somebody with no political experience to occupy the presidency. The definition of the American Dream is ‘the ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved.’
“the ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved.”
The idea is that any American, no matter what their age, colour, religion, or background, has the capability to become President. From one point of view, Donald Trump’s election is a perfect example on the American Dream in action: somebody with no political experience has managed to win the presidential elections against all odds. However, the other side of the coin is that he did so using his own money which he inherited from his father, taking advantage of his wealthy background. Whichever way one looks at it, Trump is at the extremes of the spectrum: either he embodies the American ideal of equality or he is the polar opposite and stands for everything wrong with modern day America.
The main argument for Trump being good for the American Dream is that he has no political background and, like most people, until now his political insight has been limited to his Twitter account. His tweets are similar to millions of other people who use social media as a way of voicing their content – or more often discontent – with the people in power. If that has led to Trump becoming one of the world’s most influential people, then why not the everyday person on Twitter? His social media exploits have seen him become relatable to many voters, as he looks in from the outside and voices his honest opinions. Unlike most politicians, Trump is not one for using diplomatic language, using social media only to voice uncontroversial views and look to come across as a fair and normal person. Instead, Trump is happy to say whatever comes to his mind on twitter – so much so that he had to have his account taken away from him on the eve of the election so he would not say anything stupid. This makes him more relatable to many people and separates him from the traditional politicians. His honest outspoken use of social media makes him more easy to identify with and, in some people’s eyes, makes him the embodiment of the American Dream.
However, the honest truth is that he is where he is today because of his money. He funded his own election campaign and used his real estate money to ‘put himself on the map,’ so to speak. Not only this, but he didn’t even start from scratch and make his own money. Some claim that Trump inherited over $100 million from his father, while he claims the figure was nearer $1 million. Either way, he owes a huge amount of success to his father and would not have been able to run for President, let alone become President. It has not all been plain sailing since his inheritance either, with Trump declaring his companies bankrupt either four or six times, depending on who you ask. One thing that can’t be denied is that Trump is a very wealthy man, and that led to his rise and eventual election. Therefore some people would argue that the fact a man like this can become President with no political experience proves that all Americans do not get equal opportunities, and that the American Dream has been corrupted by rich businessmen such as Mr Trump.
Trump’s supporters may argue that his identity as being anti-establishment makes him a perfect example of the American Dream in action. Certainly, it is widely accepted that the main reason Trump won the election was because he struck a chord with the ‘left behind’ people who would not normally vote, and that he was seen as an option which was something other than the usual average politician who promised change and then failed to deliver when they got into the White House. He is seen by many as somebody who has risen up to the right the wrongs of the corrupt, sly, lying politicians and will, to use a certain phrase, “make America great again”. Trump promises to come in and transport the country back to the past when it was the undisputed most powerful nation in the world. No longer will China or Russia be competitive on the world stage, Donald Trump will make America the greatest country on the planet once more! And furthermore, he will not do this by using mainstream policies which have been tried and failed in the past, or by adapting current policies and giving them a new, exciting name like Obamacare. He will orchestrate change! He will not be afraid to take controversial steps in order to achieve his aims; he will stop at nothing to fulfill his purpose. This is what makes him so appealing to many of those who voted for him. Why choose more of the same with Hillary Clinton when you can have wholesale changes? Trump is an outsider and will approach his presidency with passion and determination, and not a drop of fear. For this reason, some argue he is the modern day embodiment of the American Dream.
Although the way he got to the top may comply with the American Dream, equal opportunities is not something he advocated greatly on the campaign trail. Don’t get me wrong, “jobs for all Americans” sounds like it is a way of giving everybody equality and a secure job so that they can make the best of themselves, but there are a few notable absences from Trump’s policies. Mexicans, in particular, have been hit out at in Trump’s campaign, though he has also implied that Muslims are not ‘real’ Americans. He has also complained of overcrowding in schools, stating that there are too many immigrants for Americans to get a proper education. There is an argument to suggest that Trump does not comply with the American dream because his idea of equal opportunities does not extend to everybody in America. Surely the American Dream includes everybody living in the country – after all, it is a nation of immigrants so it is hardly fair to exclude such huge groups of people. Trump’s campaign suggested that certain groups will be treated far more ‘equally’ than others so this is evidence that his presidency will not establish a modern American ideal.
Finally, there is an argument that Trump should not have been allowed to stand for President at all. Many ask how somebody who was awaiting a trial for sexual offences could be allowed to make himself the ultimate role model and set an example for all the nation’s children to follow. Part of the American Dream is that everybody should be treated equally, and that extends to courts. Shortly after his election victory, Trump paid $25 million in settlement for a fraud case against him, while sexual assault charges against him were dropped just days before the presidential election. In many people’s eyes, the only reason Trump is not a convicted criminal is that he has the money to cover himself. Therefore they feel he is not fit to be the President of the United States as that would encourage others that lawbreaking is alright and is proof that his money is the only reason he has been able to stand. Not only this, but when he was challenged over tax evasion by Mrs Clinton in a Presidential debate, he said it was “because I’m smart” that he had been using tax loopholes. Far from being an honest, trustworthy person who will govern the nation with integrity, this portrays him as somebody who is just as sly as anybody who uses their own email server. For this reason, many feel that he is not only the opposite of what the American Dream is intended to allow, but a crook as well.
In truth we will not be able to tell whether Donald Trump’s presidency will prove to be a success for a number of years, but nobody can deny that his rise has been spectacular. In some ways he has been an example of the American Dream at work, having come from a political tweeter to the top job in politics in no time at all. He enters the White House as an anti-establishment figure who is looking to take the country in a different direction to any of his more savoury opponents. However, he is a millionaire, and not even a self-made one. Even he will admit there is no way he would have got near the presidency had it not been for his money, which goes against the ideal of equal opportunity that is so central to the American Dream. Furthermore, he even looks like he will neglect equal opportunity with his policies, catering for the needs of some and not others. And finally there is the question of whether his legal history makes him suitable to establish an American ideal. Personally, I do not feel that Trump is good for the American Dream. Some aspects such as his fast rise and his victory against the odds comply with the idea, but he simply has too dark a history to be considered a flagbearer for the American ideology, and his rise is too much to do with personal wealth to be seen as the old fashioned ideal. Trump may surprise everybody by building the perfect America, based on everything the nation stands for, but if he is to become the embodiment of the American Dream, he still has some way to go.
“The American Dream is in trouble. It’s in trouble. But we are going to get it back and do some real jobs.” – Donald Trump Jr