When Donald John Trump announced his candidacy for the 2016 presidential election at the Trump Tower to an audience of about a thousand supporters on a blustery New York morning on June 16, 2015, no one could’ve anticipated the impact that he would have on this election cycle. No one (aside from Ann Coulter) could’ve even envisioned Mr. Trump winning the GOP presidential nomination. Unbeknownst to anyone at the time – even Mr. Trump himself -, there was a leadership void within the Republican Party that was crying out to be filled.
The billionaire’s no-nonsense style, outsider status, business savvy and keen political instincts drew in the support of blocks of politically frustrated middle class conservatives, tea partiers and Ron Paul’s orphaned paleolibertarians, who were all looking for a champion to lead them and give their struggle a voice. In the following months, these disparate groups of voters organically coalesced into a powerful coalition which has propelled Mr. Trump’s candidacy from the fringes of the race to the summit of the Republican nomination leaderboard with surprising, albeit controversial, ease.
And to think, the teetotaler wasn’t even certain about running as late early 2015. There were real fears that similar to the general elections of 1988, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012, Mr. Trump would not make a bid for the nomination despite giving indications that he might.
His giddying ascension in the polls has been met with incredulous wonder by the media and more established candidates who have long fallen to the wayside. His combative performances in the debates left his opponents tongue-tied, much to the delight of his supporters. His controversial off-the-cuff deliveries and political incorrectness are viewed proudly by his legion of followers. His war cry, Make America Great Again, has galvanized even the elderly to attend his lively rallies.
Mr. Trump’s in-your-face style has drawn a lot of flak from all corners, but only a fool would doubt that there is a method behind his apparent madness. As the former reality TV star has demonstrated repeatedly throughout his career, his audacity is always accompanied by a ferocious intelligence.
There is simply no denying that Mr. Trump has changed the face of American politics forever. And the prospect of a businessman being elected to the White House has rekindled century-old memories of the Roaring Twenties when entrepreneurs such as Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover occupied the Oval Office.
Mr. Trump’s nationalist populist brand of politics captured the imagination of the nation, and powered his victory in the Republican primaries. However, will the charismatic real estate tycoon be able to use an identical approach in his White House run, or will he pivot to the center and reign in his explosive personality? Will he be able to unite the party’s fractured base and win over the agitated social conservatives? Will Miley Cyrus move out of the country if Mr. Trump is elected?
Ajamu Baraka is an internationally well-regarded human rights activist and a far-left social justice advocate with experience stretching over three decades. He first came into international attention in 1998 after being invited by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to Paris to attend an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Domestically, Mr. Baraka played a role in initial establishment of the Southern Human Rights Organizers’ conferences (SHROC) in 1996. SHROC provides a platform for human rights advocates and organizers to discuss strategies and issues involving human rights initiatives in the Deep South, as well as training grassroots activists.
In 1998, Mr. Baraka was appointed Amnesty International’s Southern Regional Director, which allowed him to play an important role in exposing human rights violations in the country. He also served as acting director of Amnesty International USA's National Program to Abolish the Death Penalty. He was subsequently named the 2001 Abolitionist of the Year, conferred by the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, in recognition of his service toward the abolishment of capital punishment in the United States.
Between 2004 and 2011, Mr. Baraka served as the Founding Executive Director of the US Human Rights Network (USHRN), the first U.S. domestic human rights organization to use and apply international human rights standards to the country. During his tenure, USHRN’s core base of human rights-related organizations grew five-fold from 60 to over 300.
Since then, Mr. Baraka has been involved with numerous domestic and international human rights organizations such as Black Left Unity Network, National Center for Human Rights Education, Center for Constitutional Rights, Latin American Caribbean Community Center, Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights and Diaspora Afrique. He is presently an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch magazine and several other digital publications.
Mr. Baraka is a fierce opponent of capital punishment. He argues that it is a “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” of inmates, regardless of their guilt or innocence, and advocates the abolition of the death penalty.
Mr. Baraka also believes that the United States is a “capitalist-imperialist settler state” and a “corrupt, degenerate, white supremacist monstrosity,” and that there are efforts by the government to “brainwash black people.” He considers President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, among others, as “living embodiments of the partial success” of the country’s “attempt to colonize the consciousness of Africans/black people.”