Forget your state-by-state polling; your analysis of the voting preferences of suburban mothers in Pennsylvania; never mind your understanding of America’s shifting demographics; your breakdowns of the Latino vote in swing states, or your perception of America’s anger issues. This election, like most elections, will be decided by personality. We all know that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton score very low on the likeability front. Trump is more reviled than Clinton, but in one important way he has the edge on her: he is funny and she is not. Look at this clip of him addressing the crowd in Florida:
Now that, no matter how much you loathe him, is quite amusing. And yet for the last two days the TV networks have been talking about Trump’s ‘lapse’ into a ‘bizarre inner monologue’ as if it were a moment of genuine insanity. This is the problem with the media and Trump. Pundits take him far too seriously, and react with a sort of demented pomposity to his harmless jokes. But Trump’s supporters — and those who aren’t automatically hostile to him — see a man making a joke, and they quite like him for it. Trump can be charming. So people can’t help but laugh when, responding to a question in the second TV debate, he said to Clinton, ‘No, I’m gentleman, Hillary, go ahead.’ Since the whole world was denouncing Trump for being a sexist pig following the emergence of the lewd remarks ‘hot mic’ tape, Trump’s faux chivalry was funny.
I’m not saying his sense of humour is great. Trump’s attempts at self-deprecation can be so bogus as to be pathetic: take his attempt to be humble in front of war hero veterans yesterday:
That is an egomaniac failing to be modest. Often, his clownish mask slips and you see his seething arrogance beneath. However, at least Trump is trying to be entertaining in the final days of his campaign, which is more than can be said for Hillary Clinton. She has taken to closing out her campaign by stressing the importance of character, like a pious headmistress.
A good character is of course important in a Commander-in-Chief. The trouble is, most Americans think Hillary’s character is rotten. And they are sick and exhausted of this long, embarrassing election. Trump’s comedy moments therefore come as a blessed relief. They make him strangely likeable, especially compared to Hillary and the humourless pundits who take him far too literally. Trump’s levity is a great asset to his campaign, and it might — just might — mean he ends up having the last laugh.
After the American people have voted, what next for the US and the rest of the world? Join panellists including Sir Christopher Meyer, KCMG, former British ambassador to the US, for a discussion chaired by Andrew Neil on 30 November at RIBA, London. Tickets include a drinks reception. In association with Seven Investment Management. Book now.