“Simple solutions to complex problems”: in 2016, this (ironically simple) refrain became a common criticism laid at the feet of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. It managed to encapsulate everything his opponents hated about him. While experts responded to the issues of the day with “It’s complicated, difficult and fraught with ethical dilemma”, Trump said “I’m a smart man”. And succinctly completed his run for presidency, in his inaugural speech, by bellowing “America First”.
As alarming as the world has found the first weeks of Trump’s presidency, the political rhetoric he relies upon is as old as time itself. His use of binaries to frame a world view based on good versus bad, smart versus dumb, has resulted in an American electorate more sharply polarised than ever before. His argument invariably rests on a question so simple it’s elegant: “Do you love your country or not?” The nation in crisis falls back on an old formula; in the weeks following 9/11, President George W Bush told the world, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."