Donald Trump is the most publicized human being on the planet, and he has been for a little over five weeks now. The momentum of Trump’s campaign is such that any Republicans who downplay his significance wind up making an embarrassment out of themselves. Take Lindsey Graham, a flat-lining senator who deserved to have his cell phone number released after referring to Trump – a man who he had previously petitioned – as a “jackass”. Take Jeb Bush, an ex-Florida governor who initially reacted to Trump’s comments regarding illegal immigration in the same way that an elephant reacts to a fly. Take Chris Christie, who could’ve been the Donald Trump of 2012, eons before bad press transformed him into a pariah. Donald Trump represents an age-old metaphor; that of the tall, dark stranger, wandering into town. His campaign will be undone, but not before it exposes several front-running conservatives for the antiquated group of charlatans that they are.
The danger of a Donald Trump, ironically, is that he is not funded by special interests. In fact, the only interests Donald Trump seems to be funded by are his own. Consider what Trump has said during interviews, how he’s used the approach of slapping China (pronounced Chai-nah) and Mexico down before extolling their virtues. “Their leaders are much smarter than ours,” Trump has said. “Their negotiators are much tougher.” A self-effacing statement; the type of rhetoric that’d cause any pundit to cream in his pants. And yet, what Trump is advocating for is this idea of cut-throat dealings; some notion, perhaps, that the goal of any first-rate power should be to keep the exchange rate under its heel.
A few weeks ago, Donald Trump suggested that George W. Bush should’ve invaded Mexico as opposed to Iraq. The obvious follow-up would’ve been, “Do you still believe that the United States could benefit from such an invasion, and, if so, would you pursue that type of invasion assuming you were elected into office?” Trump’s answer might’ve dovetailed into some rigamarole concerning how we need to build a wall, and how he could get the Mexicans to pay for it. But the real answer has to do with how – and why – Donald Trump believes we need to teach the rest of the world a lesson, and why he’d prefer to use our bordering neighbors as a means of establishing more control.
During previous election cycles, top party candidates were largely focused upon jobs, guns, the economy, the military, healthcare, terrorism, China, Iraq, equal pay, education, economic disparity, the government and taxes. These were bedrock issues, the kind that make or break a presidency (and a nation). In the absence of them, what have we got? Foreign trade, illegal immigration, building a wall, “getting the oil”?
Bill O’Reilly recently referred to Donald Trump as having “no fear,” but it would seem more accurate to assert that Donald Trump has got no shame. There is no lawsuit that can sully Trump, nor mortification that can deter him. And so what the American public is treated to amounts to political kabuki. There is an expiration date to such things, a shelf-life that is already dwindling. And in the end the corporate suits will hoist Jeb Bush upon their shoulders, parading him around despite disposing of their best-bad chance to win the presidency.
For now, Donald Trump will continue touting himself as a Wharton-educated billionaire who co-wrote a best-selling book about negotiating several years before portraying the unsympathetic figurehead on a reality TV show. In political terms, this means that Trump identifies as a ruthless capitalist villain who has proven brilliant at getting his own way. So why does it work? It works because Donald Trump is more in-touch than the average candidate, because Trump is intelligent and calculated and sober and the majority of his skeletons have already been flushed. It works because Donald Trump is not a prisoner, nor has he been in the game for too long. It works because Donald Trump has inserted himself into a party that is so far off in outer space its last high-profile endorsement came by way of Clint Eastwood, who was talking to a chair. It works because Donald Trump is a showman, much like his good friend, Vince McMahon. It works because Donald Trump is an orator, much like his good friend, Howard Stern. It works because Trump is aggressive, because he’s telegraphing the media, because his goal in every interview has become to “win” rather than explain.
It works because Trump is ingratiating himself to the far right-wing masses, preaching about how we need to give power back to the police and the military. His message is not so much about racism as it is about classism. This is a man who took out a full-page ad in the New York Times, advocating the reinstatement of the death penalty to punish five innocent teens – all of them poor, all of them from minority households – who had been accused of raping a young, financial analyst from the Upper East Side. A quarter-of-a-century removed, despite all five boys being exonerated, Trump remained defiant, claiming (via Twitter): “Tell me, what were [those boys] doing in the Park, playing checkers?”
On balance, Donald Trump represents a positive for the Republican Party, a ritual cleansing. Trump is forthright, despite being misguided, and he may be on the mark when assuming that some – but not all – of America’s leaders are inept. The question we need to ask is what a man like Donald Trump might do after replacing all of our borderlands with walls … and how a fortified facade might actually appear to any countries on the outside looking in.
(Donald Trump is currently running for the American Presidency. He is, by his own admission, the best builder.)