Monday, May 09, 2016

The Trump Phenomenon - Defying Conventional Wisdom

It's Trump versus Clinton (image from BBC)
This is not an endorsement. Just reality as I see it. Not a reality show... but reality. 

First let me say that as it stands now I endorse Hillary Clinton for President. Not because I like her. I don’t. And I am not the only one that feels that way about her. She has a 52% unfavorable rating according to a recent poll. 

She is arrogant and talks down to people. and seems to scowl every time she speaks publicly. Her policies seem to be not much different than the current President. If anything they may even be to his left! Her views on Israel and its current leadership are not much different than his.  But I am still going to vote for her because of the alternative.

There is something in the air. That is the only way to explain the Donald J. Trump phenomenon. It is a phenomenon that I now believe will put him in office come January of 2017. And by office I mean President of the United States. Making him the leader of the free world. I hope I’m wrong. But I don’t think I am. Donald Trump has defied conventional wisdom. He has done the impossible. He has received an overwhelming endorsement from Republican primary voters. By the time the primaries are over he will no doubt have the largest number of votes of any Republican or Democrat in the history of primary elections. 

This despite an even higher unfavorable rating than Clinton at 57%! Acting and sounding like a boor he is perhaps the most unqualified candidate for President in American history. He has virtually insulted his way into becoming the presumptive Republican nominee. 

From the very start his rhetoric caused controversy. Instead of inspiring a sense of leadership and diplomacy among voters he succeeded in sounding like a an anti Hispanic bigot. NBC immediately canceled his popular reality TV show, The Apprentice, as they did the broadcast of the Miss Universe Pageant which he owns. Macy’s canceled his clothing line immediately. This is how his candidacy began.

Ordinarily, such beginnings would be the death knell to anyone seeking any kind of public office. Who in his right mind would vote for a bigot? Political pundits across the board condemned his remarks. Including members of his own Republican party. I saw him as a joke. No one took his candidacy seriously at first. But the opposite happened. Despite almost universal disgust and revulsion from just about every corner, his candidacy took off. He seemed unstoppable. The insults continued.

He constantly insulted other Republicans that had any serious chance of challenging him - picking them off one at a time. His personal attack after a Fox News debate against a female reporter was unprecedented in its mean spiritedness and vulgarity. His ridicule of a physically impaired reporter mimicking his symptoms is abhorrent and beneath contempt.

Ignoring the constitutional right to freedom of religion, he proposed barring all members of a major religion from entering this country. His promise to round up all illegal immigrants and ship them out of the US to their homelands… and his call to build a fence between Mexico and the US and make Mexico pay for it is inhumane. And ridiculous in the extreme. And Mexico’s leader was not the only foreign leader he has insulted or that has been appalled by his rhetoric.

His lack of any experience in government, domestic or foreign does not seem to matter. Nor does his boorish behavior. And Trump knows it. He said it himself early in his campaign. If he were to shoot someone in the middle of Times Square, people would still vote for him. And that isn’t even the half of it. He has been ridiculed by every television comic to the point where anyone else would have long ago been laughed out of contention. But none of it matters. He keeps winning… and keeps defying all conventional wisdom. One might have thought that if his early gaffes didn’t do him in, surely the later ones would. But they didn’t. And they won’t. For the most part Trump has been a downhill steamroller on grease.  

It would be easy to chalk this up to the unenlightened masses. But I have seen far too many rational, intelligent, and educated people say that they support him, despite his behavior. Even Orthodox Jews… across the Hashkafic spectrum from Charedi to Modern Orthodox. People whose views on any other subject are as rational as can be. I don’t get it. It does not make sense!

One might challenge my prediction by saying the polls show Clinton beating him badly in the general election. I don’t think it matters what the polls say. Besides, now that he has the nomination he has changed his position 180 degrees on some issues. His tax proposal cutting taxes for everyone including the very wealthy has now become a floor which will be negotiated. He now says that the end result will be that the rich will pay more (as he says they should) while the middle class will be protected and pay less. He had said that he opposes raising the minimum wage but now says he supports raising it (albeit through the states and not the federal government).

Some would call this flip-flopping. I would call it telling a given set of voters what they want to hear and another set of voters the exact opposite because that is what they want to hear. Which kind of makes him a liar. And not to be trusted. We have no clue what his actual policies will be or even what his governing style will be. The Trump we see now is not the Trump we will get. I am sure of that.

What about that foreign policy? Especially as it pertains to Israel? He’s all over the place. He is pro settlement and yet has promised to be even handed broker and negotiate a peace deal between Palestinians and Israelis.

Trump will continue to defy conventional wisdom and win the general election. What happens the day after remains to be seen. I will however hazard a guess that the Trump we have seen on the campaign trial is not the Trump we will get. I don’t think anyone has any idea what he will be like. He is neither a conservative nor a liberal. He is Trump.

My hope is that the person described in a recent articles in Charedi publications is the real Trump. The reporters that interviewed him conveyed an image  of  a very respectful and rational man who is kind, generous, and thoughtful. A man that does not make rash decisions. A man that is very pro Israel.  Someone that actually does care about the welfare of this nation and its people. And that his lack of any experience whatsoever will cause him to seek the best minds he can find to help him to carry out his agenda – whatever that may actually be. I just hope it is an agenda that I can support.