Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The ‘Donald’

Donald Trump
It’s way too early to speculate about who will be the Republican nominee for President of the United States. I wasn’t going to comment on the race until much later. But in light of the massive media coverage of Donald Trump’s campaign, I am moved to say something.

Some media pundits are beginning to call Trump the ‘Teflon Candidate’. That’s because no matter how outrageous his rhetoric is, it does not seem to stick. At least not in any negative way. Every time he says something outrageous, his poll numbers go up. He is currently leading all other Republican candidates. His most recent comments were about Muslim Immigrants. He said there should be a total and complete shutdown of entry to all Muslim immigrants.

This has been universally condemned by all other candidates, both Democrat and Republican. Even Dick Cheney a hard-line conservative that has been criticized for his own right wing rhetoric condemned it. To ban an entire religion entry into this country would seem to be at the very least unconstitutional. Not to mention the fact that it would be inhumane and unfair to the vast majority of Muslims that are not terrorists.

Now Trump is not an idiot. He is a shrewd businessman. You don’t become a billionaire by being stupid. He must have known he was going to get that kind of response. Just as he knew his other outrageous comments would. And yet he made those comments anyway. And as noted, his poll numbers keep going up. I don’t believe a poll has yet been taken after his latest comments. But it would not surprise me if his poll numbers went up again – because of it.

The question is why? Why do comments like this which are clearly racist (although I’m sure he would deny that) gain him increasing popularity? The answer lies in a combination of factors.

First, he is anti establishment. It seems that anyone running outside of the establishment these days will get support from a lot of people unhappy with the status quo in government. There is a sort of ‘throw the rascals out’ mentality among a great many voters. Thus an anti establishment candidate has a lot of appeal.

They also see Trump as a man who speaks his mind – unafraid of the political fallout. That type of candor is rare in a politician, who by definition gives political answers to controversial questions. That’s because they want to appeal to as wide a variety of voters as possible. So they obfuscate –  leaving room for interpreting their responses according to one’s own political perspective.

Not Trump. He has diarrhea of the brain. He does not obfuscate. He tells you exactly what is on his mind. There is something admirable in that even if one does not always agree with what comes out of his mouth.

There is also a lot Islamophobia out there. Which is wrong but understandable in light of seeing devout Muslims beheading people on camera.  And the increasing numbers of attacks against innocent people by those devout Muslims shouting “God is Great’ in Arabic. There is legitimate fear out there. Most people do not make distinctions between good Muslims and bad ones. When just about about every recent attack is carried out by a Muslim it isn’t too hard to generalize.  Although it is completely the wrong and unfair way to see it this way - when someone sees a Muslim in the street these days, what very well may come to mind is terrorism. So all of the talk about tolerance of people of all faiths from politicians is seen by many as political correctness, which in their heart of hearts they do not buy into. 

On the other hand when a ‘Trump’ comes out and plays into those fears, they pay attention and support him. He is speaking the language of their deepest thoughts and prejudices. Prejudices based on the legitimate fear they have about being the next victim of an Islamic attack.

This in my view,  is why Trump is so popular. But he has no chance of ever becoming the Republican nominee let alone President. He will never surpass the threshold of 50%. In a contest between him and any other Republican candidate, he will lose. He may retain the same percentage of voters he has now, but the majority of Republican voters have yet to speak about how they feel about him if their candidate drops out. If I am wrong and he is somehow the nominee, I will vote for the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, much as I have some serious issues with her. I’m sure that most Republicans feel the same way. She will win in a landslide against Trump.

The American people are not stupid. Even those that support him now, may very well not support him in the end. Because they have to realize that a President Donald Trump would be the biggest disaster to hit this country in its over 200 year history. That they support him now is a sort of protest to the establishment candidates. I think that many of his ‘supporters’ just want to send a message. Although there may be a few nutcases that actually would vote for him for President, I doubt their numbers are significant.

What about all those surging poll numbers? Even if they reflect the current reality, they do not reflect the ultimate reality. Besides, it’s way too early for any poll numbers to have any meaning. One may recall that former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani was way ahead in the early polls when he ran in 2008. He was considered a shoe in for the Republican nomination. Having come off of a universally applauded way he handled 9/11 which occurred when he was mayor it seemed like a no brainer to me. I supported him. But he quickly lost those numbers and ended up dropping out of the race. So Trump’s early polling numbers do not foretell who will be the nominee in the end.

Who will be the nominee? As I said, it’s too early to tell. But if I had to guess, I’d say it will be Marco Rubio. Which for me is a good thing since I support him over all the other Republicans running. Why I feel that way is beyond the scope of this post. I will reserve that for a later time when - if I am correct and he’s nominee - I will explain my likely endorsement of him. In the meantime with respect to Trump… not to worry.  Just enjoy the show.