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I’ve resisted writing about the Donald. The sheer absurdity of the man seems to make commentary pointless. Even Jonah Goldberg, who mixed it up with Trump last week over “pants-gate“, has a sort of weary regret in dealing with his badly coiffed arch-nemesis. The absurdity is heightened when you consider the quality of the Republican field in 2016. The GOP has some remarkable bench strength, a sharp contrast to the warmed-over leftovers being passed off by the Democrats.
Compare 2016 with any election cycle in recent memory and you’re spoiled for choice: Jindal, Walker, Perry, Rubio, Cruz and Bush are all very plausible candidates for the presidency. You may have your favorite — I have a certain fondness for Senator Rubio — but each are basically conservatives candidates that the party can rally around. Jeb Bush does have the establishment smell about him, to say nothing of that family name, but see him in a clear and unobstructed light and yes, he would make a decent Commander-in-Chief.
Now enter the Trump. Granted he has put immigration on the table, divorced of even a hint of political correctness, but there are ways of raising awkward subjects without being excessively offensive. We understand that cousin Fred has a drinking problem; throwing it out there in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner between the turkey and coleslaw isn’t really going to help matters. If Trump doesn’t get bored with pretending to run for President – I give it until September – then the Dems are going to have an awesome gaffe reel to play against the eventual Republican nominee next summer.
The gravity defying act that is the Trump campaign can be explained in three parts:
1) Name recognition. In an incredibly crowded field, everyone knows who Trump is. I had a friend who recently visited the interior of China. He was able find more than a few people who knew that Donald Trump was a very rich man in America. There’s a good chance that large swaths of Oklahoma are only vaguely aware that Ted Cruz is the junior Senator from Texas. That’s not a knock against the good people of Oklahoma, just a recognition that few follow politics that closely.
2) Rhetoric. There is little ideological consistency in Trump’s message. He’s a populist with a remarkable eye for the main chance. He tells people what they want to hear. Are we surprised to find that makes him kind of popular? From time to time he raises a useful point in a tactless way. That can have its value in an era where conservative politicians are extremely cautious, only too well aware that their sound bites are routinely turned into bigot pretzels.
3) Copy. Imagine that you’re a reporter. At this point in history, you’re likely questioning your career choices. Physical newspapers are dying. No one has quite figured out how to make money online. You have a sneaking suspicion that modern technology is making people dumber — so dumb that reading even the tabloid press will be too much effort in the near future. And you got into journalism with dreams of being Woodward and/or Bernstein. Your editor wants copy. Not good copy but interesting copy. The sort that might get picked up. Donald Trump appears to you like a loud blonde gift from the gods.
Don’t believe me? Here’s an excerpt from an interview he gave to the Washington Post:
Will immigration remain your focus?
No. It’s just one of the things. It’s not only immigration. It’s about trade. They go hand in hand. Immigration is one of the things you have to do. I’m also a moralist. You heard what I said today about health care. I said, I’m sorry, folks, but we have to take care of people that don’t have money. I know it’s not the conservative thing to say, but I got a standing ovation — and these were very conservative people. We can’t let people down when they can’t get any medical care, when they’re sick and don’t have money to go to a doctor. You help them.
So Trump has a heart?
A big heart, let me tell you. Too big.
You almost have to admire the man’s brio. There’s a certain charm about someone who really doesn’t give a damn what other people think. Someone who flaunts his absurdity as a badge of honor. You can easily imagine him half-winking at you and whispering: “You think I’m crazy don’t you? That’s what I want you to think!”
The whole time there is that Trump smirk. The arrogant knowledge that, as with his bankruptcies and divorces, he is going to get away with it again. Tens of millions in free publicity, the vanity ride of a lifetime and a brand that will glow sweetly to the far corners of the earth.
Crazy? Yes. Like a fox? Possibly.Published in