I’m almost ashamed to admit that I was once a big fan of current Republican Presidential nominee, Donald Trump. Years ago, before The Apprentice and before he became a controversial politician, I discovered his best selling book, The Art of the Deal. Trump’s business acumen and his Machiavellian style bravado made him seem like a real life Gordon Gekko. In great detail, he discussed the intricacies of deal making and the joy that he would feel after successfully completing a significant business deal.
As a recent college graduate, who was determined to become a successful businessman, I incorporated some of Trump’s ideals and philosophies into my personal life. But, the reincarnated Trump, bares little resemblance to the 1980’s deal maker who emblazoned his name on almost everything that he owned, from hotels, airplanes and even cologne.
In recent years, Donald Trump has managed to reinvent himself in the form of a brash, politically incorrect politician who has captured the attention of devout GOP voters and continues to lead in almost every Republican poll. When Trump announced his most recent Presidential bid, he immediately created controversy by proclaiming that as President, he would deport all Hispanic illegal aliens back to their countries.
As a result of his proclamation, he instantly jumped to the top of the polls. Where most GOP candidates were reluctant to make such controversial claims about immigration, Trump was undeterred and as a result, he has become the focal point of the GOP race. His campaign rallies draw thousands of avid supporters who fervently believe that he is the answer to their political prayers.
This is Trump’s third attempt at running for U.S. President, despite never holding political office before. Unlike his failed prior attempts, Trump seized momentum from the inception with his current campaign. Like a savvy businessman, he learned from his past failures, reinvented himself and out maneuvered his other GOP competitors by making extreme proclamations regarding Mexican-Americans, border security and dealing harshly with Chinese and Iranian policies, to name a few.
One of the lessons I believe that Trump learned, was to not present himself as a politician. In his prior campaigns, he appeared hesitant to shake up the status quo and quickly lost ground to ultra-conservatives like Rick Santorum. His new platform, and his emphasis on presenting himself as a wealthy businessman who has nothing in common with his political competitors has been called “refreshing” by a large majority of Republicans and even a few Democrats.
Initially, I assumed that like his previous attempts, Americans would quickly grow tired of his rhetoric and dismiss him once again as just another wannabe Presidential candidate. However, Trump has been able to excite what some pundits call “the angry white” voters and maintain his position atop the GOP polls. These are the same voters who adamantly supported extremists like Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Rick Perry and anyone else who vocally disparaged President Obama. But as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told the Washington Post in 2012, “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”
Trump is undoubtedly preaching to a choir, whose membership is declining. Most census data predicts that Latinos will comprise nearly half of all U.S. citizens within the next 30 – 40 years. Furthermore, the country’s political leanings are growing increasingly more liberal and less conservative, with the advent of gay marriage, universal healthcare and the easing of marijuana laws.
As Trump continues to lead in the polls and stir up his conservative base, he’s also alienating future generations of voters who will likely perceive the Republican party as unsympathetic to their beliefs and their cultural backgrounds. This is why many in his party are beginning to speak up and disavow him as a legitimate candidate, who doesn’t represent the “true” principals of their ideology. But ironically, he does represent everything within the GOP platform.
Since Obama was elected in 2008, they have adopted a scorched earth policy towards him and the Democrats. They have routinely attempted to block every piece of major legislation, threatened lawsuits over his use of executive powers, attempted to repeal Obamacare nearly fifty times, shut down the government and invited a foreign leader to address Congress without his approval. The Republican position towards President Obama has created so much animosity that New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie is constantly ridiculed just for giving the President an enthusiastic hug.
In a recent debate hosted by Fox News, Rand Paul and Donald Trump both chastised Christie for his embrace of President Obama during his visit to New Jersey, shortly after Hurricane Sandy. This puerile and asinine position towards our President, is a new low for the Republican party and provided the perfect platform for Trump to gain immediate credibility among those who possess minimal respect for our President, despite his achievements.
I personally lost all respect for Trump, when he became the de facto leader of the Birther Movement, and vociferously implied that Obama was not born in the U.S. Trump also questioned the legitimacy of Obama’s academic achievements while at Columbia and Harvard, insisting that he was given preferential treatment. Criticizing an accomplished African-American’s academic bona fides, is a commonly used racist “dog whistle” that Trump doesn’t mind blowing loud and clear.
Whether or not Trump is a racist is up for debate, but he certainly doesn’t mind offending Latinos, African-Americans, Asians etc. in his attempt to solidify his support. His ascendancy to the top of the Republican polls, unfortunately represents the official “dumbing down” of America. Trump is simply a showman who has utilized his celebrity as a reality TV star and applied it to the political theater. I suspect that his real motivation for seeking the highest office has more to do with increasing his brand, than actually winning.
Many loud and controversial politicians like Trump have made a big splash into American politics but quickly fell back down to earth. However, he seems to have defied his 15 minutes of political fame and with only 13 months until election day, continues to maintain his lead over his competitors. If Trump continues to lead in the polls, everyone will be anxious to see if the GOP reluctantly anoints Trump as their nominee. The outcome of that decision will no doubt have a lasting impact on their party, as Trump has become their ring leader and their biggest liability.