Donald Trump’s victory last night in New Hampshire validated what polls have been saying for months: that Trump is the GOP frontrunner for the nomination. This despite the fact that he has zero political experience, villifies immigrants and Muslims, has appallingly bad ideas, and has the eloquence and demeanor of a middle-schooler.
Those who revere Trump would likely say that his lack of political experience is his greatest strength. He’s an outsider. He hasn’t been tainted by the system. He doesn’t live in the pockets of special-interest groups. He hasn’t hob-nobbed with lobbyist and sold his vote to anyone except the American people.
Fine. But do you know who also meets those standards? Nearly every single person in America. You could say the same thing about me or yourself or your dear Aunt Myrtle, but that doesn’t mean that we’re qualified to be president of the United States. A president must work with everyone within the political system, including those within in his own party, those in the opposing party, and those of other nations throughout the world. He must compromise, unite, build coalitions, build concensus, build confidence in America.
But that’s what Trump is good at, say his supporters. He wrote The Art of the Deal. He’s a brilliant negotiator. He’s been bringing people to conference tables to hash out mergers and acquisitions and deals of all sorts his entire career. He knows how to work the room; he knows how to get the best deal for himself; he knows how to get everybody’s signature on the final contract. The man is a master at getting things done.
Fine. He can run a corporation. Or even many corporations. He knows when to hold them, and he knows when to fold them. Great. But the United States is not a corporation. Donald Trump would not be the CEO of America. The country’s bottom line is not our only measure of success. Yes, all CEOs must also consider their employees, but we are not the employees of Donald Trump. We’re not even the employees of America. That’s communism. We’re the employees of ourselves. Well, technically we’re the employees of whoever pays our salaries, but you see my point. We don’t work for the president. We don’t seek his approval or give him obligatory applause at the company Christmas dinner. We’re free. The president works for us. He makes decisions and encourages policymakers to protect our freedom and our rights to be us.
And the president must do that by having ideas that the American people can get behind.
Yet whenever pressed for specifics on his policies, Trump is evasive, promising essentially that “he’ll get the best people together and they’ll get the best ideas and results.”
OK. I guess we’ll take your word for it, Mr. Trump. No, no, don’t tell us what those ideas are or even who these brilliant people are. We don’t need to know. As long as you say it’s so, we’ll believe you.
Granted, Trump has proposed a few ideas. The one that gets the most press is his proposed wall along the Mexican American border to stop the flow of immigrants into the United States. It’s estimated that the wall would cost about $8 billion, and Trump claims he’ll give the bill to the Mexican government, which of course is ludicrous. Why would Mexico fork over a single peso to build a structure that does not benefit them in the slightest?
Personally, I don’t think Trump intends to build anything of the sort. I think he’s merely capitalizing on the racism that exists in America toward immigrants and Hispanics.
Note: I am not suggesting that everyone who supports the idea of a wall is a racist. I don’t believe that. I am merely suggesting that racism toward Hispanics and immigrants exists in this country and that those who despise those groups of people gravitate toward Trump as their candidate of choice. He has made inflammatory and derogatory comments about immigrants, to great applause at his rallies.
And for those who would disagree with my using the term “racism” (which I agree is a harsh and hot word), what term would you use? If not racism then what is it exactly?
NPR this morning interviewed one Trump supporter in New Hampshire and asked him why he voted for Trump. His response was, “I go into Panera and I hear people speaking in Spanish. That’s just not right. This is America. If you’re going to live here, you need to speak English.”
In other words, this person voted for Trump because Trump dislikes immigrants, because people need to speak English here dadgummit!
If that’s not racism, I don’t know what is. His complaint wasn’t the infringement of economic opportunities for American citizens. It wasn’t entitlement programs for non-citizens. It was his grating annoyance at hearing someone speak a foreign language. And by golly, that has got to stop!
It baffles me.
Granted, if you look at the Trump site, there are a few good ideas. Like Trump’s proposal that all veterans eligible for VA health care can take their veteran’s card to any doctor or car facility that accepts Medicare to get the care they need immediately.
On paper that’s a good idea. It largely diminishes the need for VA hospitals at all if vetereans can go anywhere Medicare is accepted, but it does address a real need. I was in an auto accident the other day with a Vietnam vet (his fault), and he talked about the need to drive hundreds of miles to the the nearst VA hospital in Atlanta. He also claimed the care he got at VA facilities was far better than he could get anywhere else. So I suspect this gentlemen would appreciate Trump’s proposal.
But guess what? Marco Rubio says essentially the same thing, although Rubio takes is a stop further and proposes giving veterans a financial equivalent in funds so that they can seek care from the private sector provider of their choice. So not just Medicare providers, but anybody.
So yes, Trump has some ideas. But they’re not unique, except of course for the ones that are discriminatory and inflammatory.
And that’s what I don’t understand. I don’t see why people rally to his banner. It’s not for his ideas. It’s not for his statesman-like demeanor, because he doesn’t have any. It’s not for the poise and respectability he would bring to the office.
I can only assume that hundreds of thousands of people cheer his name because they want a straight shooter. They want someone who will speak his mind, unscripted, and unfiltered by political influences. They want strength, not some pre-programmed Washington robot. The want the real deal, raw and emboldened and shooting from the hip. That feels refreshing. That’s different. That’s alien to the political system. Not since Teddy Roosevelt have we had such a blustery fireball of unforgiving candor. Nobody owns Trump, and he’ll be darned if anybody tries.
But is that the qualifications for president we hold most dear? Is that what makes a man or woman apt for the job? A sense of frankness and fearlessness? A loud mouth? An unpredictable brashness?
I think of Jesse Ventura when I look at Trump. But not the former governor of Minnesota version; I see the wrestler version, grabbing the microphone from the commentator and filling the auditorium with threats and promises of harm for the other guy. “Oh yeah, Putin? Is that what you got? Well, I’m gonna put a hurt on you like you’ve never seen. I’m gonna squeeze you so hard, your eyeballs pop out. I’m gonna tie you into a knot so tight…” and on and on.
To that the Trump supporter would say, “You’re darn right! It’s about time we stood up to Putin. It’s about time we squeezed out his eyeballs. Obama has made us a laughing stock. We are weaker in the eyes of the world than we were seven years ago. We’re a laughing stock. Nobody takes us seriously. We need to stand up and make America great again.”
I think it’s that slogan that has done the most good for Trump. It’s a smart bit of marketing. Let’s make America great again. The implication of course is that America was once great. We used to have our stuff together. We used to be the gold standard of the world in terms of economics and human rights. We used to inspire people across the globe. We used to stand for something, mean something, BE something. But we’re not anymore. We’re less than we were. We’ve shrunk in esteem. We’ve diminished in influence. We’ve dropped down a few ladder rungs in terms of global respect. We’re not the class president anymore. We’re not even the treasurer or the captain of the football team. We’re the what? The nerdy chemistry teacher everyone makes fun behind his back?
Well that has to end. We need to be on top again. We need to be the best. We need to be numero uno with our chests puffed out and our heads held high.
And it’s that call for greatness that appeals to people most, I think. That end of mediocrity, that promise of reaching our former lofty position of grandeur.
I’m not opposed to that of course. No one is. Everyone wants America to be great.
And I’d agree that America is not the America is has been in the past. We’re not as strong as we once were in terms of global respect and admiration. We’re not the gold standard. I just don’t see how Donald Trump can get us there. If anything, we would become even more disliked and hated and despised. Trump is already the punchline for media coverage throughout the world of this election. The Brits want to ban him from the country. Terorists are using his sound bites in their recruitment videos. Europeans are snickering and rolling their eyes as they read the papers and chew on croissants. How can Trump, who is already the producer of so much global and national disdain, take us anyway but down?