Like many folks, I’m a bit confused by the rise and persistent success of Donald J. Trump as Presidential candidate. People, supposedly smarter than I in these matters, say that without specific policy positions Trump will soon take a nose dive in the polls.
When I heard this theory on the car radio today, I had an epiphany. How many voters read policy papers? How many voters know the nitty gritty details of their favorite candidate’s positions? I’m not saying there aren’t some well informed voters out there but as I discussed in a recent essay, most American voters can barely find their way to the polling place.
Long before Barack Obama’s cult of personality, presidential candidates appealed to voters for purely emotional, cathartic reasons. We had Reagan’s grandfatherly, sunny optimism. We had Kennedy’s youth and (apparent) vitality. Eisenhower was a war hero. Most of these folks had experience in politics. That’s just the nature of the game. But their voting record as a Senator? Puhleeze. The only change we are seeing in 2015 is this:
For once, the populace is saying “we don’t need no stinkin’ policy papers”. Those who like Trump like him because he seems to shoot from the hip. He ignores the “rules of politics”. He doesn’t pretend that you are going to study his ideas. He simply says, “don’t worry, I’ll handle it, and it will be terrific!” Seriously folks, what more does the average American need to know? Want to know how to handle China? Don’t worry about the specifics. We are gonna send Carl Icahn over there to get the job done. DC doesn’t know crap about negotiation. Icahn is a “killer”.
Here we have a candidate who has busted the myth of the functional president. Trump’s an entertainer and he is letting us all in on the truth that the President’s primary job is to be an entertainer … an entertainer who gets the right folks around him to get the job done. Trump is down on Obama (to put it mildly) but what is one of his chief complaints? He complains that Caroline Kennedy is our Ambassador to Japan. He calls it a joke. And of course, it is kind of a joke, isn’t it?
My theory is that Trump is laying bare what fringe elements have been saying for some time, namely that the presidency is largely ceremonial, largely a puppet show with special interests’ hands shoved up the ass of the puppet. And again, how appealing is it to hear a candidate say “I can’t be bought. In fact, I DO the buying.” Trump is defying pundit’s expectations because he’s showing the emperor to be naked in a way no candidate has done. He is changing the rules of the game and none of his opponents nor the media in general know what to do with him.
A Side Note about Bernie Sanders
Because Trump is still seen by many as a side show and spectacle, he is being used to discredit the campaign of Bernie Sanders. Just about no one is making the comparison between the two as a compliment to Bernie. The fact is Bernie and Donald share one key trait. They are telling their audiences a truth that their opponents cannot do convincingly, Hillary Clinton is a phony populist. Martin O’Malley is an old school pol. It’s hard to tell if Jim Webb is even really a liberal. And Lincoln Chafee is … Lincoln Chafee. When it comes to the message of income inequality and that we are all getting the short end of the stick, Bernie is the real deal. And when it comes to exposing the charade that is our presidency and government, Donald is the real deal too.
What do you think? The bar is open.