I must admit that when I first saw Donald J. Trump riding his Trump Tower escalator on June 16, 2015, descending into the bowels of the GOP Presidential primary, I was intrigued. There was never a remote chance I’d vote for such an arrogant blowhard – especially when, fresh off his escalator, he declared that Mexican immigrants are “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” But I sensed that Trump was more than just another right wing political hack, playing to people’s fears and spouting Republican boilerplate.
Here was a spoiled, egocentric, reckless autocrat with no loyalty to anyone or anything but his own personal brand. This was going to be interesting.
After flushing his party’s last hope of attracting Latino voters down the Trump tube, he followed his slur on Mexican immigrants with a promise to build a border wall (that Mexico will pay for) and to ban all Muslims from entering the country. Then, when Senator John McCain expressed reservations about his unorthodox agenda, Trump attacked the former Vietnam POW, saying McCain wasn’t a war hero because he was captured and “I like people who weren’t captured.”
It was plain to see The Donald was a dynamic and destructive force that the GOP would find hard to ignore, repudiate or control.
And it was also apparent that, no matter what shocking or offensive thing he blurted, Trump was attracting a base of supporters, many of whom wholly approved of the controversial things he said. And many right wing pols and pundits who didn’t approve were willing to forgive, overlook, and rationalize utterances that would have doomed a more conventional candidate – of either party.
As Trump careened through each news cycle like a rip-snorting orange bull in a china shop, I enjoyed watching Republican politicians squirm, afraid to alienate Trump’s growing legion of angry, white, poorly educated fans.
Ah, the poorly educated.
After winning the Nevada Caucus in February, Trump joyously crowed that, “I love the poorly educated.” Small wonder. While his antics turned off college educated suburban voters, Trump’s less educated, less economically advantaged followers embraced his bombastic style, his millionaire trappings, his easy answers to tough questions and the notion that he was funding his own campaign. To them, Trump looked like a truth-teller who couldn’t be bought
Meanwhile, Trump’s feckless primary opponents were unable to deal with such an unconventional, unapologetic and unblushing political bomb thrower — and were systematically dispatched.
Trump was a rascal, a rogue and a ratings winner.
When the dust settled, he was also the Republican nominee for President of the United States.
At the start, those TV ratings mattered most: to the major media outlets – and to Trump’s campaign.
Trump was (and still is) given more coverage than any another candidate, as the cable news networks lingered (and still do) on empty podiums waiting for Trump to emerge and launch into another of his rambling stump speeches, which they often covered (and still do) in their entirety. We’ve never seen anything like it. No wonder Trump could fund his own primary campaign: he didn’t have to pay for TV time. He was the uncontested king of free media.
But what Trump did with all the free media exposure was most fascinating.
Donald Trump said things that no Republican candidate had ever said in recent memory. He was, in some ways, if we’re being completely honest, a breath of fresh air. Sometimes.
In an early primary debate, Trump told Jeb Bush to his self-satisfied face that his brother George W had not, in fact, kept America safe. Trump actually had the stones to say that the World Trade Towers came down on George W’s watch – and that the Iraq War was a disaster based on lies. It was amazing. Did Trump really say — onstage in a GOP primary — that the Iraq War was a failure predicated on lies? Watching Trump wreak havoc in those primary debates was a guilty pleasure.
And, afterwards, damned if wasn’t still leading in the polls!
Even the most die-hard liberal (like me) had to be thrilled to hear Trump toss such a devastating bomb into the orthodox Republican myth-making machinery – and come out ahead with GOP voters.
As the primary contest continued, Trump continued to toss GOP boilerplate onto the bonfire of his vanity: rejecting free trade, questioning the NATO alliance, suggesting that South Korea and Japan might arm themselves with nuclear weapons — and expressing admiration for Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.
All of these positions would normally disqualify a Republican candidate. But not The Donald.
Which puts the GOP in a box.
And by “box”, I mean a pine box.
Trump may be the death of the Republican Party as we’ve known it since the mid-1960s – when President Johnson and the Democrats passed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, thus leaving the racist elements of their party receptive to the GOP’s cynical “Southern strategy”.
(Author’s note: BTW — can we please dispense with calling the Republicans “the party of Lincoln”? Would a true party of Lincoln be led by a Southern Senator who dedicated himself to making our first black President a one-term failure? Would the party of Lincoln pass laws in state legislatures designed to deny African-Americans the right to vote? Answer? No. Not in 1865 and not today.)
But, back to Trump.
While I’ve had to admit I was intrigued by his offbeat candidacy and I’ve truly enjoyed the excruciatingly uncomfortable position in which he’s put mainstream GOP candidates and conservative punditry – I’ve grown weary of the Trump circus.
I’ve seen the crazy clowns and the elephants and the “Make America Great Again” hats and balloons – and I’d like it all to be over. There’s going to be a lot of crap to clean up after the Trump parade, so let’s get out our brooms now.
At this point, it looks like the majority of American voters are going to wipe Trump’s grime off the electoral map. If the vote were taken today –here’s what the electoral results would be, based on the current polling.
It appears that sanity will prevail over vanity.
Yet, now that the party conventions are over and the Olympics are over, the media pundits tell us that the American people are just now focusing on the Presidential election and that Trump’s latest “pivot” may win back some of the college-educated, suburban and minority voters who have rejected him. Some of these talking heads suggest that the race will tighten – and some, for the sake of promoting the horse race, assert that Trump may still have a chance of becoming our 45th President.
Yeah, and he’ll build that wall.
And Mexico is going to pay for it.
It’s been a mad, mad, mad, mad year with Donald Trump. It’s been entertaining. It’s been surprising. It’s been nutty as hell. But when I see the rage, paranoia, xenophobia and hysteria he fuels in his fans, it’s becoming more and more frightening.
So, for that and so many other reasons, I’m with Hillary.
I look forward to the coming year, when Donald Trump will still be on television every day – but I can avoid seeing his face because I won’t be tuning in to his brand new TV network. (Sorry, Roger Ailes and Steve Bannon.)