I’m not sure exactly what to make of Donald Trump.
He says things. He stands there, in front of huge crowds — and, yeah, look at that sea of Alabamans above — and he says things.
It’s not, simply, that he opens his mouth and things come out. That happens with a lot of politicians. There is no brain-to-throat impulse with them. Politicians open their mouths and things simply come out. Like they’ve been waiting to tumble free for days. It’s a little scary.
But Trump, who is pretty new to this politician thing, opens up and … I don’t know. Is he bullshitting us? I think he’s bullshitting us. I get the feeling that he’s waiting for us to gasp or spontaneously combust or something, and then he’ll come out with a, “No, no, really. I’m just bullshitting you. You guys are so gullible. You’re such losers. I didn’t want to be president of this country anyway. It doesn’t pay enough.”
I’m not sure what to make of Trump. Some, evidently, are convinced, 14 1/2 months before the next president is elected, that he is just what this country needs. That this tough-talking, supremely politically incorrect, ballcap-wearing, khaki-rocking billionaire businessman is actually legit.
But I get the feeling that this is just a big joke to him. A lark. A diversion. I get the feeling that he’s laughing at all the polls. That he’s loving watching all his Republican rivals squirm. That he’s enjoying the stupid press falling all over him, and relishing the challenge of throwing all that crap out there to see what sticks. And then seeing how he can get out of it.
Call Mexican immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally “rapists?”
Build a wall? Make Mexico pay for it?
Call out former POW John McCain for becoming a POW?
Complain that someone in the press was not very nice to him?
Constantly talk about how weak America is, how it’s gone to hell, about how China is better and Iraq is stronger and how we have to throw out all the illegal immigrants who are making trouble?
He’s bullshitting us, right?
I can’t tell. But this bit, from Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight, rings true. This, I can believe:
I’ve seen a lot written about how Trump’s candidacy heralds a new type of populism. If it does, this type of populism isn’t actually very popular. Trump’s overall favorability ratings2 are miserable, about 30 percent favorable and 60 percent unfavorable, and they haven’t improved (whatever gains he’s made among Republicans have been offset by his declines among independents and Democrats). To some extent, the 30 percent may like Trump precisely because they know the 60 percent don’t like him. More power to the 30 percent: I have plenty of my own issues with the political establishment. But running a campaign that caters to (for lack of a better term) contrarians is exactly how you ensure that you’ll never reach a majority.3
Some suggest he’s dangerous. And that’s easy to understand. A guy who panders to the unhappy, to the contrarians (as Silver puts it) can whip up some wind. You’d better not turn your back on that.
Still, I’d like to believe Silver — and others like him — who say that the Trump phase in American politics will pass. I’d like to believe Trump has no chance to win the nomination.
But I don’t know.
I do know this. What comes out of his mouth is outrageous. But what really bugs me is the hat. “Make America Great Again.” That irks me. A lot.
I’d like to point out to Trump, and to all those people who are rooting for him, that for all the very real and some very grave problems that this country faces — gun problems, race problems, immigration problems, social problems, economic problems, threats from without and within — that America is great. Right now. Still.
And Trump is going to make it great … again?
He’s bullshitting us, right?
This is a country that allows a crap-thrower like Trump — who, honestly, doesn’t even strike me as very intelligent — to make billions, to speak freely, to say the dumbest things and hurt millions of people just because he wants to say them. For ego. For show. For grins. For whatever.
It’s the corniest of cornball, but I’m going to end this with a bit from Michael Douglas’ speech in The American President. Just replace “Bob Rumson” with “Trump.” (The video of president Andrew Shepherd’s address is here.):
We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.
I’m done with him. There are 14 1/2 months until the election. Step aside, Trump. Your 15 minutes are up.