The One About That Asshole Running For President

21 Sep

donald-trump-hairI resisted. I had better things to do. I had worse things to do. Far worse, but more fun, more enjoyable. Stuff that would have lasting positive memories. I could watch baseball. Hang out with friends. Write stories about the sad and lonely (my specialty). I could enjoy summer in New York, walk the parks, take in a show, see a bunch of superheroes dispatch cinematic nogoodniks. Read and read and read. Fall in love. Fall out of love. Pine. And sleep it all off.

And I did just about all of those things. And still he would not go away. At first a joke ready made for Jon Stewart, but then Jon Stewart was gone, leaving us with an appeal to stand firm against the evil masquerading as the absurd, his version of “If you see something, say something.”

His presidential announcement had him riding down an escalator cheered on by paid fans. He stated that he was stinking rich and that Mexicans were rapists. He advocated for a really long fence. He lost contracts. Macy’s bailed on him. NBC turned his catch phrase back on him. NASCAR (NASCAR!!!) cut ties with him. Stewart (still around) mocked it all.  

He was introduced at a rally in Phoenix by Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Google him. I dare you. John McCain called his fan base “crazies.” He responded by saying McCain wasn’t a war hero because he’d been captured. “I like people who weren’t captured.” (So I guess that makes Goering a thumbs down, but Hitler a thumbs up. But I digress.) He publically gave out Lindsey Graham’s phone number. He may have raped his former wife.  

And somehow Donald Trump has been the Republican front runner for most of the summer.

And I didn’t really care, because the longer this guy was in the race, the more fun it would be. Bad hair, orange skin, sticks his name on tall buildings like he’s compensating for something, an ego that pummels bystanders with hot air and bullshit. He’s fun. He’s kitschy. He makes Colbert hilarious and Fallon watchable. Who will play him on SNL? His Twitter feed (@realDonaldTrump because someone already trolled him there) is a mix of Andrew Dice Clay, David Duke, Gallagher, and your uncle who ruins Thanksgiving because he keeps using the phrase “towel heads.” He made people mostly forget about Hillary’s email thing. Forget that Huckabee wants to send the Army against Planned Parenthood. He made us – gulp – happy, because here was the embodiment of all that is ridiculous in America and American politics, reality television meets fake populism.

Concerns about Trump were dismissed out of hand. It’s early. He’s a passing fad. Hell, Michelle Bachman was a front runner four years ago. Santorum too. But (relative) sanity won out with Mitt Romney.

At the Fox News Debate he, for some oddball reason, mocked Rosie O’Donnell. Afterward he said that moderator Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” Interpret as you please. RedState disinvited him to a conference. He called RedState editor Erick Erickson a “total loser.” Trump was ahead by 10 points.

All of this has happened and pundits keep saying that Trump will fade. He’ll fade after he called Hispanics rapists and murders. He’ll fade after he dissed John McCain’s service. He’ll fade when he went after Megyn Kelly. He’ll fade when he said something untoward regarding Jeb Bush’s wife. He’ll fade after he told Carly Fiorina to shut up. He’ll fade when he said “we’re going to be looking at Muslims,” (and please, substitute Jews in there and it sounds like, well you know…)

But he hasn’t faded. And so I feel compelled to say this: Donald Trump is not a joke. He’s not a Democratic plant. He’s a seriously dangerous man running to be President of the United States. He’s a race baiter, if not an outright racist himself. He’s a demagogue and a bully. His supporters are crazy, racist, xenophobic, hateful people. Though I’m sure there are a few good ones as well.

What bothers me so much about Trump is not his policies, which he has yet to specify, and it’s not even his tone. It’s what he represents. Trump rewrites what the American Dream is meant to be. Most of us believe that Dream has been for people to be able to have a job, make a decent living, not worry about the bills at the end of the month, provide for one’s family, and leave the world a bit better for their children. Most of us don’t aspire for anything more. Some have the talent or wherewithal to find their way to an elite school. A select few will become leaders in business, industry, arts, and governance. Inherently, the American Dream is the ideal that someone of the most unlikely of backgrounds could rise to the pinnacle of their chosen field. (See, e.g., Barack Obama).

Too many people in this country will never aspire for anything more than not dying young, poor, and violently. There is no vast inheritance coming their way. They are prisoners of institutional poverty and institutional racism. Still others come from backgrounds where hope gives way to crushing debt, and years or decades of their lives are given over to staying out of personal bankruptcy. A handful may be able to start their own businesses, but find themselves beholden to vast corporations who don’t compete but consume. And many millions come to this country – legally or not – with the simple desire to have a better life for themselves and their children, to find their own American Dream. They’ve come Cuba and Mexico, Poland and Germany, Russia, Lithuania, Vietnam, and Syria. These immigrants, these Dreamers, are what Emma Lazarus dubbed “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Or as Trump would call them, “Losers.”

Trump is a bully who throws around the word “Losers” like Charlie Sheen did “Winning!” during his drug-fueled fugue of a few years ago. He says it like life’s a game, that if one is not rich and powerful, successful in the only terms Trump can fathom, then you are somehow less of a person. It’s top-down class warfare at its worst. It’s not “if you aren’t with us, you’re against us,” its, “if you aren’t like me, you have failed.” Where many of us view the strength of society by the weakest link in the chain, Trump and his ilk view only the strong as relevant. It is the idealization of Social Darwinism and makes Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy look like Bernie Sanders’ Socialist one.

Do I honestly think Donald Trump could get the Republican nomination or even win the White House? Nope. My money’s still on Rubio for the first one and Hillary for the second. But. Just because something can’t happen doesn’t mean it won’t. I honestly did not believe we would see an African-American president in my lifetime. And with this clown car of a GOP race, anything is possible. And remember, unlike Bachman or Santorum or any of the current crop of candidates, Trump basically has an unlimited well of cash to do with as he pleases.

But even if he fails to get a single delegate, Trump’s danger is the inflammatory rhetoric he uses to create fear, hatred, and divisiveness in ordinary people. Populism has been used positively in America, from the Revolution to Teddy Roosevelt to Occupy Wall Street. But too often it’s used by people like George Wallace and Strom Thurmond and the fringe candidates of the Tea Party, who make issues be all about Us v. Them. This is exactly what Trump is doing. He may be a rich buffoon, but he’s also a demagogue. He is the match with which the fires of hatred and intolerance are lit. He may not – please please please may he not – win, but the harm he is inflicting upon the country is immeasurable. He’s priming the pump of racism and xenophobia, making people fear the Other.

Some have compared Bernie Sanders’ campaign to Trump’s. They’re both – relative – outsiders, one being arguably the most left-leaning member of Congress, the other a man who sued because Bill Maher compared to an orangutan. I don’t believe either will win their party’s nominations or the Presidency, but as Sanders has pointed out during his campaign, it’s not about him, it’s about a movement to raise awareness about poverty, income inequality, corporate greed, and a whole host of other issues that need to be rectified. The difference between the two men cannot be exaggerated. One goes to Liberty University to show that there is more to unite us than divide us. The other still thinks Obama was born in Kenya.

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