If you had told me only a few months ago that Donald Trump would not only be a bona fide presidential candidate but also leading in Republican national polls, I would have advised you to get back on your meds. But here we are and the once unimaginable has become reality. In the most recent Fox News poll, Donald Trump leads the pack of 15 declared Republican candidates with 18% of the vote, followed by Scott Walker at 15% and Jeb Bush at 14%. None of the other candidates reached double digits in the Fox poll.
But you, the person I so dismissively accused of being off their meds, quickly remind me of previous Republican candidates who led in presidential polls only to later self-destruct. “Just look at Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry,” you say. “Trump will fizzle and fade just like they did.”
After reading some of the comments people have posted online about “The Donald,” (“Trump tells it like it is;” “Trump…USA, USA, USA;” “Trump is a real leader, not like that wuss Obama;” “I’m a Democrat but I like what Trump has to say” ) I do not think he will go the route of “The Herminator.” Trump is a different animal altogether. He is a showman, a celebrity starring in his own new reality series. The spotlight is squarely focused on him and he is luxuriating in the attention. To his credit, Trump has done something all the other mainstream candidates have been unable to do. He has brought people who otherwise do not care about politics into the game. And boy have they made their political views, however ill-informed, known!
Trump, with an ego the size of which we have not seen in some time, says exactly what people are thinking but other established candidates dare not say. They prefer to deliver their messages in code or through dog whistles. Trump has successfully tapped into a deep vein of racism, bigotry and xenophobia that makes up a large part of the American electorate today. “Trump is like a breath of fresh air because he could care less about political correctness,” one comment read.
The “real” politicians in the race have been put in a bind by Trump’s success. Do they risk offending their base by criticizing Trump or do they lay back and not attack the man? When (not if) Trump, in a debate, accuses President Obama of not being an American will there be any candidate who has the guts of a John McCain who famously told a supporter, “No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign’s all about. He’s not [an Arab].”
The Republican Party has stealthily been playing on people’s fears, and ignorance, for quite some time. They are masters at the game. Trump is just the “unfiltered” version of who they are and what they stand for. The chickens have finally come home to roost.
The odds of Trump becoming the Republican Party’s presidential nominee are still remote. With a mouth like his, how long before a Todd Aikens “legitimate rape” moment? But then again America elected a “B” actor president and the great state of Minnesota swore in a professional wrestler governor. As Chuck Berry might say, “You never can tell.”