trump, n. 1. cards, any playing card of a suit that for the time outranks the other suits, such a card being able to take any card of another suit.
pomp, n. 2. ostentatious or vain display, especially of dignity or importance. (Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary)
Donald Trump, born in 1946 in Queens, NY, is a real estate magnate (that means “huge”) running for President on the Republican ticket. Besides being a real estate magnate, he also is a prominent television personality, (The Apprentice) owns gambling casinos, and promotes wrestling and beauty pageants. Various businesses of his have declared bankruptcy four times, the most recent in 2009. Despite this he claims his personal net worth is about 8-10 billion dollars. Other estimates range from over $1.4 billion by federal election regulators to about $4.1 billion in an article published in Forbes in 2015. So much uncertainty raises some suspicions but he’s worth a lot in any case and he knows how to manipulate the financial and legal systems to his own advantage. He also understands publicity and negotiating deals.
Trump has toyed with running for President for decades but this time he seems to have jumped in with both feet and mouth wide open. At this point he is self-financed, giving him the freedom to act and speak independently, which he has done loudly and at length. In 2011, he inserted himself into the manufactured controversy over the land of President Obama’s birth. Bigots, who just could not stand the idea that a man with an African father had been elected President of the United States, had argued that Obama was ineligible to be President because he was not born in the USA but in Kenya. A forged birth certificate supporting that contention circulated on the internet. There has never been any legal doubt of where Barack Obama was born (Hawaii) and in any case, his mother was native born, so the controversy only appealed to the aforementioned bigots. Trump publically pushed the President to release his long form birth certificate, which he did, and then took credit for how important he had been in getting the birth certificate released. He never said that the matter was settled. “Birtherism” has now died down, partly because Obama was re-elected. Additionally, some of those same bigots are now supporting Ted Cruz for President. Cruz was born in Canada to a Cuban-born father and an American-born mother.
In man-on-the-street and focus group interviews, Trump supporters often say that he “tells it like it is.” What Trump learned with his adventure into birtherism was that there are a substantial number of Republican voters who will support him when he “tells it like it isn’t.” This fraction seems to be somewhere around 20%. It might be as high as 35% if you add in those who currently support Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, who are also clearly competing for the so-called “social conservative” vote. So, The Donald can trumpously assert that the Mexican government is sending rapists and disease to the United States and that he will have a wall built on the border that the Mexican government will pay for, and the crowds cheer. He can insult John McCain’s record as a prisoner of war (Trump was 4F during the Viet Nam era) and does not lose support. He can call women he doesn’t like “fat pigs,” “dogs,” and “slobs” or assert that our current political leaders are stupid while the leadership of Mexico is smart, and the crowds cheer. He assures us that he is very rich and very smart because he went to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Note: he has not released his transcripts.
The Trump candidacy makes other Republican candidates desperate for attention. The press loves to cover him, hoping for and receiving one outrageous statement after another. It’s almost as if Rush Limbaugh and/or Ann Coulter were running. Nobody seems to care what the other candidates say, so they have moved further and further to the right to try to appeal to the nuts that Trump has locked up. Simply smearing Hillary is insufficient. One needs to do more. Everyone opposes the Iran deal. Huckabee says that President Obama is marching the state of Israel to the doors of the ovens. Graham says we should attack Iran and put soldiers back on the ground in the Middle East. Their poll numbers have still not gone up.
Pundits keep saying that it is early and Trump will flame out, leaving the field to the standard, Wall Street, establishment Republicans such as Jeb Bush. But, what if he doesn’t? Angry white folks will stay angry and bigots will stay bigots. Bush is not their champion. The Republicans cannot win the Red states without these voters and cannot win a national election by appealing mostly to them. As Pogo once observed, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
The Republican leadership has been driven to distraction by the election and re-election of a brown liberal to the Presidency. They recognized, after Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election, that they needed at least 40% of the Mexican American vote and could not lose the women’s vote again by 11% as Romney did. Yet, they cannot stop insulting brown people and women. Republican legislators in Red States pass laws to restrict the voting rights of black and brown people. Bush and Walker say with pride that, as governors, they defunded Planned Parenthood in their states. Cruz and Fiorina would even shut down the Federal government in order to defund Planned Parenthood. (Of note is that the abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood, 3% of their medical services, have not been federally funded since the Hyde Amendment was passed in 1976.) Three of the current Republican presidential candidates: Rubio, Huckabee, and Santorum oppose abortion under all circumstances, even rape and incest. Santorum opposes contraception, even in marriage. Perhaps he is really running for Pope.
Will His Trumposity finally take the Republican Party down the path of the Whigs and Federalists to irrelevancy and oblivion? What if they lose the next Presidential election to a woman or, God forbid, a Socialist? Trump will survive. He’s survived and profited from four bankruptcies. But can the Republicans?