With a verve and vigor not typically found in a presidential candidate, Donald Trump is blazing the path to the White House. While the headlines blare and gutless wonders throw fits, his popularity has soared, leaving most of his rivals in the statistical dust. Indeed, it has been the Summer of Trump.
Listening to him for the first time as he spoke to an energized crowd in Alabama this August, I was transfixed, eagerly anticipating what he would say next. This is not what I expected. I had gone into that day strongly favoring another candidate with a couple of potentials in reserve. He was none of these. In fact, what little I knew of him I did not like.
But as I watched, something began to change. It’s not so much that I went from disliking to liking him or deciding he was The One; rather, I began to recognize and appreciate what he was doing. So in earnest, I tuned into the Donald Trump Campaign Show to further assess this most unusual of political animals.
Compared with the typical political speechmaking, posturing, and stale one-liners, Trump’s rhetoric is electric. Of course, he has his talking points, but he doesn’t come across as rehearsed as if he’s been practicing his lines in front of a mirror, parroting what others tell him to say. He ad libs, often meandering but always coming back to his point. He clearly has rapport with the crowds, feeding off them without losing his stride.
He is actually having a good time! How often do we see that in politics—a person who is entertaining and confident? He is totally at ease in front of what would daunt most people: multiple live cameras and venues filled with thousands of people. As Trump would say, “unba-lievable!”
Donald Trump’s Sweets ‘N Lows
Trump makes me laugh, but he also makes me cringe. More on that in a moment.
In the midst of all the boasting and comic flair, Trump has rightly challenged the GOP establishment, linked immigration with our national survival, and upended political correctness on multiple fronts. Certainly he’s not the first, but somehow it’s all come together in a momentous way that begs for our attention. Each of these accomplishments, however preliminary, deserves recognition and support. He has given us a true gift: an opportunity to remove destructive, parasitic elements within the Republican Party and nation.
The problem, however, is that Trump’s got this “creepy candy coating” vibe that just won’t go away. The ick factor rises whenever he stalks women on social media or takes juvenile swipes at his critics, and lays it on thickly how rich we’re all going to be because of him and his “killer” negotiators.
He acts like a mob boss, demanding loyalty while heaping love upon those who praise him and contempt upon those who criticize. The only things missing are the knowing winks and nods while he chomps away loudly on a wad of gum rolling around his mouth. And what about his performance in last week’s debate? Although Drudge’s poll shows a clear Trump victory, his overall performance was his worst yet. His gibes fell flat, his explanations were insufficient, and his persona was ridiculous.
Trump’s candidacy evokes mixed emotions. My eyes are transfixed, while my mind reels and heart aches: this is not what our Founders had in mind. But maybe this is who we need, at just this moment, to move this nation toward wholeness. Eventually, hopefully, as we recover individually and collectively, we will come to deserve and expect more of our candidates and elected officials. But for now, maybe what we need is a bull in a china shop.
Whether or not he makes it to the general election, Trump has proven to be extremely useful, and we should take advantage of the opportunity he has given us.
The Universal Candidate Meets the Silent Majority
Even though Trump sounds so New York, he has universal appeal. He can, in one week, easily connect with thousands of northeasterners (New Hampshire), deep-South southerners (Alabama), and Midwesterners (Iowa). His speeches are basically the same in content, and he doesn’t have to change his accent depending on the geography. He is also making surprising inroads with Democrats, Independents, and blacks.
How has he done this? By openly discussing immigration using non-PC language, Trump has tapped into an issue that resonates deeply with the electorate. He has united the Silent Majority — millions of Americans who have watched in horror over the years as politicians and culture-makers assault our national identity, national pride, and nation’s history.
Kathryn Steinle’s murder on the San Francisco pier was not an isolated incident, and it still reverberates across the country. Because of incidents like that coupled with Trump’s unapologetic stance and strong poll numbers, we are now seriously talking about anchor babies, the Fourteenth Amendment, sanctuary cities, and building a wall. That border insecurity and anchor babies were treated as legitimate problems during Wednesday’s debate is a credit to Trump.
To rid our land of idiotic and dangerous policies, we must engage in these discussions. Even though it’s been messy at times, laced with the usual logical fallacies and vitriol, we need to keep up the engagement. Hopefully, we still have enough sense as a nation to disregard bogus arguments and retain worthy ideas that breathe life into our republic. This is a duty we all share, imparted to us by the Founders and reinforced by Abraham Lincoln.
Shattering Political Correctness
Going back to the days of Lincoln and his opposition to the Garrisonian abolitionists, the Republican Party has a history of publicly airing its internal feuds. Wednesday’s debate is a good example. Even though Trump has the unfortunate ability to turn any discussion into the verbal equivalent of a food fight, he has forced his rivals to make their positions clearer, some squirming uncomfortably in the process. Trump’s views on immigration alone have provided a standard by which we assess other candidates.
Additionally, once-suppressed language now pervades the news. By forcing the issues, using clear language, and expressing the feelings millions share, Trump has thrown into sharp relief the suffocating effects of political correctness. Most people desperately want to speak freely and clearly. Since we haven’t had much practice doing that for decades, it’s going to be a bit rough and spasmodic at times. So we need to cultivate the art of making sound, principled arguments; not just venting emotions. That’s going to take practice and time. Thankfully, we’ve already seen progress such that when Debbie Wasserman Schultz scolds Jeb Bush for using the phrase “anchor babies,” she sounds like a school hall monitor.
Trump is a spectacle, feral and unpredictable. His effects, like refracted light, show more than a particular man at a particular point in history. No one person, not even Trump, can resolve the problems that beset the country. There is no panacea, no silver bullet. Yet Trump has done hard labor. He has begun the necessary process of unleashing suppressed language, thoughts, and ideas that need the oxygen of public discourse to make anything substantial possible. This is vital to our survival.
Although a braggart and showman, Trump is a welcome sight to behold.