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Jencunas: Trump - What the Clown Show Means for the Election

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Donald Trump

Donald Trump has been many things in his life – wunderkind real estate developer, bankrupt real estate developer, bankrupt casino mogul, reality television star, birther conspiracy nut – and now he can add Presidential Candidate to his checkered résumé. Soon he’ll be able to add Failed Presidential Candidate, since the only poll he leads in is the one that asks voters who they’d never support.

In a fair world, Trump’s candidacy would be ignored and he would be deprived of the attention he desperately craves. His rare combination of arrogance, bombast, incompetence, and ignorance combines to make Trump so unsuited for the Presidency that he makes the 1960s segregationist candidate George Wallace look like a thoughtful statesman.

But politics isn’t fair. Trump will get attention because, though he is wrong, he’s the loudest wrong person in America. His soundbites will be repeated in the echo chamber of the internet and cable news, and serious candidates will be expected to react to Trump’s idiocy. His name recognition will allow him to qualify for inclusion in the Presidential debates, perhaps crowding out a serious candidate like Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, or Rick Santorum.

On the challenges facing America, Trump is at his best when he doesn’t understand them, such as when he thinks the constitution guarantees a right to privacy but believes Roe v. Wade was improperly decided. When Trump actually proposes a solution for problems, they range from laughable to terrifying. On ISIS, he has a secret plan that he won’t tell anyone but he’s sure will be effective. On trade, Trump wants to impose a 25% tariff on Chinese goods, raising prices on American consumers and triggering a trade war that will make it more difficult for American companies to export goods. On unemployment, he sides with conspiracy theorists who think the Obama administration is somehow suppressing knowledge of the real unemployment rate, which is over 20%. On immigration, he announced in his speech today that he'll build a "Great Wall" between Mexico and America, and somehow get the Mexicans to pay for it.

To be fair to The Donald, he’s good at construction. He’s built major properties like Trump Towers in New York, Trump Hotel & Tower in Chicago, and many other hotels around the world. In real estate, he’s gone bankrupt several times but also owns some fabulously expensive properties.

Most Americans, to their credit, are smart enough to know that Trump should stick to building properties and bossing around pretend employees on reality television. Yet he has some support and I think he’ll surprise pundits with how many votes he ends up with. Trump’s tough-guy demeanor and promise of easy solutions to complex problems will endear him with the crowd of voters that my mentor in politics, Jay Goodman, called the “screw you voters.” They’re the people who hate the system, not for any reason or policy position, but simply because they think it’s rigged and run by idiots. These are the people who vote for Bob Healy here in Rhode Island and they will form a core of voters for a goofy, fringe candidate like Donald Trump.

Trump’s core philosophy, insofar as a man so shallow has philosophic thoughts, is that all our problems could go away if America’s leaders were tough the way Trump is. This is appealing because it’s a magic wand – it can solve any problem without any tradeoffs. It’s delusional thinking, but it has an audience because it’s comforting.

It’s easy to think that we solve the challenge of China’s geopolitical rise by simply yelling at the Chinese and somehow intimidating them out of seeking international power. It’s hard to understand that China’s rise has many causes and, rather than being a problem to be solved, is a reality to accept and work within in order to maximize the American national interest.

Watch Trump’s support in the campaign. It’s a sign of how many people think the whole political system is bogus, and that it would be better being torn apart by the one-man wrecking ball named Donald Trump.

Brian Jencunas works as a communications and media consultant. He can be reached at [email protected] and always appreciates reader feedback.


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