by Ryan Campbell | July 7, 2015
Trump is really shaking up the Republican primaries. His secret: scream the bigoted anti-immigration rhetoric that most GOP candidates only whisper without ever having to actually worry about a general election.
With about a dozen candidates, this primary cycle is reminiscent of the California recall election that actually saw an aging action movie star with no political experience become leader of the state with the largest economy. In the Twitter age, it’s predictable that, when the field is so evenly divided between so many candidates, anyone with a brand who corners even a modest portion of those currently being polled is politically significant. This is exactly where Donald Trump cashed in.
Other contenders include Ben Carson, who said Obamacare is the “worst thing since slavery;” Carly Fiorina, who is obscure enough to be praying the #WaronWomen and GOP rape quotes will drive them towards any female candidate; and national political wash-ups like Huckabee, who is still backing up the former reality show star Duggar family despite the pedophilia allegations, and Rick Santorum, who is likely just competing for a Fox News anchorship.
A field this big has all the same problems of the clown car last time, with even more clowns. Is it any surprise that Trump is able to keep his head afloat in this sea by capturing a bigoted, xenophobic group of voters the same way he did with Birthers? He knows that the back door of the GOP is quietly held open for racists.
For those who would object, take Majority Whip Scalise for instance: he is the #2 in the GOP House who talked at Neo Nazi organization meetings and described himself as “David Duke [prominent KKK leader] without the baggage.” In addition, whenever there are a lot of hot issues that are racially divisive, Republicans reliably break against minorities:
When unarmed black men and are injured by police they have political hacks like Rudy Giuliani leading the charge on Fox News to defend the cop every time; when voter rights are at stake, they celebrate the gutting of the Voter Rights Act and back up measures to make voter registration more difficult; Steve “Cantaloupe calves” King (R-IA) still leads a completely unreasonable, hyperbolically anti-immigrant wing of the party that controls the legislative agenda in the House and has not only prevented immigration reform, but tried to kill off DACA for Dreamers: As long as Donald Trump is in the party spewing anti-immigrant, racially-charged rhetoric, he isn’t the exception, he is the rule for the GOP.
The big difference with Trump is that he doesn’t actually need votes in a general election, so he doesn’t even bother with the dog whistle; he just goes straight for it in a way that must make Steve Scalise jealous while he continues to publicly apologize for Neo Nazi affiliations. In an age where candidates need to wait for their pollsters to tell them whether or not they can endorse taking down the Confederate flag, Trump’s bluntness and lack of real investment in actually winning will let him outflank any politician: he is the perfect monster for our dysfunctional, primary-centric political age.
To “keep it real,” Donald’s big sin against the Republicans is putting in a bigoted scream that which the GOP often says in whispers. Now that he put it out there, they need to disown it and lose voting bigots, or embrace it and alienate those who thought taking down the Confederate flag was a good idea.
From a pure business perspective, staying afloat means more name brand recognition, and this is for an adult who compulsively stamps his name on everything he owns. Not only is this good business for Donald, it’s like giving an attention junkie the biggest hit he’s ever had; I’ve never watched The Apprentice, but even a misanthrope like myself can’t avoid the fact that Trump is trending like a naked Kardashian now.
Dealing clumsily with deeply divisive racial issues would be bad during any election cycle, but this is the worst to do it in so far. That is because we are in an age of coalition politics where, as Romney showed us, winning the white vote alone doesn’t win a general election. In addition, tensions are high as the country, still deeply divided on race, is reeling from the gutting of the Voter Rights Act, civil unrest as a result of repeated abuse of police authority against minority communities and struggling to understand the significance of the Charleston shootings.
While Sarah Palin made me consider it, Donald Trump proves it: Mike Judge’s brilliant Idiocracy was in fact a grim, final opening of Pandora’s box. While Trump may not be a professional wrestler turned President, let’s face it, he isn’t far enough from it for me to really be comfortable. Although people aren’t getting stupider, our politics have been, with Sarah Palin and Donald Trump’s career waltzing over Washington’s grave. Perhaps, as people who are consumed with media consumption more so than understanding complex political issues, Donald Trump is not the politician that we need, rather, the politician we have earned as a society.