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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 4, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 10
The Trump Phenomenon
Section One
ALL STORIES
  next story
The Trump Phenomenon

by Janice Van Cleve - Special to the SGN

Republicans considered him a clown. Democrats considered him a joke. Yet he has swept the primaries in ten states and leads his Republican rivals in every poll. In a crowded field of political professionals, he has elbowed his way to the top, forcing both evangelical poster boys and seasoned governors out of the race. He has criticized the Republican establishment, big-money super PACs, Wall Street, and even Fox News and still beats them all. How does he do it? How does a coarse, belligerent bully who displays gross ignorance, racism, and misogyny keep on winning?

His supporters consistently say 'he tells it like it is.' Really? He has blurted out the most outlandish statements, some so egregious that he has had to apologize almost before he finished uttering them. His positions go way beyond fact-checking and into the realms of the unreal.

Yet this is one of the secrets of his success. His shock value delights the media, whose craven thirst for sensationalism blinds them to his real purpose. Trump is a showman and he is playing them. He has moved the goal posts of discussion and debate so far down the field that the media's so-called 'balanced reporting' lags behind in the dust, leaving them no choice but to run after him.

Instead of 'telling it like it is' to his supporters he is 'telling it like they are.' They are tired of lies, obfuscation, and political speech. For them, Trump talks like they do. He makes mistakes like they do. He is ignorant, racist, and misogynist like they are. He lashes out like they want to. He tears down stuffed shirts and attacks challengers. His core supporters are not so much interested in sound policies and detailed plans. They just want a champion who will destroy those whom they think are oppressing them: big government, big corporations, big Wall Street, and even the cancer of the Christian Taliban that has held hostage the Republican Party for way too long.

Trump's commanding lead after Super Tuesday has forced his remaining rivals to play the fear card. They are claiming that a Trump nomination will destroy the Republican Party. In many ways, however, Trump is resurrecting the Republican Party. He is attracting huge turnouts of new voters. His wealth allows him to be an independent voice unbeholden to the Karl Roves and Rick Warrens of the world. He can take on conservatives and corporations precisely because he is a billionaire, an entrepreneur, and one of them. It's like Nixon going to China - Trump can afford to ignore Republican taboos where a Democrat would be destroyed attempting to do the same things.

Donald Trump is no clown and no joke. Republicans and Democrats dismiss him at their peril. Sometimes it takes a populist - even a mean-spirited one - to wake up both parties and the general public. If a Trump nomination accomplishes that, the effect may revitalize American democracy. Who knows? Maybe even Congress will wake up!

If he wins the election, however, we will slide into cynicism, apathy, and despair. Vote!

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