Within a week of seeing my words “[I] see only two names on the political horizon: Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton” in print last February, I felt very silly. Bush and Clinton, names which have been on the forefront of American political life for almost as long as I’ve been alive, might as well be the county’s former future prime candidates. While there’s much that can be said about Sanders or the woefully oversimplified Scandinavian model of which he is a proponent, I find Trump’s candidacy more interesting.
When I first heard of Donald Trump during his 2008 flirtation with a run for the White House, I thought he was a joke, simply a billionaire with a tan and a comb over who, like Charles Foster Kane, thought it would be fun to run for president. I have since learned to be more humble. After I heard in June that Donald Trump had announced his candidacy, I begrudgingly YouTubed his kick-off speech to see what the latest lackluster candidate had to say. Again, I learned to be more humble.
The two people I’ve most heard Trump compared to have been Mitt Romney and former independent candidate Ross Perot. But the more I compare, the more seriously I find myself taking Trump. 2016 is not 1992.
Romney and Obama both raised more than a million dollars in 2012, whereas Romney had to think long and hard about whether spending another quarter million dollars would be a worthwhile investment; Trump would not. His net worth alone is sixteen times Romney’s.
Said either in praise or derision, Trump’s quite the showman. Something neither Romney nor Perot were. According to MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, when Trump finds himself on a debate stage with the other Republican hopefuls “and hits them . . . with something searing and truthful that nobody else in polite political society will say,” such as building a wall on the Mexican border, ending the ever-baffling alliance between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia or enacting economic sanctions on China, “it can change a race.”
In his kick-off speech in New York City, Trump made remarks which were taken by many as insulting towards immigrants, notably his comments about immigrants from Mexico. His comments were taken as insulting and consequently NBCUniversal—which also owns NBC, MSNBC and the Spanish-language station Telemundo—promptly decided to cut its ties with Trump. Over the following days, “Donald Trump” was a top trending topic on Facebook. It looks like NBCUniversal’s move gave Trump, who has often struggled in the polls due to low name-recognition, free advertising. NBCUniversal’s move, it would seem, backfired.
I can only guess where Trump’s campaign will go from here, but if his book “The Art of the Deal” has a chapter titled “The Law of Unintended Consequences,” I recommend NBCUniversal find a copy today.
Much of what Trump says, said New Jersey Republican strategist and MSNBC contributor Steve Schmidt, are things “that millions of Americans shout at their television sets every night. . . He has the potential to be very impactful in this race.” What other candidate, asked Schmidt, “[is] going to be able to [Trump] on mano a mano?” The short answer is: no one. He has the money. He has the presence. He—at least according to MSNBC—has the message.
The argument that Trump will, like Perot in 1992, simply take enough votes away from Republicans to ensure a Democratic victory cannot hold water, because both parties have been hemorrhaging members for the last quarter century.
Unless the entire voting population manages to make it until November without hearing thirty seconds of the unscripted, unedited and unorthodox Trump, he cannot be ignored.