I walked into work this morning and was just able to catch the tail end of a conversation between two coworkers. “I can’t wait for First Lady Melania Trump.” I laughed it off thinking the comment was made in jest and sat down at my desk ready to start the day. “I’m serious! Why are you laughing?” Obviously the second of the two thought she was making a joke as well and his chuckle was met with noisy resistance. Her bristled protests and insistence that a Trump presidency would be nothing short of “awesome” and the “shakeup America needs” left me with a bad taste in my mouth and an instant stomachache. This is not how I wanted to start my day.
It is second nature these days to expect that during the infancy period of national campaigns the crazies will poll high and lead the pack – inevitably crashing and burning out in the first few months of the actual campaign season. Early primary debates and initial media blitzes will mostly be used by the candidates to grow their name recognition among targeted voter groups. They trip over themselves during the primary debates catering to the ignorant and extreme, hog media attention with outlandish and often downright repugnant statements, and pay homage to the few wealthy donors; begging for scraps and licking their boots while promising Cabinet positions and ambassadorships following their inevitable win.
But until that happens they ride the wave of populist support within the GOP, overshadowing serious candidates and causing rifts within their own party. They say crazy, bigoted, misogynistic, sexist, and outright racist statements, which play to the most extreme of the right-wing base. When a candidate like The Donald claims all Mexicans are rapists, murders, and drug dealers or that our first black president is secretly a Muslim-terrorist sympathizer, the crowd cheers; falsely believing that Trump will lead them back to the days when white, conservative privilege and principles reigned supreme and without question. It’s fantasy land, or to borrow a recently coined phrase, pure applesauce.
The general public wants someone who represents the office with dignity and confidence. Our allies and enemies judge American conviction by first looking at our leaders. They are the face of our nation – our mouthpieces for our policies, positions, and worldviews. When the rest of the world engages the US they don’t want to talk to some foreigner-bashing, bomb-threatening, knee-jerk plutocrat. How can they trust a person who gleeful pulls vindictive moves against his own party’s candidates or belittles the service of others for a point bump in the polls? Thankfully, The Donald only polls well with people like my coworker. His national standing with the general public against serious candidates like Hilary Clinton is appalling and his actual public fundraising brings forth a collective sigh of relief.
He defied skeptics today (including this one) who thought he would bow out early to avoid filling his financial disclosure form with the FEC. For years The Donald has touted a $10 billion empire but he has always avoided the public release of his finances. It seems he is taking his candidacy more seriously this time around. But it doesn’t make a difference. The Donald is a sideshow who has taken center stage. He will ride the media wave for as long as he can, branding his name along the way and coming out with a new book deal in the end.
His reign will be short-lived and entertaining. Along the way he will take similar circuses and extreme candidates down with him. It has happened before and it will happen again. Just ask Michele Bachmann, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain.
I’m pretty sure they’re watching their TVs thinking “hey, I know I’m better than this guy!” For once, I may agree with you. We will just have to wait and see.