Most of us knew Donald Trump was a joker at best and a monster at worst before he ran for President. I never watched those Apprentice reality TV shows. Just seeing the promotions for them showed me enough. Trump has a thicker skin than a rhino. More importantly, so do his fans and voters.
His primary rivals and the Clinton campaign have not deviated from their usual method of personal attacks in trying to defeat the Donald. Yes, we already knew or guessed that he’s a racist, misogynist, fear-mongering dimwit with a history of businesses going bankrupt amid clinically-serious displays of ego. Mostly likely the only shred of fact in his claims was his talk about buying politicians, and nobody else wants to talk about that. We think we know why, and so do his loyal voters.
So what is going wrong? Why are so many primary voters going for this character? It’s simpler than it seems. The problem is that the “leaders” of both major parties and their advisers, pundits, and party officials right down to the local level are caught up in the game-playing mode of politics they learned in the Reagan and/or Bill Clinton era. The Democrats talk about “incremental” change and know-how as if they had actually accomplished something. The Republicans try to do something for the conservative Christians who still vote for them, but mostly both parties do whatever the largest campaign contributors tell them to do. The politicians have reached the point of no longer knowing or caring whether the arguments for their actions make sense. Out here beyond the Beltway and the Statehouses, we care.
The people not in power are seeing through the Establishment distractions (restrooms, really? Easy targets, more likely), blame games and bullshit economics that have cost most of the US untold jobs, tens of thousands of military casualties along with trillions of dollars, surveillance of the entire American population, utter neglect of climate change, and various other ills. Let’s not forget our international reputation. Travelers tell tales of being either pitied or laughed at. Somehow, the parties’ Establishments believe they can go on with the destruction of the nation while lining their own pockets and making the corporations and ultra-wealthy individuals who keep them in office obscenely rich.
The simple fact is that most of us “out here” have lost interest in anything but fighting the people holding themselves up as leaders. Dirty politics has burned itself out. Who had sex with whom lost its power in the Bill Clinton administration. So did potentially shady land deals and other personal finance issues. The Benghazi hearings have dragged on, at great expense, so long that people have forgotten their original purpose out here in the Heartland. Nobody cares exactly what happened, and the politicians and pundits don’t ask what we were doing in Libya in the first place. We’re all tired of hearing about Hillary Clinton’s damn emails, too, as well as Trump’s marriages, business deals, and all the rest of it. Everybody’s mud-covered and exhausted. Nobody really cares about all that any more.
We just want to find somebody who will actually change the economy and all the rest of it instead of sucking up to high-dollar campaign buyers. Those potential choices boil down to Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, or an as-yet-unheralded third candidate. I favor Sanders because he has a consistent history of addressing the needs and problems of real people, and because he’s been successful at it. (Study his record versus Clinton’s before you tell me the party line.) I will vote for Sanders if he is the Democratic Presidential nominee. If not, I’ll vote Green Party, because voting for Hillary is voting for what we have now. However, the Democrats’ party machine has succeeded in suppressing Sanders’ dissent much more than the Republicans have controlled their candidates. At some point, their claim that Sanders cannot win the nomination may become a real fact.
The GOP’s chosen tool, Jeb Bush, crashed early on and the party has been in free fall ever since. It seems the Republicans are not getting the voters’ message either. Except Trump.
Donald J Trump is a son of wealth and a semi-successful real estate developer (with four companies that went bankrupt) with two failed marriages and a stint on reality TV as his history. He has been registered as a Republican, then a Reform Party member, then a Democrat from 2001-2009 (per Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Trump#Political_affiliations). Now he says he’s a Republican.
Like Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan, Trump in the past has stood out at nothing except personality. That may be all he needs. He does the best marketing of any politician at least since Bill Clinton, and probably back to Reagan. He picked up early on what GOP primary voters wanted and presented himself as that outsider. His messaging skills are superb. He uses forceful words that set him off from the weasel language used by most in politics, even if he is almost incoherent. In that market, admitting to buying politicians was a sound tactic, because it reinforced the perception that he’s so wealthy he can ignore the big “donors.” (They’re not really donors; they’re buyers, as he has pointed out over and over.) He has completely bulldozed his current party. Based on recent changes in his positions, there’s a real chance he can convince plenty of general-election voters that he knows what he is doing and will bring change. He doesn’t know what he is doing and any change he brings will be disastrous, but voters likely will not understand that. Trump’s field is marketing, and anybody who has assumed that prescribed medicines must be safe, expected Volkswagen to be truly honest, or assumed the auto makers would ensure safe airbags is vulnerable to marketing. If current trends continue, Trump will face Hillary Clinton in the general election. Secretary Clinton inspires almost nobody, and that is a very bad sign for attracting independent voters and for voter turnout. On top of that, Trump has a killer instinct for the issues Clinton cannot discuss because her record shows no change or because she has taken actual conservative positions on them. The military action in Libya is a good example. Whatever happened in Benghazi was possible because she advocated hard for intervening in Libya as Secretary of State. That’s exactly what Trump feeds on. He won’t let the discussion focus on anything that doesn’t embarrass her. Make no mistake, Trump will control the discussion versus Clinton. She has never succeeded in that.
I do not want a President Trump. We have no way of knowing what, if any, underlying beliefs he might hold. He shows no sign of any ethics. Even if he were well-meaning, he lacks the relative political experience of Truman and the advisers of Reagan. I see no way his term would not be a disaster.
Only two hopes remain to the US voter. One is Sanders as the Democratic candidate. (As Clinton’s Vice-Presidential candidate, he would become irrelevant, which is exactly why that is being discussed among Democrats.) Sanders excels at bringing passion to concrete issues. He has not been distracted or detoured by the Establishment’s unfair methods or their searches for dirt on him, although he has pointed out the unfairness to the voters. He has the strength to keep the discussion on the well-being of the people and the insight to challenge Trump on his many weaknesses in governance. Last but certainly not least, he is the only candidate whose positive “likeability” has remained above his negatives throughout the campaign. Trump is widely hated, but Clinton’s rating is nearly as bad.
The other, less likely, hope is that the major parties will complete their disintegration before their conventions end. In that instance almost anything might happen, including a three- or four-way election. That scenario favors Sanders, who polls noticeably better among independent voters than the others, carries many Democrats and some Republicans, and would draw most of the votes from progressive “third” parties.
If the Democratic Party cares about its own future or that of the United States, it will find a way to nominate Bernie Sanders for President and include his endorsed down-ballot candidates.