No one’s laughing anymore.
For his vision of himself as president, for his perseverance to follow through on his vision despite the laughter (laughter that started well before he officially announced his candidacy), and for his complete belief that he’ll indeed win the general election, I have to admire Donald Trump, a man I dislike in almost every way.
We love our Horatio Alger stories. We root for the less-than-stellar athlete who believes in himself, works hard, and makes it to the major leagues. For the struggling artist who believes in herself, works hard, and becomes an Academy Award-winning star.
For the awkward school kid who believes in himself, works hard, and becomes a billionaire tech-wizard. Horatio Alger is to American mythology what Zeus was to the Greeks; the Puritans dragged their work ethic up Plymouth Rock, pushed it from sea to shining sea, and stamped it into our way of life, a life with long workdays, no siestas, few vacations, a quality of life where, to put it bluntly, money trumps everything else.
Trump may not be an immigrant or a first-generation American; as a trust-fund kid, he started with something. But he grew that something. He worked and worked and built and built (with some all-American bankruptcies along the way), and now he’s building a political movement.
Do I agree with his policies? No. I’m against racial discrimination. I’m against xenophobic rhetoric. I see no point in building a wall. I’m no economics major, but recognize The Don’s approach to free trade has damaging implications. I’m also against vague answers and posturing and self-promoting and the kind of emotive facial gestures that seem the antithesis of Hemingway’s grace under pressure (miraculously, Trump maintains his tough-guy status).
But look at what he’s done: He has played the game of politics with the foresight of a chess master. As his campaign unfolded, every move appeared all wrong. But so far, every move has turned out right, at least when it comes to garnering votes. Insulting women? No repercussions. Insulting John McCain’s military record? A spike in the polls. Insulting Mexicans and Muslims? Another spike. Making no excuses for the riots at his rallies? No real repercussions so far.
This can’t all be dumb luck. Trump is listening to his gut. And I’m guessing he’s listening to some very smart people around him (a harbinger, perhaps, of the Cabinet he’ll appoint).
There are horrible repercussions to what Trump is doing, dark clouds that hover over every one of his rallies. But there are also silver linings that may have already done more good for America than ill, starting with this: Jeb is dead.
Donald Trump single-handedly ended a Bush regime that killed Americans, drove us deep into debt, and made our country less than great. Trump is the only Republican I’ve heard, certainly the only Republican on this year’s debate stage, who pointed his finger directly at George W. for starting a war he had no business starting. And Donald Trump is the only candidate who told the truth about WMD in Iraq — there were none.
Shame on the liberal talking heads (who rightly made these same condemnations) for not giving Trump a standing-O for this political knockout. Without Trump, Jeb, the betting favorite at the beginning of the race, might have had a lock on the nomination by now.
Good riddance to the Bushes, including Momma Bush, paraded out during Jeb’s campaign, the same Barbara who said of the refugees packing the Astrodome after Hurricane Katrina, "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this—this is working very well for them.” So kind. So gentle.
But there’s more: Donald Trump is the only candidate who has called Ted Cruz an out-and-out liar, which he is, dangerously so. Cruz has connections to the Koch brothers. Case closed.
Donald Trump is the only candidate who cut Marco Rubio down to size, revealing him as a robotic novice. And just yesterday, Donald Trump served as a catalyst for highlighting the deficiency in John Kasich’s character.
Kasich’s two-path speech, a speech that timidly hit Trump without naming the man himself, revealed the truth about the governor from Ohio — do we really want a president who’s this overly-careful in his rhetoric, who homogenizes everything? That’s the stuff of status quo.
Trump may wield a misguided hammer, but at least he’s smashing through false politeness and political correctness. At least he calls a Kasich a Kasich.
Win or lose, Donald Trump will have forced the Republican Party to restructure itself. The ugly old guard has been exposed. The ugly old guard will be obsolete after this election. These are some sparkling silver linings.
Adam Berlin is the author of "Both Members of the Club" (winner of the Clay Reynolds Novella Prize), "The Number of Missing,” "Belmondo Style" (winner of The Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award), and “Headlock." He teaches writing at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and co-edits "J Journal: New Writing on Justice" (AdamBerlin.com). For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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