Donald Trump is, it is safe to say, a political phenomenon we didn’t think would last this long. When he first flirted with running this time around, I like many others, just ignored Trump. He had said he would run in 2012 and hadn’t. Why would this be different? Apparently because Trump knew he was in danger of being the boy that cried wolf. Sensing that the attention he was receiving for speculation was not up to far, Trump went and actually ran, declaring so in what can now only be called Trumpean fashion. He rode down an escalator in Trump tower to a fan base that consisted at least partially of paid actors and accused Mexicans of being rapists with the caveat that he assumes some are good people.
When was Ashton Kutcher going to jump out and tell the country we had been punked? We are still waiting for that moment. I spent much of the first months of his candidacy in fervent denial that he was anything but a joke candidate; a non-credible protest candidate over the establishment of the GOP. But it wasn’t until I heard on The Rachel Maddow Show a statistical fact that no one in modern politics has led by more than twenty points (which Trump does nationally) and lost the nomination. This for me was the turning point. He was no longer a joke candidate, he was a legitimate frontrunner with huge potential to win the nomination.
At first I greeted this with all the good will of a Vaudeville villain waiting for trump to get run over by the electoral train in the General Election. As a liberal how could this not be a good thing? He would crash and burn so spectacularly that Democrats would hold the White house, take back the Senate and maybe, with a little luck, regain the House. I was so certain that with his alienating of so many people: Hispanics, Women, Muslims to name a few, the raw demographics of the electorate would lend his campaign a disaster.
But recently, Trump went to Vermont in logistically unwise and chaotic move, to stump for Super Tuesday. In Vermont, Trump invited 20,000 people, nearly half the population of Burlington, to a venue that seats 1,400 and only allowed avowed Trump supporters in; threatening any others with arrest for trespassing. This flew in the face of democracy as even those curious about Trump but undecided were excluded unless of course you lied and said you were a supporter. which many did.
But perhaps even more frightening than this carefully curation of an audience were Trumps remarks when protesters were thrown out. At several times he encouraged guards to confiscate the coats of the protesters and talked about how cold outside it was. In fairness, I have heard nothing that corroborates the fact that jackets were confiscated and Mr. Trump could very well have been saying so tongue in cheek. But the very notion that a frontrunner for President would be able to discuss confiscating personal property and get cheered for it is positively haunting.
This event, coupled with the kicking out of a peaceful Muslim protester and robocalls being made in support of Trump by White Supremacist groups has given me pause to questions both what this says about America and whether or not the demographics will hold.
Trump certainly is campaigning to the white American id. The unrestrained anger and disillusionment with the system and the changing nature of the country politically, culturally and racially. His stump speech is well-honed and his prominence in the media is incredible. His campaign tactics have been to utilize shock and fear and his television show history to rocket to the top of the polls, and in all likelihood, to the nomination in Cleveland.
With this ardent fear mongering, I have begun to question the demographics. Not that I think Trump has an appeal much beyond angry white and lower socioeconomic voters. I certainly cant see a majority of women supporting a man that is grossed out by menstruation or puzzled by bathroom breaks. I certainly don’t see hispanic Americans rushing to the polls for Trump on the heels of his policy of mass-deportation, asserting Mexicans were rapists and calls to build a wall. Muslims are almost certainly going to balk at a Trump nomination in the wake of his xenophobic remarks. But will this coalition along with the remaining Democratic base be tough to drown out the anger that fuels Trump? I honestly don’t know. I certainly hope so, but I can’t remain all that excited about a Trump nomination.
Trump has done nothing if not defy all expectations in this political arena. He has proven to be neither a joke nor a flash in the pan. He is a serious threat to the nomination and thus has a 50-50 chance at inhabiting the White House. Whatever you think of his policies, his candidacy cannot be underestimated. It is time for everyone who isn’t to take Trump seriously and to put to bed his xenophobic proposals once and for all. Hopefully in the primary and not in the General Election.