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Some Brief Thoughts Concerning Donald Trump

Updated on January 7, 2016

Explaining the Donald Trump Phenomenon

There are plenty of reasons to find fault with Donald Trump. One can focus on his "policy" proposals: the Great Wall of Mexico, a ban on Muslim immigrants of any kind, bombing ISIS into the Stone Age, etc. His obnoxious personality and willingness to conduct almost any kind of personal attack against opponents are also major turn offs for many. That red mop on top of his head, fluttering in the breeze, is also rather disturbing, especially when combined with his orange hued "skin."

What may be most irritating about the Trump phenomenon, however, are not the crazy rants or the policy proposals. Instead, it is the lack of specific, practical ideas. His basic message is that he is angry about all of the things that have (supposedly) dragged our country down and that he, a person with a long track record of success, is the man to set things straight. All of those qualities that made him a successful real estate developer, self-promoter, and reality TV star will make him a successful president. Building casinos and hosting "the Apprentice" can't be all that different from being president, right?

So far, in spite of all of the criticism - much of it coming from Republicans by the way - Trump is having the last laugh. He has not toned down his message, and he is still short on specifics, but less than one month before the caucuses and primaries begin, he still sits atop the polls. Sure, saying you like Trump in a poll is different from actually casting a vote for him, and it is likely that the mainstream Republican politician who eventually emerges as his main opponent will pull together the majority of Republicans who do not like Trump and ultimately win the nomination. But win or lose, Trump has already been far more successful than people expected when he first announced his candidacy, so he can't simply be written off as a loud-mouthed celebrity or crackpot.

Trump's lack of specific practical ideas, rather than being a weakness, has been one of his primary strengths. He has built his movement on the two most powerful emotions in politics: fear and anger. Many Americans are scared of and/or angry about terrorism, illegal immigrants, the state of the economy, and politicians in general. So here comes Trump, the anti-politician, saying openly what many Americans were feeling but were unwilling to say publicly for fear of coming across as stupid, politically incorrect or downright racist. And with so much emotional passion at his disposal, why on earth would Trump want to cloud these emotions with specifics and facts? Detailed policy proposals tend to bore or confuse people anyway, and they open up the possibility of criticism that points out specific ways that these plans might not work. Many people need to make an emotional connection to be engaged, and it is hard to make an emotional connection to political policies.

Rational people know that Mexico is not going to pay for a wall on its border with the United States. They also know that ISIS is not congregated in a single location, with a big target on its collective head, waiting for Trump to bomb them into oblivion. So a lot of those bombs are going to be hitting civilians caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. They realize that banning all Muslim immigration makes it seem that Americans are engaged in a war against Islam, confirming what Islamic extremist groups have been saying for decades. And finally, rational informed people know that a president is not a CEO, ruling by some sort of divine fiat. He can propose all of the crazy ideas he wants, but it won't matter if Congress refuses to implement them or the courts declare them unconstitutional. Sure, Trump could do some damage as president, particularly when it comes to foreign policy. He has already done plenty of damage, confirming the belief of many around the world that Americans are basically ignorant and irrational. Here's hoping there are enough rational Americans out there to show that we are not as stupid as many people around the world think we are.


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