Donald Trump's Campaign
The discussion of Donald Trump should begin with the large irony surrounding his campaign thus far in that he is the exact embodiment of the idea of the corrupt insider politician that he claims to be running against. He says whatever he needs to say, masking it as if he is speaking his mind. He ignores large segments of the country in favor of his own self-interests and those who align tangentially with his own self-interests. He is at his very core, a dishonest individual, which we have seen repeatedly in his business dealings and his short time in political life.
It is important to note that his recent foray into politics began back in 2008 when he led the campaign to suggest that President Obama was not a legally born citizen of the United States – the so-called “birther movement.”
This movement had many of the same racial undertones that have been seen in his current campaign for President. He recognized, as many with rural-white relatives and friends, that there has been an underlying racial animus from the rural-white community since the election of President Obama. This has been seen in the election results from the 2008 and 2012 elections along with many public comments and gaffes from various local, state, and federal officials in the last seven-plus years of the Obama Presidency. This is obviously not the only contributor, but it is a factor.
Another shrewd observation from Trump has been that the same political correctness in the media that he decries on a daily basis is protecting his candidacy.
In the same way that it is politically incorrect to suggest things about African-Americans, Latinos, women, and others, it is politically incorrect to suggest that a subset of rural-white males are racist or vote with racist tendencies. In a Presidential election, especially leading to a black President or following a black President, these tendencies come to the forefront. As someone who was born, raised and lived in rural Appalachia for most of my life and as someone who has many friends who are not college educated, I have a first-hand experience in this.
It is not an easy topic to explore, but from my experiential observations, it is apparent to me that race has played and continues to play a larger role in the Presidential elections than much of the media tends to realize. Donald Trump understands this. I honestly believe that he got into the race not expecting to receive the support he has and when he did receive the support, he saw where it was coming from, and it validated his thinking.
Beyond the racial component there is the simple factor of his business history and the way in which he has made his fortune. As a developer, Donald Trump has had many successes in building large, luxury hotels and office buildings. Additionally, he has had varied success in the casino industry, but these successes were predicated by a multi-decade campaign to build himself and his name into a brand. The Trump brand has famously been on products from steaks to airlines and all of them, including his TV show, "The Apprentice," center around him. I hesitate to use the word egomaniac, but if you can’t use it to describe Donald Trump, then it doesn’t serve much of a purpose.
This is not an individual that can successfully function as President of the United States.
I value someone’s ability to make money, but as a political scientist, I also recognize its limits in governance. A businessman seeks to turn a profit, either for his own profit or that of his shareholders. A politician, especially the President of the United States, is a caretaker of the public good which is always fluid and subject to change. Additionally, it is determined by many individuals and organizations, not the President. Donald Trump has very few characteristics to suggest that he would be able to bring the different sides to the table and concoct a solution. In fact, he often brags about bringing people over to his side of the table when he boasts about his negotiating prowess. This is not the role of a successful American President, though the imagery plays well in the primary season.
So far, I have not even mentioned policy because of the difficulty in doing so. Trump has suggested so many things and retracted so many statements, that it is difficult to determine which he is actually sincere about – a detriment in and of itself. I suppose the one to begin with is his most oft-repeated and the one that began his rise, a promise to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. The proposal has been beaten to death by reporting, but the fact that a Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency in 2016 even made the suggestion is as laughable as it is depressing.
In the aftermath of the 2012 election and Mitt Romney losing to President Obama, the Growth and Opportunity Project, a diagnosis of the Republican Party put together by the RNC, was pretty clear in stating that outreach to Hispanic voters, a bloc lost after the George W. Bush years, would be tantamount to the Republicans taking back the White House.
It is telling that the Hispanic section of the report begins, “If Hispanics hear that the GOP doesn’t want them in the United States, they won’t pay attention to the next sentence.” It’s a simple enough statement that makes it all the more confusing that establishment Republicans are trying to coalesce behind Trump.
Another policy proposal that Trump seems to advocate (although it tends to change here and there) is disengagement of the U.S. from its global role as a superpower. He has questioned our role in NATO and our commitment to our traditional allies – a criticism lobbed at President Obama regularly from Republicans. On the other side of the coin, he has suggested more robust military engagement, including the use of nuclear weapons, in the Middle East.
To me, it appears that he is combining an apparent lack of understanding of complex foreign policy machinations with the attitude of a blowhard dictator.
It is a long held maxim that an easy way for a leader to stay in power is to promote a conflict abroad. It is the same ‘us versus them’ attitude that is seen in many failed states from Eastern Europe to the Middle East to Southeast Asia.It is also one of the reasons that many in the traditional foreign policy community have refused to work for a possible Trump administration.
Frankly, we are better than that in this country.
Donald Trump has combined his decades of name brand recognition-building with an undercurrent of disaffection from a small subset of the country to obtain the nomination for President from the Republican Party.
I do not see any possibility of him beating Hillary Clinton in November, and barring any major misstep from the Democrats, this should be one of the most lopsided victories that we have seen in a Presidential race. We will be better off for it.
Trump lacks the temperament and vision to be President. In the process of his campaign – about a year in public life – he has burned more bridges internationally and domestically than he could possibly hope to repair during even a two-term presidency. Not only this, but his election would signal to the World – both enemies and allies – that the United States might not be fit for international leadership. The work of previous presidents could be undone in a single election and the work of future presidents would be made more difficult in the process.
We should all think clearly about what a vote for Donald Trump in November would look like.
Matt Starkey is a Lakewood resident and works as a research project coordinator at Cleveland State University's Levin College of Urban Affairs.
Matt Starkey is a current Lakewood resident and works as a research project coordinator at Cleveland State University's Levin College of Urban Affairs.