President Donald Trump.
Do those words, strung together in that order, seem strange?
After the release of last week’s Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showing Trump tied for 2nd among the prospective Republican presidential nominees, a lot of people are undoubtedly trying to wrap their minds around the idea.
If it seems out of reach for you, consider this: it was only three and a half years ago that the words “Barack” and “Obama” were so foreign to the American lexicon that they drew red flags from your spellchecker (and if you haven’t enabled a Microsoft update on your computer lately, you may still be plagued with red flags).
So here we are today, into the third year of the Obama presidency. And when Trump says things like “ America has become the laughing stock” of the world, and the world’s “punching bag,” and we’re all getting “ripped off” by our government – well, it’s difficult to argue otherwise. His words resonate deeply with a good many of us.
Of course there is a gulf of difference between being a public figure that successfully connects with people’s fear and anger, and being a statesman who successfully executes the duties of elective office. But one does not generally get to be the latter, without first accomplishing the former.
So before you dismiss Trump altogether – and before you get overly excited about the prospect of a Trump presidency – consider a few of these ideas.
First, consider the thoughts of “Harold” – a regular reader of my columns who frequently (yet thoughtfully) emails me to criticize what I write. Harold seems to assume that I speak for the Republican Party – which of course, I don’t – and he’s been visceral in his complaints to me about how the Republican Party has been, so far as he’s concerned, “ignoring” Trump.
Harold gave me permission to quote from a personal message he sent to me back in October of 2010 – so here it goes: “…Some people may write-off Trump as nothing more than a nutty by-product of reality TV. But Austin , at least he’s a productive nut. At least Trump has taken the opportunities that being an American has afforded him, and made something of himself and produced something of value with those opportunities. Our current President is a nut of the destructive kind who spouts the gospel of economic re-distribution and paves the way for his mindless followers to live off the largesse of the productive. I’ll take a productive nut, over a destructive nut, any day…”
I doubt that Trump would wear the label “productive nut” with any great sense of pride. But that aside, it’s difficult to deny the legitimacy of Harold’s premise.
In some ways, Donald Trump has perhaps come to represent opulence and excess. Yet beyond the “brash” and the “flash,” Trump also represents productivity, success, and wealth creation. And Americans are intuitively recognizing that those are three things our country desperately needs more of right now.
President Obama, on the other hand, has spent far too much of his presidency trying to make us all more dependent on government for everything, while also making sure that no individual or group is allowed to amass too much wealth for themselves. When you juxtapose the two, Obama clearly looks more and more like the “thing that is ailing us,” while Trump looks more and more like the “cure.”
This is not the first time that Americans have had that horrible sinking feeling about our federal government’s leadership, and have looked for a presidential candidate that was somewhat “unconventional.” When I was a kid, for example, there was quite an aggressive push to “draft” a certain other businessman for the presidency.
Amid the country’s chronic unemployment, double-digit inflation and international humiliations of the late 1970’s, Americans began to lose confidence in not only President Jimmy Carter, but the two major political parties generally (sound familiar?). This brought about an attempt to draft then-Chrysler Corporation CEO Lee Iacocca to run as a Republican challenger to Democrat Carter, the belief at that time being that America needed a “real executive” to run the country (Iacocca later admitted that he never gave serious consideration to the opportunity, although in the late 1980’s the Democratic Party tried again to draft him for a run against Republican presidential nominee George H.W. Bush).
In 1992, with a mile recession underway and conservative Americans woefully underwhelmed with incumbent Republican President George H.W. Bush, the “Independent” candidacy of Ross Perot sprung up. Politically speaking Perot proved to be nothing more than a spoiler candidate that paved the way for President Bill Clinton. He did nonetheless provide quite a “wake up call” for the Republican Party.
So can Donald Trump become our next President? There’s a campaign waiting for him if he wants it. And if Americans are sufficiently fed-up with the status quo then, yes, he most certainly could be.
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