A friend sent me a link to an editorial at the Huffington Post by Howard Fineman this morning and it provides a little food for thought. Of course, we’re talking about somebody who is looking to essentially trash the GOP field (and conservatives) in general and Donald Trump in particular, but he raises some interesting questions about the evolution of political power and promise in the era of social media. Is Donald Trump the savior everyone has been waiting for with the right answers to tough questions which dog our nation? Or is he, perhaps, the personification of the angry young man (or woman… sorry ladies) lurking inside of all of us who are starting to care less about the technical details of solutions and are more in the market for a real world Howard Beale who will join us in shouting out the windows about how we’re mad as hell and will not, in fact, take it anymore?
Of course, before Fineman gets to that we have to slog through the inevitable insults. (HuffPo)
In person, Donald Trump is a bit larger than life. He is tall, and his shelf of tangerine hair makes him appear taller. He exudes a calm aura that doesn’t seem to have stemmed from a gym workout, but rather a sauna, and perhaps a manicure. In conversation (I have had a couple with him over the years), he wears the indulgent smile of a man who knows the exact hierarchy of power in the room. He’s atop it. You’re not.
In sum, he is insufferable — and fascinating.
Now, of course, he is the most reviled man in American politics, even as (or because) he leads in many (although mostly meaningless) polls. Trump is widely dismissed as a fraudulent, egomaniacal clown; a cynical showman and racist, spewing invective and fear for the sole purpose of advancing his personal “brand.” As a real estate mogul and reality television star, he behaves as though adherence to facts is the habit of weaklings. Strong men lie.
Once you make it past the unpleasant introduction, Fineman holds up a mirror to see if we might recognize any of The Donald’s undeniable aspects which he brings to each and every speech. The first two on the list are cynicism about the government in general and a collective disgust with immigration problems which are either impossible to truly fix or are beyond the will of off-the-shelf politicians to attempt the feat. The cynicism argument seems like a no brainer for most of us. At this point it feels as if even a majority of Democrats have given up on any sort of blind faith in Big Brother, even if their goals may be very different than yours. It just took them a little longer to throw in the towel.
As to immigration – obviously Trump’s core calling card – Fineman tosses in a sop for his liberal readers, referring to Trump supporters as the nativist, anti-foreigner core of tea party voters from the GOP, but he at least also acknowledges that both sides seem to have grown sick of the discussion. Again, the reasons and goals of the two sides of the aisle are clearly different, but everyone seems to want to see the ball move down the field in one direction or the other. Trump offers no specifics of how he’s going to deal with 99.999% of the eleven (or thirty) million illegals in the country, and in fact doesn’t seem to have finished a plan beyond building the biggest, most luxurious wall across the southern border that anyone has ever seen. But for a lot of us who oppose amnesty and are enraged at the blithe, cruel negligence of sanctuary city leaders, that wall – or simply a loud, sincere sounding promise of a wall – might be enough.
Fineman also makes in interesting observation which paints Barack Obama as the Facebook President, while Trump is the Twitter candidate.
Eight years ago, Obama was the Facebook candidate, his rise powered by the 20 million “friends” he made in that collegial, familial medium. But Facebook is so 2007. Trump is made for a more contentious time in social media, a new era of distraction and accusation. He speaks loudly, simply, bluntly — as if from the street, not the suite. His patented phrase is a clipped sentence of doom: “You’re fired!” He is made for the machine-gun burst of Twitter, where feuds explode instantly and anonymity and instantaneously generate controversy. Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj have their feud, but The Donald has 3.34 million Twitter followers — many times more than any of his Republican rivals.
I’ll let you chew on that one, but I will note in passing that I don’t even have a Facebook page. (Okay… I did briefly in 2010 so maybe it’s still there, but I haven’t looked in years.) Twitter is far more my medium and, yes, it sometimes gets heated. Trump is all over Twitter and he’s in my watch column. His messaging is custom made for fast shots across the bow rather than long, nuanced explanations.
I’ll skip over Fineman’s insulting generalizations about substance-free celebrities and the fascination they hold for the selfie generation, but I’d like to point out two of the remaining points he raises for your consideration. The first is the money question. Usually it’s the Democrats who want to “get the money out of politics” but isn’t there a bit of concern about who is funding our candidates among conservatives too? Sure, it’s easy to laugh off Trump’s bravado when he endlessly brags about how rich he is, but doesn’t that ring a bell for you somewhere deep in your hindbrain? It says two things to me if I’m to be honest. First, he’s a success. If you believe in capitalism and the American dream, you don’t hate Trump or want to take away his billions. You want to be Trump and carve out an empire for yourself. And were he to find himself in office, isn’t there a small part of you that would breath a sigh of relief in knowing that nobody else paid for him to get there? Strip away the jokes and the jibes from the money question and Trump has some undeniable appeal.
Finally, the last point Fineman raises is about party politics, saying that The Party’s Over.
American voters no longer identify themselves politically by their allegiance to a political party. A large plurality now call themselves “independents.” Trump offers himself as the denouement of this slow-motion collapse, telling the GOP that if they don’t play fair with him, he could run as third-way force that would all but guarantee the election of a Democrats, if not of Trump himself.
There’s a lot of wishful thinking among Democrats when it comes to Donald Trump’s presidential bid and plenty of that shines through in Fineman’s writing. There’s nothing that the Donkey Party and the media spokesmodels who love them enjoy more than some good old fashioned GOP on GOP violence, and Trump serves that up in spades. They also cling to the belief (with some poll numbers to support it strongly) that Trump would be defeated by Hillary in the general election in a two way race and would pull almost exclusively from the Republican if he ran as an independent. But at the same time, it’s tough to ignore that Trump really has very little use for the established party structure – at least for now.
Compare that sentiment to what you, the typical Hot Air reader, feels and expresses in the comments on a daily basis. (Yes, I read them.) Can you really argue? The GOP has a serious problem, not just in terms of defining a platform that can satisfy their base, but in the fact that the only thing keeping many conservatives in the pen at this point is that the RNC remains the only viable game in town. There’s a definite sense that large portions of the base would hit the bricks tomorrow if there was anyplace else to go which held even a remote sliver of hope of being able to effect actual change. I’m not sure how deeply that particular virus has infected the Democrats at this point: they seem to have a much higher tolerance for failure. But there are clearly signs of discontent among the ranks, particularly among the SJW. They may hate the GOP, but they’re not thrilled with their party leaders and candidates either.
All in all, Fineman may be on to something here. Maybe we are a nation of Donald Trumps. And perhaps we already were for a few cycles now… we were just waiting around for somebody to put a crazy haired face on the model for us. Discuss.