The name Donald Trump has the power to cause visceral emotions in people, now more than ever. And if you haven’t been living under a rock, you know that he is running for the position of POTUS (President of the US).
Describing him as a polarizing figure is definitely not enough. He has reduced many hopefuls in the Republican field to trade insults and jabs with him, and his larger than life presence has intimidated and has made almost irrelevant contenders who once seemed to have a chance. I’m talking about the Chris Christie, the Rand Paul and many others. The media doesn’t get him (as reported by Politico). Establishment Republicans fear what damage he might do to the GOP.
After all Trump has managed to offend Latinos, a major demographic that the GOP needs on its side if they want to capture the White House, and women plenty of time. The most recent example of his attacks on women is Megyn Kelly. Fox’s darling was the recipient of Trump’s ad hominem arguments after the GOP debate. She questioned him on how he has referred to women in the past, and his response came later on through tweets accusing her of being unprofessional, “a bimbo” and having blood everywhere.
When I think about the Donald Trump brand I think about a petulant spoilt child. Or even a child star gone bad.
You ask him tough questions and he deflects. He attacks the media, he attacks everyone who does not agree with him or dare challenge him.
I also think that Donald Trump is incredibly astute and clever. He knows how to play the media at their own game and has managed to garner the support of so many Republican voters.
There are two distinct images of Donald Trump, and they are quite complementary. On the one hand we have the embodiment of the American dream. The narrative is that he has made it. He’s racking in the billions because of his hard work and his efforts. He has made it and he deserves to be where he is.
On the other hand we have the outsider. People are fed up with politicians. As of June 2015, only 8% of the public have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Congress (http://www.gallup.com/poll/1597/confidence-institutions.aspx). Of the 17 candidates who have been featured on major polls, 14 have a background in politics either as senators or governors. Donald Trump is none of that. He is not a politician; he is a businessman who gets stuff done, a man who is not doctored and careful in his speech. He says it how he thinks, something that we cannot say about the politicians running. His wealth and his outsider status scores him major brownie points. Romney had that but only to an extent.
His brand is quite consistent. He has not become more politically correct with time; conventional political rules still do not apply to him. And his strong brand is only helping him. He is doing more than well in the polls. The latest Iowa Poll puts him in the lead with 23% followed by Ben Carson, another politics outsider, with 18%.
People either love him or hate him. I love him and cannot stand him at the same time.
He makes for great entertainment. But what I love about him is how it’s showing how truly pathetic so many politicians in the field are. They are trying to do everything to get the attention that Trump gets. Even Jeb Bush who was acting like a grown up by not jumping on the ‘let’s bash Trump’ bandwagon, has swayed and managed to offend Asians by blaming them for anchor babies. Do any of them stand for anything or are they there for the power trip?
I cannot stand Trump’s attitude towards women. I just can’t in good faith agree with anything he has said. He comes across as a borderline misogynist sexist man, who then goes on and says that he cares about women and their health. Puhlease! But that’s not the only reason why I would never ever support Trump (and thank God I don’t have to since I’m not American). It’s the image issue so many Republicans are scared about.
All those who know me are aware of my political leanings. I am firmly in the centre-right of the political spectrum (if the spectrum is truly the best way to identify one’s political leanings). In the UK I’m a member of the Conservative party (although I might turn into an independent). I like capitalism, I like the market, and I like the idea of the state playing a great role when it comes to defence, and levelling the playing field to allow people to realise their potential. I’ve been struggling to see any of those things in the current Republican Party. I think about the origins of the GOP in the 1850s as the party of freedom. But now it has moved so much to the right, and the voices that are most heard are the ones of those who shout the loudest, and not of all those moderate Republicans – if they still exist at all- and those who lean Republicans.
When the election comes, despite being an outsider, I know which side of the aisle I’ll be cheering for. Many Americans are still making up their mind on which camp they’ll vote for in the general election. For many undecided voters, Trump has solved the dilemma and his behaviour and comments will push them firmly to the Democratic camp. If the Republicans fail at the general election they won’t hesitate to point fingers Trump’s way. But the GOP should really take the time to look itself in the mirror or risk becoming irrelevant. Trump is merely exacerbating image problems that the party has been having for a while.
(Photograph: Scott Eisen for The Guardian)