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viewpoint

President Donald J. Trump

| Wednesday, August 26, 2015

This past summer, I was lucky enough to have the experience of staffing the rally that launched the 2016 Donald Trump presidential campaign. Ever since the creation of the “Draft Trump” campaign, launched by Mike Dunbar in 1987, the Donald has flirted with a presidential run, and he finally said the magic words this week in the lobby of his iconic Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan.

Whether one agrees with him or not, one has to be impressed by the spectacle Trump always creates. Upon walking up to the imposing building underneath the five a.m. New York City lights, I was greeted by a burly, suited doorman who refused to allow me entrance into the building until I showed him email-proof of my existence. Once I passed the test, I was whisked inside and was walked through the elegant, golden lobby by a beautiful tour guide and troves of volunteers from as far away as New Hampshire. We were then taken 26 floors upstairs to the Trump 2016 office, where our quick tour showed us the unobstructed view on the sun rising over Central Park.

Not a moment was wasted before we were set to work. Campaign work is often mundane and repetitive, but it is almost always compensated for by the new relationships you are able to forge with enthusiastic, patriotic everyday Americans. As we stuffed press packets, we all excitedly got to talking about our common love of the political sphere. When would Christie announce? Would anyone be able to effectively challenge Hilary? What will the biggest issue be in the campaign? Like they say, time flies when you’re putting pieces of paper into folders, and before we knew it, we were being thrown into the elevators down towards the event.

What a difference a few hours can make. The formerly quaint and elegant hotel lobby had been transformed into a colorful, rowdy campaign rally, complete with hundreds of supporters. Every constituency seemed to be there, from businessmen observing in suits to union workers in Trump t-shirts chanting, “We want Trump!” As the man of the hour descended the escalator stairs to deafening cheers from the crowd with his lovely wife and cookie-cutter family, I found myself utterly convinced that he would be the next Leader of the Free World. How did this happen?

I went into the event out of part curiosity and part hope that it may led to opportunities on more viable campaigns, but I now saw Trump 2016 as a legitimate contender for the presidency. The shiny lights and blasting rock music had made me entirely forget his unapologetic belief that President Obama was born in Kenya, his steadfast conviction that vaccines can lead to autism and all of the rest of his controversial views. Among all the commotion and enthusiasm, I was faced with a sobering reality: in the end, appearance matters much more than we would like to believe in politics.

Political scientists are always quick to remind you that even though radio audiences of the 1960 debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy found Nixon to be the winner, TV audiences decisively went for Kennedy. And why was this? It was because of his appearance. Similarly, it is for this reason that President Obama won the Democratic nomination over the formidable Hilary Clinton in 2008, despite his lack of experience in government. He looked presidential. He sounded presidential. Obama continued to ride this wave to an easy re-election in 2012, no matter the unimproved status of the economy and the increasing turmoil in the Middl East.

In a nation of over 300 million people, sometimes the most we can agree on is the presidentialness of our leader. This is anathema to our democracy. Our president should not be elected because he or she looks and sounds the most like President Bartlet from The West Wing or President Whitmore from Independence Day. I am crazy enough to believe that the leader of a nation as great as ours should be selected based on his ideas, not his appearance. For this reason, I implore you all not only to watch the litany of campaign speeches that you hear from the various candidates over the next few months, but also to listen to them. Read the transcripts. Find out what a President Chris Christie would do to reform Social Security or what a President Hilary Clinton would do about ISIS. The presidency is too important of an office to be decided by appearance. After all, such a contest would almost decidedly be won by any man with a net worth over $9 billion. And I’m not sure about you, but I’m not ready for a President Donald J. Trump — he hasn’t even shown us his birth certificate yet.

Louis A. Bertolotti is a junior in the College of Arts & Letters. He is majoring in Political Science and History and is from the great state of New Jersey. He can be contacted at             lbertolo@nd.edu

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