Eddie Damstra | Thursday, January 28, 2016
Donald Trump is a political phenomenon. The 69-year-old billionaire can seemingly insult anyone he wants without fear of his poll numbers suffering. Thousands come to see him speak. We are told this is because Trump says “whatever he wants.” There seems to be a belief that Mr. Trump just speaks his mind, without utilizing a political filter. Even the most avid Donald Trump haters seem to concede this point. The general consensus seems to be that Donald Trump is inexperienced, repulsive and narcissistic, but, at the very least, he is authentic. However, in reality, calling Trump “authentic” could not be more of a mischaracterization of the businessman. In fact, in addition to the aforementioned characteristics given to Trump, one should also include “inauthentic.”
Trump’s soaring poll numbers cannot be solely explained by an angry sentiment felt amongst a faction of the Republican party. There is a much larger factor that plays into Trump’s political invincibility: deception. While all politicians pander to their political bases, Trump does so more severely and more deceptively. Most of what he says he either does not believe or knows to be impossible.
In Trump’s book “The America We Deserve” from 2000, he advocated for waiting periods and an assault weapons ban; he now opposes nearly any gun control measure, even the expansion of background checks. In a 1999 interview on “Meet the Press,” Trump said he believed in “universal healthcare;” he now calls Obamacare “a disaster” and labels it unconstitutional. Donald clearly defined himself as “pro-choice in every respect” in that same “Meet the Press” interview 17 years ago; he now claims to be a staunch pro-life advocate. Trump has donated money to Hillary Clinton’s campaigns and her foundation, invited her to his wedding and complimented her senatorial skills; he now makes sure to ridicule her at every chance, even saying that she was “the worst secretary of state in the history of our nation.” The man was a Democrat seven years ago for heaven’s sake.
To be honest, I am not sure what Trump believes or where he truly falls on the political spectrum. However, I know for sure that the severity of his conservatism can be questioned based on his past political positions. Nonetheless, he recognizes that in order to win votes, he must appeal to the very conservative base of Republican primary voters, and he does so better than anyone else. He utilizes peoples’ anger by creating scapegoats, namely Mexicans and Muslims. He says Mexicans are rapists and murderers and that Muslims should be unable to enter this country based on their religious identity. He spews this hateful rhetoric because right now many are angry, and he knows that taking advantage of that anger can garner support for his campaign.
Trump also promises things that he must know to be impossible. The prime example of this is his promise to build a wall that covers the U.S.–Mexico border and have Mexico pay for it. The spokesman for the Mexican president has already delivered a statement saying that Mexico would never pay for the wall, and that the Mexican government does not take statements made by the Trump campaign seriously. Mr. Trump must know that he is running most of his campaign on an empty promise, but he does not seem to care. He knows his promise, while it may be empty, can win a lot of votes.
Unfortunately, Trump’s strategy is not unique. A lot of politicians pander for votes. Many politicians say things they do not believe, deliver false promises and take advantage of voters’ emotions. The difference between Trump and other candidates, however, is that Trump is acting identical to nearly every politician while simultaneously garnering enormous support for not being a politician. In other words, Trump is essentially a politician who gets support for not being a politician. I understand that Trump does not practice politics as a career, which would define a politician. However, “politician” in the modern age is often viewed as a dirty word, synonymous with “fraud,” “liar” and “inauthentic.” In that sense of the word “politician,” Donald Trump meets the criteria perfectly.
The true miracle behind the Trump campaign is his ability to fake authenticity. Ask any Trump supporter and they will most likely tell you that they love the fact that Donald is a political outsider, not dirtied by the corruption and dishonesty of politics. The sad reality is that these Trump supporters are simply being played by the billionaire. Donald Trump is even more disingenuous than the average politician.
So go ahead, vote for Donald because you liked “The Apprentice.” Vote for him because you like his hotels. Vote for him because you like his mysterious hair. But please, whatever you do, do not vote for him because you find him authentic.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.