Donald Trump is an idiot. He is a self-absorbed, thin-skinned, jingoistic assclown who has no business being a serious contender for the most powerful office in the world. He is an international laughing stock who is deserving of every ounce of dismissive ridicule that he has received from pundits and voters alike.
Up until now, Trump has been pretty easy for us to laugh off. We laughed off the announcement of his campaign for the presidency. We laughed off his second place finish in Iowa and his first place finish in New Hampshire. We laughed off his erroneous claims and insensitive comments. We laughed off his blatant ignorance and his macho stupidity. But all the laughing in the world has failed to run the Trump Train off the tracks.
Donald Trump can no longer be laughed off. His virtual clinching of the Republican nomination means that he has a legitimate opportunity to become the President of the United States. That means that he is a candidate that needs to be taken seriously, no matter how undeserving of that seriosity he may be.
And undeserving he is. The sweeping generalizations and complete lack of specificity that Trump has used when talking about policy both foreign and domestic are weak cover for the obvious insufficiency of knowledge that he possesses in regards to running a country. What is more, since declaring his candidacy, Trump has insulted nearly every major minority block in the nation. With all the offensive comments that he has made, it’s almost shocking that there are any groups of unoffended people left to vote for him.
This is one of the most disturbing things about the rise of Trump. It seems that people are voting for Trump not in spite of the horrible things that he has said, but because of them. Trump’s rise reveals an ugly truth about modern day America—we are still a very hateful place.
Trump’s rise also reveals something else—we in the United States are disgusted with Washington politics. Donald Trump is a lot of things, but he is not a political robot. In a lot of ways, he’s the opposite. His political incorrectness, while most of the time blatantly offensive, can feel refreshing in a country where political correctness oftentimes goes overboard. His willingness to speak his mind and shoot from the hip, as incoherent as some of those ramblings may be, can sound refreshing when compared to the carefully crafted, politically calculated taglines that we are used to hearing from our Washington representatives. As strange as it may seem, billionaire Donald Trump is an anti-establishment candidate, and considering what American has gotten from the establishment recently, it’s pretty understandable how an anti-establishment candidate, even one as terrible as Donald Trump, can have so much appeal.
What is scary about this for those of us who tremor at the thought of a Trump presidency is the fact that Trump’s biggest strength is Hillary’s most glaring weakness. Hillary Clinton is the establishment candidate. She is the definition of political royalty, and for many people, representative of everything that is wrong with Washington politics. That is the reason that Bernie Sanders is still winning primaries despite the inevitability of a Clinton victory at the Democratic Convention.
And while it seems logical to think that Bernie supporters would automatically back Hillary upon her official coronation as the Democratic nominee, I’m not so sure that all of them will. The Bernie Bro is a really thing, and some of those bros are less about Bernie’s ideals and more about the cult personality that he has come to represent. What makes me nervous about this is that many of those personality traits that have made Bernie so popular—his brashness, his defiance, his refusal to conform, and his don’t-give-a-fuck attitude—are personality traits very similar to those possessed by Donald Trump. Come the general election, those voters who are voting for Bernie based on his ideals will either vote for Hillary or for a third party candidate that is more representative of progressive values. But what about those voters who don’t vote for Bernie based on his ideals? Those voters who view the presidential election like a quadrennial episode of American Idol? Can we pencil those voters in for Hillary? Or perhaps a better question, can we be sure that those voters won’t vote for Donald Trump?
The Republican Party seems pretty divided at the moment, and if the Mitt Romney’s of the world are able to orchestrate a big name conservative candidate to run on a third party ticket in the general election, that would almost certainly ensure a Clinton plurality. But I’m not so sure that that division will last. Establishment Republicans are already beginning to sing conciliatory tunes, and even though many of them hate Trump, I still think that most of them hate Clinton more, and nothing brings conservative Republicans together like a common liberal enemy.
Part of me is happy that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee. I’m happy that the racist, jingoist bullshit that Republicans have tacitly tolerated and promoted for years is finally coming home to roost. I’m happy that the Republican Party has been tossed into at least temporary turmoil, and will almost certainly need to seek a post-Trump realignment that will hopefully make the party more in tune with the 21st century and give us a two-party system in which both parties are at least halfway legitimate. I’m happy that a Donald Trump nomination dramatically increases the likelihood of a Hillary Clinton presidency, even though she’s a candidate that I’m not particularly excited about.
But I’m becoming less and less sure about that last part, and more and more sure that scoffing liberals aren’t doing anything to help that cause. Liberals need to take Trump seriously. They need to seriously address not only the hatred and bigotry that Donald Trump possesses, but the hatred and bigotry that he represents here in the United States. Liberals also need to recognize the legitimate reasons that Trump has garnered so much popular support, as misguided as that support may be. They need to think about what Trump’s rise says about modern-day liberalism—its weaknesses and its lack of appeal to huge swaths of people—and let that analysis inform their campaign to keep the executive branch in liberal hands. But if liberals continue to try to laugh off Trump, to treat his campaign like some sort of joke, I’m afraid in the end that it might be Trump who is laughing all the way to the White House.
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Okay, no more laughing after this: