Before Trump entered the race, the GOP field was boring. What has Jeb Bush or George Pataki or Scott Walker said that stirred the smallest bit of interest? They seem to be decent, hardworking people, but they are hesitant to speak boldly. If attempts are boldness are made, their comments have to be “clarified” later to assure the public that no boldness is happening here—that there would be no new ideas except those that support and amplify the (Democrat-approved) status quo.
The only excitement around the race centered on the movements of the declared non-candidate. Did someone talk to Romney or a member of the inner circle who indicated that he could be tempted to enter the fray? There is also a strain of the too-little-too-late journalism speculating “maybe we had Romney wrong after all, and he wasn’t such a fool on foreign policy.” For someone who is not running, Romney draws a fair amount of reluctantly favorable press attention.
Donald Trump entered a flabby field, and the immediate assessment was that he could be counted on for some comedic relief before flaming out and moving on to make his next billion-dollar business deal.
Within 24 hours of his announcement, I received a giddy email from someone who is distinctly non-political. She was completely won over and wowed by Trump. She watched every minute of his speech, hanging on every word. She wasn’t the only one. Social media was set ablaze with the thought of Trump candidacy. He clearly tapped into something that was swimming beneath the American psyche.
The second indication is the speed with which the vitriol was whipped up by anti-Trump brigade, with the New York Daily News leading the way, proclaiming that Trump was a “clown.” The “clown” characterization has stuck, and supplemented by “bigot.”
Any defamatory comments about Trump sticks to the he-is-a-clown-and-a-bigot narrative—this includes not only those posted by liberal readers to news stories on the internet, but also those written by very well paid pundits who were once darlings of the Republican party (the same ones who assured the public that Obama wasn’t so bad, and wouldn’t change the US that much; after all, how much real executive power does a president have?).
(An observation on “bigot”: This word at one time was very useful, but it has lost its punch. We are at the point that one can be an ice-cream “bigot” for not wanting nuts or preferring one flavor over another.)
The race to the presidency is tainted with unspoken and unacknowledged post-presidential ambitions. Because of the experience with Clinton (the first) mounting the gravy train on exiting the White House, the electorate has a right to be a little suspicious of ulterior motivations for making the presidential run. In the past, presidents were expected to fade into the woodwork of their home states—building libraries, doing occasional good works, and generally keeping their mouths shut.
It is troubling to the voters if the candidates wish to use the presidency as a stepping-stone to greater riches, and will grant political favors with the expectation of future tributes. This is one factor that may work in Mrs. Clinton’s favor. She and her husband have already been amply enriched by his-and-her activities, that what else could she want? As a couple, they have more than enough money to keep them on life support in style for a period that extends well beyond their natural lives.
Because of Donald Trump’s wealth, it is less likely that he will engage in petty favor making with foreign powers. His post-presidential plan is identical to his plan were he not to be president at all. In that way, he is more like Harry Truman, who left the White House without even taking a pencil because, “It didn’t belong to me.”
If Donald Trump is not the GOP candidate, will he run on a third-party? For a country that has had a bitter experience with the electoral consequences of third-party candidates the real question is which GOP loser will be the spoiler?