Joe Donatelli and I put together this majestic series on how every candidate (then remaining) in the 2016 election was a nightmare. The only truly relevant one is El Presidente. Playboy memory holed their archives, so outside of the Wayback Machine for the first time in two years, please enjoy how I was pessimistic about Trump, but not pessimistic enough.
Candidate Donald Trump is easy to mock, but sometimes the fish in the barrel is asking for it. The media spent months in denial about the appeal of the strangely-coiffed reality show and real estate mogul. They somehow managed to elevate and obsess over Trump while also disparaging him and the reasons behind his popularity. He has won the New Hampshire primary and took second place in the Iowa Caucus. It’s time to take Trump seriously as a candidate and to subsequently reject him as a grotesque demagogue who panders to the worst in his supporters.
As Ron Paul taught us about terrorism, to explain the reason for blowback is not to condone it. Donald Trump is pure political blowback, whether you think he’s a joke, a rollercoaster ride or a very unfunny joke. Politicians, on the whole, suck. Congress has an 8 percent approval rating, and the presidency a 33 percent one, and so we get Trump. We get a supposedly self-made man who professes to be owned by nobody and who tells it like it is.
In a certain theory, Trump is terrific because of this. That is, he is here to tip over certain sacred political cows that do desperately need it. He insults everyone, but sometimes his broad strokes get more justly barbed, and he, for example, zings former Vice President Dick Cheney on the horror that was (and is) the war in Iraq.
That’s not enough. Trump may be all talk so far, but his talk is so wretched that he has handily proved he is not to be trusted with the excessive powers that come with the executive branch. The following is but a small sample of the various categories of awful in which Trump excels.
He’s a billionaire with an edgy “outsider” reputation (think about that for a moment), but Trump has changed his mind on important issues enough to go far in Washington. On a hugely important one that is only now getting the attention it deserved for decades, Trump was correct before anyone except radical libertarians and leftists were even discussing it. That issue: drug legalization. At the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference Trump said he was against marijuana legalization. Twenty-five years before that, though, Trump daringly argued for legalization of all drugs in order to mitigate the war on drugs’ harmful, criminal effects.
If nothing else, this proves that Trump is ready for D.C. Because a true politician can always go 180 degrees if the winds are blowing him in that direction. After all, Trump has the most perfectly meaningless politician campaign slogan ever crafted: Make America Great Again. And he repeats it again, and again, and again, along with his neurosis over America’s lack of “winning.” Real politicians often try to flatter the intelligence of their constituents if only at a high school reading level. Trump is in grade school – along with YOU, Mr. and Mrs. Middle America — and is happy to stay there.
Trump does have remarkable consistency on the gay rights issue, in that he was always for marriage being between a man and a woman and still is. At least Trump hasn’t expressed much interest in fighting the Supreme Court on federal gay marriage. However, with his continuous belief that gays deserve legal protections, but not marriage, he remains exactly as progressive on gay rights as he was when asked 15 years ago.
When it comes to the issues of 2016 — some of which Trump, to his eternal puffery, popularized discussion of — he tends to be rubbish. He may not be the only cringing xenophobe in the race, but he’s the most confident one. Whether they be Mexican rapists, or Syrian terrorist-children, Trump is prepared to think the worst of immigrants and to ban them whole cloth.
When it comes to awful policy, Trump is mostly just verbally repellent. One way in which he has already turned talk into action is the realm of eminent domain. During the New Hampshire GOP debate poor little tyke Jeb Bush tried to hit Trump on his attempt to take an old lady’s home during his real estate moguling. Trump happily defended this and claimed that without eminent domain America would lack “roads, you wouldn’t have hospitals, you wouldn’t have anything. You wouldn’t have schools, you wouldn’t have bridges. You need eminent domain.”
A month or two back the yearning for a big wall by Mexico and no Muslims made even reputable think piecers wonder, “Is Trump an actual fascist?” Oddly, as Trump’s chances for winning the Republican nomination have increased, this critique has lessened. After all, now it seems that the sides are drawn. If National Review’s official “Against Trump” issue is any way to judge, you’ve got neocon golden boy Weekly Standard editor William Kristol on one side and Trump on the other. Sweet death is the only solution.
A few antiwar people have wondered if Trump’s early dislike of the Iraq war (2004!) means he’d be a dove on foreign policy. This can be briefly argued, but Trump more recently suggested targeting the families of terrorists and bringing back torture with a vengeance. He wants the strongest military possible and to bomb ISIS with it. Indeed, Trump seems a lot more about whatever will propel his zingers the farthest than about some kind of antiwar principle.
Trump by far has the creepiest supporters. Frantic, caps-filled Twitter accounts that use #NRx or “cuckservative” and make up lies about immigrants seem to invariably be for Trump 2016. His campaign is beautifully summed up in terrible exchanges with his terrible supporters, such as the incident at a November rally during which a Black Lives Matter protester was attacked. Trump later cited this approvingly. Or perhaps the New Hampshire moment when an eager fan of Trump called Sen. Ted Cruz a “pussy” because Cruz seemingly has some trepidation about waterboarding.
If you know politics to be ugly, the removal of its faux-dignity and high-mindedness thanks to the Trump Express should be delicious. But take its “Hail to the Chief” face off, and it’s just as ugly as demonizing desperate refugees or spouting nationalist platitudes. Or as icky as having pretweens in Wonder Woman garb sing about Trump to the tune of a World War I song turns out to be.
If the everyman and woman supporter of Trump seems bad, the famous names who now support him are actually more appalling. One-trick pony former Gov. Sarah Palin made a brief return to the front pages with her endorsement. Other dreadful or inexplicable people for Trump include singer Wayne Newton, professional trolls Ann Coulter and Gavin McInnes, boxer/convicted rapist Mike Tyson and “America’s Toughest Sheriff” Joe Arpaio. The lawsuit-plagued Arpaio is famous for prioritizing immigration violations in his Maricopa County, Ariz., over actual crimes. And considering that Trump has oft-repeated variations on the line that “police are the most mistreated people in this country” Arpaio may be the Platonic Ideal of a Trump supporter.
If you want to burn it all down, even a little bit, or you like watching the stodgy Right cringe, Trump is tempting to embrace. He just seems honest in his dishonesty. Nothing can touch him, certainly not lies about televised footage of “thousands and thousands” of celebrating Muslims on 9/11, nor Grandpa-esque suggestions to shut down part of the Internet in order to stop ISIS, nor repeating the same nothing talking points about America “winning.”
The power of the presidency is a nightmare, so why not elect the man on his third marriage, who calls his daughter hot, and who had a cameo in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York? Why not fully embrace the message of the 1987 bestseller Trump: The Art of the Deal, and let America stop being such a loser?
It’s not that the government deserves better. Richard Nixon’s legacy deeply tarnished the Oval Office, but besides his trip to China, that was his only gift. Nixon was so traumatic, and the people so disillusioned with criminality, that the country actually investigated itself with the Church Committee. We could use a dose of that in post-Snowden America, but Trump may not even be dynamically bad enough to provoke his own, positive blowback. A Trump presidency may simply be more bloviating, lying and self-aggrandizement. No matter what Trump’s vicious little backers think, that is the very last new thing under the D.C. sun.