After about a thousand years of teasing his Twitter feed about it, mostly by retweeting all the dullards out there who are begging him to run for president, real estate tycoon and bronzing test subject Donald Trump finally announced his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination a couple of weeks ago. Trump wasted no time before saying something wildly offensive:
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
Asked to apologize for those remarks, which are not rooted in any reality, Trump doubled down:
We are specifically keeping the best and brightest out. It is the dumb and dumbest that we are letting in. Let me rephrase that: It is the ill-educated and the uneducated that we are letting in. The VCs, college graduates, PhDs, you name it, from all over the world, they are limited. The number of people of that caliber — severely limited and tightly controlled.
Asked to clarify again, Trump added:
A sixteen-year-old girl at her homecoming dance was gang-raped and left for dead because the Democrats need more voters. We could save a lot of soul-searching about “our” violent culture if journalists didn’t hide the fact that gang rapes are generally committed by people who are not from our culture.
Hold on a second. I apologize, I’ve got my quotes mixed up. The first one is indeed what Donald Trump said at his campaign announcement on June 16. The second one is what radio personality and doctor-shopper Rush Limbaugh told his audience on July 1, 2010. And the third one is an excerpt from Ann Coulter’s brand-new bestseller, Adios America: The Left’s Plan To Turn Our Country into a Third World Hellhole.
Nothing Trump said was new to the people who listen to Rush Limbaugh and read Ann Coulter. “Mexicans are ruining everything” is a common hobbyhorse on the talk-radio/pundit right, but the people who buy into that crap have never had a presidential candidate coarse enough to say it outside the Fox News/Drudge Report bubble until now.
Even though these remarks immediately cost Trump quite a bit of business — NBC fired him from saying “You’re fired” by canceling The Celebrity Apprentice; NBC and Univision dropped his Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants; Macy’s dropped his clothing line; and other endorsements, sponsorships, and developing TV projects were all terminated — Trump was soon polling second for the Republican nomination, trailing only former Florida governor and Weight Watchers ‘after’ photo Jeb Bush.
Some people seem to be surprised that Trump is polling so well, but it makes sense.
Rush Limbaugh has been the raging id of the Republican party for nearly 30 years now. The anger and immunity to facts, logic, and basic compassion that seems to animate the angriest loudest part of the right wing can be traced directly back to Rush and his legion of imitators. Rush’s audience of Dittoheads (Dittoheads? They really call themselves Dittoheads?) has been calling in and exhorting him to run for president since the ’80s.
For whatever reason, Rush doesn’t seem to want to do it — maybe because he’s an admitted drug addict who pled his way out of a felony prosecution for prescription abuse who made himself deaf by taking Oxycontin by the bottleful and is too cowardly to answer to his rank hypocrisy on that and many other issues? I can only speculate.
Donald Trump has no such reservations. There is literally — and I mean ‘literally’ literally — no shame in his game. He began each season of The Celebrity Apprentice with a tracking shot of himself exiting a limousine and walking a red carpet as it is being rolled out in front of him, into a very Scarfacey gold-plated building. He announced his campaign from that same building, to a room full of hired extras. As they say in the reality show game, he is not here to make friends, and to a certain segment of the electorate, that is very attractive.
He has promised to build a wall — a beautiful, gold-plated wall, it’ll be magnificent — at the Mexican border, and to make Mexico pay for it. His was the loudest voice calling for Obama’s birth certificate, and at one point he promised to reveal information his people had uncovered that was bad for Obama, but no one ever pressed him on it and it just faded away. He complains about how badly China is killing us in trade, while his clothing line is being manufactured there. He doesn’t believe in global warming. He knows exactly how to destroy ISIS, but won’t discuss specifics or even generalities until he’s elected. Does that sound like anyone else we know?
Rush Limbaugh’s audience of Dittoheads are the same people making Ann Coulter’s unhinged polemics into bestsellers, and they have finally found an asshole belligerent enough to carry their flag all the way to the White House. Finally, someone is actually running for office who’s not afraid to talk as much loud, unsupported, obvious bullshit as possible, just like they imagine they would if they were president.
The latest polling has Trump at the head of the Republican field with 15 percent — a decent plurality, given there are 19 other candidates. But that’s 15 percent of the 25 percent of Americans that identify as Republicans, which sounds about right. About 15 percent of Republicans are the really annoying ones, the rest you we just respectfully disagree with. That 15 percent has been waiting for Trump their whole lives.
Ironically, these folks have taken to calling themselves The Silent Majority on talk radio and in the comments sections of political articles and on social media, which might be fitting if they were anything resembling Silent, or mathematically close to a majority. It’s possible, I suppose, that they are right, and there is a huge, untapped mass of aggrieved citizens that has been abstaining from the voting booth because they had not found a candidate obnoxious enough to represent them, and they will be proven right when the voting starts.
My hunch is that they will not. Their support for Trump is intense, but very small, and way off to one side of the political spectrum, and when Trump tries to take that small area of support and grow it to a really unnatural length and then sort of lay that over the much larger part of the electorate where he has no support at all, it’s not going to be very convincing, no matter how he arranges it.