In the 1998 film Bulworth, Warren Beatty played a disillusioned politician who puts out a contract on himself, and then feels free to say exactly what’s on his mind. What he says is of course politically incorrect, but it forges a visceral connection with the public that is both hilarious and compelling.
Bulworth was a scripted and plotted movie, and the setup is different … but I offer Donald Trump as this campaign’s real-world equivalent. He’s dishing out plenty of Politically Incorrect and it is resonating with voters.
No one is safe. Most of his solutions are simplistic and glib. Despite that, he has the truthiness aura that I described in an earlier column. He’s saying what he appears to actually believe.
Consider how often you expect to hear that out of a professional politician’s mouth. It’s Trump’s appeal. He’s not afraid of offending anyone. Let me count the extreme ways he rolls…
- He loves to commit the Republican sin of trashing other Republicans.
- He’s willing to alienate those ever-more-crucial Latino voters—he’d deport all eleven million illegals currently in this country, and take away the citizenship of their children who were born on U.S. soil.
- The Donald offers no pretense of camaraderie with The Common Man. That fits with the plutocrat image which describes some Republicans and merely the dreams of others.
- But then, he would not revoke Obamacare his first day in office. In fact, he once publicly supported a single-payer system—even though he doesn’t now. Publicly.
- He would not kill the Iran deal on his first day in office, either. He’d look it over carefully before acting. Wow, how can crazy Donald sound more sensible than most of his rivals?
- Perhaps most blasphemous of all: he gave money to the Clintons. Hillary even came to his wedding.
And still: in the latest poll, Trump’s numbers with Republican voters are more than double his closest competitor. People are sick of non-functional government, and they see Trump as someone who can make things happen.
They’re wrong. And they’ve forgotten WHY Washington is non-functional right now.
Arnold Schwarzenegger knew all he needed to know about politics—until he was elected governor of California in a quirky 2003 recall election. Democratic governor Gray Davis had mishandled a phony energy crisis, and was accused of campaign finance misbehavior. (Wow, a politician mishandling campaign money! Who knew?)
Ah-nold got in making glib promises. He had that truthiness aura too; solving the state’s problems would be easy because he knew everyone would simply do what he told them. Of course he wound up doing nearly the opposite as political reality caught up with him.
Political reality would catch up to President Trump (or President Fiorina) too. But how does anyone old enough to run for office not understand how government is different from business?
Movie stars and CEOs simply don’t live in the same world as politicians. They haven’t developed the temperament for politics. You may have a bully pulpit, but not everyone you try to bully will knuckle under. Nor should they, because the result is often disastrous.
When George W. Bush was first elected, some called him “the first CEO President” — and a boardroom full of bullies cowed the country into approving a voluntary war. An opinion piece that I read at the time described the Democrats in Congress as “running around like scared forest animals.”
Republicans observed this and decided that CEO-like bully tactics were the answer to staying in control. Zell Miller’s 2004 convention keynote honed that stance, and after the Republicans lost the 2006 and 2008 elections decisively, Mitch McConell’s Senate colleagues became all-time filibuster champs practicing it.
Have you ever argued with someone who wins by refusing to lose? That’s the Republicans, whether they have a majority or not. That’s the attitude coming out of Trump. And THAT is why Washington is not working right now. Moderate Republicans who were willing to compromise in order to govern are gone.
Like all those bullies who supported the Iraq war Trump cannot bring himself to admit a mistake. That’s just weak!
He insists not just that he fired his campaign strategist Roger Stone, but that “I hardly ever spoke to the guy; he was just there. He played no [campaign] role of any kind.”
Rather than play the prodigal son role of Jesus’ parable, Trump may see himself more as Sampson bringing down the temple. Forgetting that Sampson died along with everyone else.
Or maybe he really is an undercover Democratic operative! The modern Republican party seems as decrepit on social issues as the temple that Sampson brought down. They could use a revolution from within. They are beginning to sound like the South, defending an antiquated viewpoint that should be allowed to die off.
It’s WAY too early in the campaign to say that Trump could never be nominated, or never elected. It could happen. But why end on such a scary note? Here are a couple of fun links regarding the Republican front-runner:
Trump would not be the worst president, here’s the five worst…
And here he is singing the Green Acres theme, on stage and in costume!
Political Survivor #15