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Trump: What Else Is There to Say? MAG
I am a conservative and have generally
supported the Republican Party. Anyone who has debated me in the forums on TeenInk.com knows where I stand on the issues. And whether they agree with me or not, I think it’s fair to say that there is logic in my positions. The same cannot be said about the Republican frontrunner.
Donald Trump does not represent me, my opinions, or my mood toward this country. Am I upset that Barack Obama has been president for nigh on eight years now? Yes. Am I upset that his administration has jammed Obamacare down the throats of the American people? Of course. Do I think his actions on amnesty for illegal aliens and his handling of ISIS and foreign policy in general are reprehensible? Absolutely. But that does not mean I want a reality-show star backed by David Duke as the next commander-in-chief.
Undeniably the electorate on both sides of the aisle are mad as hell about the direction of American politics. (Where do you think Bernie Sanders gets his support?) This dissatisfaction has been building for a while, at least as far back as the contentious 2000 election. The constant disregard for the middle class and the arrogance of the so-called “establishment” have created a political climate where the silent majority are so angry they are willing to put a bigoted, wishy-washy, narcissistic egomaniac as the head of the free world.
Donald Trump is not a conservative, no matter how many times he claims it, no matter how many concessions Fox News anchor Sean Hannity makes for him. Anyone with a reasonable education should recognize Trump’s rhetoric as more in the populist vein. Donald Trump does what is good for Donald Trump; he’ll claim to want the most extreme things that he feels will appease the conservative base: a hard-nosed stance on illegal aliens, assurances to bomb ISIS to smithereens, and a promise to return blue-collar manufacturing jobs from Beijing to middle America. How exactly he’ll accomplish any of these in a country as polarized as the United States isn’t clear.
Trump is being hailed as a savvy politician, as an innovator, for “rewriting the political playbook.” I contend that what he’s doing isn’t revolutionary (and likewise for Sanders), but simply perpetuating America’s polarization. His platform is so far to the right as to contain “echoes of fascism,” according to historian Robert Paxton and a variety of media pundits. This will win him the Republican base, and in the fractured field that has been the norm for the GOP this cycle, quite possibly win him the election. Much of the Republican electorate are so fed up with the broken promises of Bush the Second and Barack Obama that they see no other way but the extremism of Trump.
Perhaps 50 years from now, looking through a historical lens, Americans will say that Trump was a ridiculous choice and criticize this cycle of voters as naive. They’ll be wrong. Trump’s supporters aren’t naive. They’ve simply heard what he has to say and weighed the tone and style of his rhetoric against its substance and decided to stick with the man, even as he destroys American politics as we know it.
And as I’ve said already, don’t think this is merely a GOP thing. The fact that in the first three Democratic contests Bernie Sanders – a self-described Democratic socialist – beat Hillary Clinton or came within points of beating her goes to show not only voters’ dislike for her, but also a genuine desire by the American left to move even further left.
So what does all of this mean? At this point, the most likely nominees from each party are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Trump’s fiery language and eschewing of political correctness (a blanket term he uses to hurl profanities whenever he pleases) have made him a transcendent candidate. He doesn’t necessarily have to worry about courting different demographics of voters, because they’re all so dissatisfied with the status quo that their faith in him is unshakable. Poor, rich, high school dropout, PhD, evangelical, the list goes on and on. Trump is winning them all.
Had anti-Trump voters rallied around a single candidate in the past six months, Trump would be relegated to the same footnote that Sanders is headed for: a radical challenger supported by a vocal minority. Yet, Trump might fail to be the nominee anyway. A brokered convention is a very real possibility. If Trump fails to reach 1,237 delegates before July 18th, the delegates at the Republican National Convention will be able to choose anyone they want, including someone who hasn’t been in the race, such as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Though this hasn’t happened since the 1980s, you get the feeling in the current political climate that nothing is outside the realm of possibility.
Working off the assumption that November 2016 will be a Trump vs. Clinton grudge match, I’m not sure who’ll win. Both candidates have terrible favorability ratings. Clinton has been neck-deep in scandal for most of her political life, from Whitewater to Benghazi. She can come off as pompous and arrogant and as though she believes that the presidency is her birthright. What else could explain her lackluster 2008 campaign? What else could explain her lackluster 2016 campaign? She often seems artificial, robotic, and generally apathetic. Her primary residence is an affluent, upstate New York hamlet called Chappaqua. What does she know about a factory worker who’s just had his job moved to China? What does she know about a single mother living in public housing? How could she possibly speak for them? Oh, and never mind the e-mail scandal where she kept top-secret government information on an unprotected server.
Likewise, do we really need a litany of why Trump shouldn’t be president? He’s just as pompous, just as arrogant. In the primaries that persona has worked for him. In a general election, it’s going to scare away independents. The question is whether those independents are scared enough to vote for Clinton. I won’t dismiss Trump’s business savvy. The Trump Organization has made a lot of money over the years. And it’s that exact kind of ruthless, draconian environment that has bred Trump’s populism. He’ll say what he needs to now in order to win the Republican nomination, then do his best to claim middle ground when running against Clinton. It’s already well known that Trump has at various points supported reproductive rights for women and Obamacare, not to mention he’s been chummy enough with the Clintons that he invited them his second wedding. It’s not that Trump doesn’t know what he’s saying but that he’s willing to say whatever it takes to win. In a way that’s admirable, but such a loose and self-interested personality would make a terrible, even unethical president, in my opinion. The highest office in the land is directly beholden to the people, and Trump has let it be known that he is beholden to no one. That’s attractive to his supporters, but can you manage such a mentality occupying the Oval Office?
None of this takes into account third-party candidates. And I’m not talking about the candidates the Green and Libertarian parties put up year after year, but someone who could drag significant votes away from one candidate or another. Don’t be surprised if the “establishment” drafts a true conservative to take on Trump in the general election (conservative blogs have been abuzz with this possibility for months). In January 2017 we just might have the first non-Democratic/non-Republican president since Millard Fillmore.
At the end of the day, the 2016 election will be a touchstone in American politics, for better or for ill. This is one that historians and our children will look back on as an epicenter for the next fourscore. This will be the time that truly changed the country. And while that’s normally overused shtick, this year it’s real. It’s palpable.
I urge you not to vote for Trump. We don’t need to lose another four years to overbearing government. But I also urge you not to vote for Clinton. I believe she has lied to the American people, and we need to hold her accountable. Yet, eschewing either frontrunner leaves you with long-shot candidates Jill Stein and Vermin Supreme as your next best options. Scary stuff. The solution would be to elect a leader whose tone is significantly more uniting. Mitt Romney, John Kasich, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio (who I honestly believed had this entire election in the bag until the Rise of Trump) – all are the kind of leaders we need at such a polarizing time. They strike a conciliatory tone and would undoubtedly get things done. They have the potential to soothe a raging nation in deep political crisis and would understand the necessity of uniting us over grander issues (such as the scourge that hard drugs are having on our nation’s young people, or the epidemic of human trafficking, or the deterioration of the situation in Syria) instead of dividing us over petty politics.
I have always denounced extremism, be its proponents left or right. And now, America, a nation predicated on freedom, is considering electing an extremist to its highest office. A sad, sad day indeed. But I won’t move to Canada, as so many conjectured after Trump’s Super Tuesday gains. I won’t quit this country. Because four years is a finite amount of time, and whether it’s President Trump or President Clinton, we’ll be doing this song and dance all over again in 2020.