This has never been a letter about electoral politics–who’s in, who’s out, who’s up, who’s down, etc.–and I’m not about to change that. But I can’t pass on the Donald Trump phenomenon because of what it represents about our politics early in the 21st century.
I think his popularity with Republicans will ultimately fade, but there are a couple of things to like about the Trump candidacy and I am generally a fan of non-traditional candidates, particularly those from the private sector who have no experience in elected office, like Carly Fiorina. He has obviously hit a nerve with GOP voters who are frustrated with the establishment and the gridlocked system that is dysfunctional on a number of critical issues, and I have a level of sympathy with that. And I like the idea of a guy who doesn’t worry about what people think about his non-politically correct bombs and who disrupts the spin-doctored management of the traditional candidates.
But Trump is of a different order because he is a product of our reality TV celebrity-saturated culture and I fear that his popularity is driven by a polity that is increasingly ignorant of the implications of their choices. I don’t want to come off as elitist, but you don’t need to watch many segments of the Watter’s World interviews of people on the street to be horrified, and Trump is at least partially a product of this culture, which should give all of us pause. And as for his policy positions, he is all over the map over the years, most of it lacks any real depth, and a lot of it is anathema to the movement conservative base, which is damaging. But as I have said many times, with an electorate that twice voted for a charlatan like Barack Obama, anything is possible.