#MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain Not So Different From the Birther Movement

John Oliver is a talented comedian. And, like many comedians in his particular niche (Bill Maher, Jon Stewart), he actually provides political news to a growing segment of the population. Much of his appeal stems from the fact that his monologues are well-written and always very poignant, being based on current events. And, of course, who better to roast on your TV show than the man whose in fact already been roasted on Comedy Central, presidential candidate and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump?

The bit John Oliver aired a few days ago is very funny. (Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnpO_RTSNmQ) It pokes fun at everything from his mannerisms to some of the very controversial things he’s said. But here’s the meat and potatoes of the monologue, and it only appears in the last three minutes of the segment:

“Because it turns out the name ‘Trump’ was not always his family name. One biographer found that a prescient ancestor had changed it from — and this is true — ‘Drumpf’. Yes. F**king ‘Drumpf’! …So if you are thinking of voting for Donald Trump, the charismatic guy promising to make America great again, stop and take a moment to imagine how you would feel if you just met a guy named Donald Drumpf. …That is why tonight I am asking America, to make Donald Drumpf again. #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain.”

And with that, John Oliver launched a (so far) successful campaign to start referring to Donald Trump as ‘Donald Drumpf’, a campaign which has taken Twitter by storm.

To most viewers, the name ‘Drumpf’ would certainly sound sillier than the name Trump. Oliver rightly pointed out the name ‘Trump’ is integral to Donald Trump’s personal brand. It would be logical to assume that ‘Drumpf’ wouldn’t be as successful a last name. And parodying Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” is a brilliant move.

So what does this have to do with the so-called “Birther Movement”? In 2011, Donald Trump (ironically) began calling for President Obama to release his birth certificate, saying, “I’m a little skeptical of his citizenship”. His was not alone, of course, as many elected officials and public figures were defending this conspiracy theory which questioned whether Obama was actually born in America. Some even suggested he was born in Kenya. They became known as “birthers”.

Of course, President Obama had nothing to hide, and the birther theory was ultimately proven false. Proponents like Donald Trump were simply using the spectre of a damning birth certificate to raise concerns about Obama’s eligibility to be president.

The birther movement essentially boils down to a group of people who disagree with a politician digging up something ultimately inconsequential from that politician’s past in an effort to discredit them. If you think about it, that’s exactly what John Oliver is doing to Donald Trump. Trump’s original family name ultimately has nothing to do with his qualifications as a presidential candidate, but Oliver and others believe starting a movement that calls Trump ‘Drumpf’ will result in fewer votes for Trump. It is all a big distraction from the real issues in the campaign.

Now, to be clear, Donald Trump is a bully. His modus operandi is to attack, attack, attack. He is, by any reasonable definition, a bully. But isn’t name-calling the most basic type of bullying? Isn’t making fun of someone’s surname something children do on the playground because they haven’t developed the nastier and more-sophisticated insults teenagers employ?

I think Donald Trump deserves to be criticized (as do all politicians). And his horrible comments about minority groups, celebrities and fellow candidates should certainly be denounced. But I disagree with John Oliver’s idea to essentially create a smear campaign that is entirely based on the Trump family’s funny-sounding original surname, ‘Drumpf’.

This election — like all elections — should focus on issues of substance. Besides, the solution to bullying is not to become a bully yourself.

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