On June 16, 2015, I watched Donald J. Trump announce his presidential bid.
I thought it was hilarious. The guy is undeniably entertaining, good for ratings and otherwise outlandish in the kind of what’s-the-worst-that-could-happen? way that’s endearing in a society dead-set on taking itself entirely too seriously.
Trump, one of the wealthiest people in a nation of wealthy people, came out and played the part of both an unapologetic winner and underdog. If you’re a sports fan, you love that dichotomy and you see it all the time.
“Nobody believes in us,” said league MVP and the star of the top-ranked team in Sport X.
That was Trump in June. Solid gold.
He pointed, gave thumbs up, nodded his head and promised to take the “brand of the United States” and “make it great again.” He branded the U.S. of A. Hilariously heroic in its ignorance.
I was so entertained that I bought a “Make America Great Again” hat from Barstool Sports. I wore it around the office for a day or two — ironically.
I was Trump’d.
And my suspicion is that many people in this country were too. Some might still be.
I should pause here to emphasize there’s a difference between getting “Trump’d” and actually supporting Donald J. Trump’s presidential bid. If you’ve done your research (listened to debates, studied independent critiques of policy, read fact-checking pieces and candidate statements, etc.) and found that Trump is the candidate best aligned with your voting intentions and vision for the country, you haven’t been Trump’d. You’ve simply found a candidate to vote for. That’s fine. That’s good. Thanks for doing your homework, but this article isn’t for you.
But I was Trump’d, which is to say I was blinded by the showmanship, the what-ifs, the shock and the LOLs to an extent that I appeared to be a Trump supporter. After all, I owned and wore that incredible white hat. My Twitter profile featured two legends — Herschel Walker (serious) and Trump (sarcastic). Up until today my bio on Twitter labeled me a “Right-wingin’, bitter-clingin’ proud clinger of our guns our gods and our religions,” in homage to Sarah Palin’s ridiculous ad-lib Trump endorsement.
I was never going to vote for Trump — even in jest — so perhaps I was only partially Trump’d, but I was playing the role nonetheless.
But at some point over the past eight months, the Trump’d have become votes. I’m not saying the Trump’d represent all of Trump’s support; but they’re most assuredly some portion of his support. And I think that’s the byproduct of a long-standing joke losing its comedic interpretation. If you hear a joke often enough, eventually you stop laughing. That doesn’t necessarily mean you stop listening to the joke itself, but it also doesn’t mean that notice the joke.
See, if I’ve learned anything from the Donald J. Trump campaign it’s that you can’t trust people to spot a joke when they see one. So the joke’s on me for feigning Trump support. I was Trump’d.
And though there may be reasons for voting for Trump and I will not disparage one’s enlightened and personal justifications for doing so, I think we’ve all been Trump’d if we don’t recognize that the man has made a mockery of this process and could make the same of the Oval Office.
He’s dominated headlines and nightly news with low-blows at opponents and incendiary remarks. He called one candidate a pussy (while blaming his exclamation on a woman in the crowd) and criticized an anchor for having blood coming out of her “wherever.” He childishly skipped a debate because of a personal vendetta against one of the moderators. And none of this even touches on his flawed judgment/perspective in areas of actual public policy, diplomatic relations and experience.
He’s a one trick pony wobbling around on the legs of insults and a business record that is robust but not without controversy. And if we separate ourselves from the entertainment value of it all and look away from the car wreck long enough to gain some outside clarity, I think a lot of folks would realize they don’t actually agree with Trump any more than they agree with another candidate(s). They’ve just been Trump’d. And that’s OK. You can like what Trump is doing without actually validating this lunacy.
It’s OK to respect his track record as a businessman. It’s OK to appreciate his candor and directness. It’s OK to like that he’s at odds with establishment.
Trump, the Businessman
People listen to Donald Trump because he’s a successful businessman. I’ll readily concede that point, but not without questioning how that qualifies him to lead the free world. If being a CEO and being POTUS were synonymous, Barack Obama would replace Larry Page as the CEO of Alphabet next January and George W. Bush and Bill Clinton would be running some of the largest and most powerful corporations in the world. After all, they served two terms at a comparable position.
Most modern era presidents come from careers in politics, but even if you kept reading further back in the curriculum vitae, you wouldn’t find the office of the president as a Who’s Who? of business titans. Obama was a community organizer. GWB ran a baseball team. Clinton was a lawyer. George H. W. Bush worked in oil. Ronald Reagan was an actor. Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer. Gerald Ford was a lawyer. I could go on and on, but you’re not going to find another candidate who ran solely on the premise of his experience as a businessman anytime soon.
Trump’s trying to CrossFit his way to the Presidency. He’s that guy. You know the one (or dozens of them). He’s been running 5k’s and placing among the top decile of competitors between the ages of 41 and 45. He made the all-region high school basketball team back in the day. He’s still fit enough to attract the stares of older women and sometimes his wife even seems attracted. He’s in good shape. No, now that he’s thinking of it and pulling up to the CrossFit Box…he’s in great shape. What could possibly go wrong with high-intensity, fast-paced complex lifts for time? Fitness is fitness, right?
Well, I don’t really want a blown-out shoulder as president. Fitness is not always fitness. Leadership is not always leadership.
Trump, the Non-Sugar-Coater
People like Donald Trump because he speaks his mind. If you’re tired of politically-correct red-tape and legalistic bullshit, I get that. But other candidates speak their minds as well. They just happen to speak in a way that behooves the position they’re seeking. They’re dressed appropriately for the interview.
What the other candidates say may sound like political window-dressing to the untrained ear and foibles like the Robo-Rubio a few weeks ago don’t necessarily instill confidence in candidates’ transparency, conviction or sincerity. But these people aren’t saying things they don’t believe. They’re just not saying things that are unprecedentedly offensive for a president to say.
Trump, the Unbeholden
People flock to Trump because he’s not “establishment” and they want change. He’s not going to be “bought” by the broken system. He touts a record of self-finance and untied hands. And there’s great truth to that track-record.
He won’t be at the mercy of another self-interested billionaire. If elected, the self-interested billionaire will share a bed with Trump’s lovely wife and look Trump in the mirror every single morning — glorious locks and all. He’s not taking money from billionaire businessmen because he is the billionaire businessman. He’s cut out the middle-man. Somehow, that seems lost on people.
The three things that I just mentioned — Trump’s business record, his blunt style of speech and his anti-establishment independence — all contribute to the Trump’d epidemic. He’s not just entertaining and ridiculous. He’s also got three characteristics that are pretty damn attractive in a vacuum.
But we’re not trying to Make A Vacuum Great Again. We’re trying to make America — a real-life country led by real-life politicians with real-life experience and real-life policy stances — great again. And I think we’re naive to think that Trump’s trifecta of “Oh, I Like That” will evoke positive change in Washington. Keep in mind, the knock on Ted Cruz (who’s run in second place for much of this process) is that he’s not well-liked in Washington and that he’s hard to work with. How much is congress going to love a guy who’s never done this before and just walked into the top job in the world? How smooth will legislation be with a hot-head best known for the catchphrase “You’re fired!” hurling uninformed insults?
For many, Trump was always something of a joke. There’s a certain novelty to him. And for some, I fear that joke and novelty-factor is worthy of a vote. That shouldn’t be the case.
If any part of your support for Trump is because you’ve been Trump’d, walk away. Quit cold-turkey. Read something intelligent written by someone who understands you can’t bully your way to and through D.C. Find a candidate with a detailed plan to achieve something other than “winning,” “deals” and “free walls.” Start taking this whole thing, well, seriously.
Save your “Make America Great Again” hat for a time when it’s funny again in a “Hey, remember when…?” kind of way.