Unwrapping Donald Trump’s Unwitting Gift to America

Donald Trump greets a crowd of excited supporters on the campaign trail. (BusinessInsider.com)

Could 2016 be the year of The Donald? This time a year ago, billionaire businessman Donald Trump wasn’t even a blip on the radar of national media and political discourse. Today, he is the Republican gadfly many Americans love to hate.

Trump incites controversy, riles national media and energizes a segment of the GOP base with a take-no-prisoners tell-it-like-he-sees-it style of communication. Since his announcement last summer to run for the Republican Party presidential nomination, every step of the way Trump has proven all of his detractors wrong. He has tapped into the core of a highly frustrated conservative America and offered an honest reflection of the voice of that constituency, which many Republican Party leaders, political pundits and national media have long ignored.

And there’s a good reason why we should all be thankful.

Whether he is revered or rebuffed, The Donald has forced Americans to overcome the inertia of indifference and caused tens of millions to discuss and debate issues they otherwise may have ignored until weeks before the election, if they addressed them at all. Trump is the only candidate willing to publicly go off script and say what he truly thinks. And his willingness to be an unscripted candidate has posed a threat to status quo political posturing, which most Americans recognize as staged and choreographed.

There’s no question that Trump has played an important role in galvanizing greater attention of likely voters. In 2015, Americans watched the GOP presidential debates in record-setting numbers — not because we like or agree with everything Trump says, but because whatever he says, and however he says it, we know it’s real. That character trait alone has raised eyebrows and interest among a jaded electorate. But to understand the true value of the tremendous gift Trump has gleefully bestowed upon America, we have to unwrap it.

AMERICANS LIKE WINNERS

Today, Donald Trump enters 2016 as the runaway front-running GOP presidential candidate in all national polls. He has disrupted the carefully choreographed caucuses in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina by making regional Republican presidential primaries a national popularity contest. His unprecedented leverage of national media to effectively engage and galvanize support among a segment of the electorate (without paying the requisite millions of dollars in advertising) reveals there is much more to his strategy than the oft-repeated mantra, “I like winning.” Although much to the chagrin of many Republican leaders and billionaire political donors, he is doing exactly that.

It is Trump who has energized a core conservative constituency within the Republican Party that even GOP leaders have long sought to marginalize. These supporters want to “Make America Great Again” by returning it to some undefined sacrosanct era in the past, when white supremacy was far less threatened than it is in the 21st century. America today is embroiled in widespread discontent over disparities in education, workforce development, economic opportunities, healthcare, local policing, jurisprudence and dispensation of justice, and more.

LOSING POWER

While these challenges to the status quo leadership aren’t new, the nation has reached a demographic-driven crossroads wherein a majority of the population seeks to break away from America’s historic foundation of exclusionary policies and practices in order to embrace a future frontier of inclusion and equity. The election and re-election of President Barack Obama represented that pivot point in American history. The next president will either take a strong step forward, which will further erode a crumbling infrastructure of white supremacy, or backward to sustain remnants of the past and stave off a little while longer the inevitable march toward becoming a multicultural and multiracial nation. This battleground is the scene behind the façade of political correctness.

Trump is fueling the eruption of an angry backlash within the Republican Party among white voters who want to be transparent about their perspectives, yet still fear alienation within their own party or worse, being labeled a racist. Trump is the primary candidate who publicly airs their grievances in an unapologetic style they appreciate. As the last Great White Hope candidate, he can seemingly do no wrong. Other GOP candidates have recognized this dynamic and tried Trump-like political dog whistle tactics, while still trying to remain tethered to established political decorum. None have succeeded in unseating Trump from atop his tower of political success, which he has enjoyed for more than six months.

As a nation, we need to be clear about our future, and that requires crystal clear communication on issues that will define who we are as Americans. Someone has to represent the confederate ideology that still courses through the bloodstream of the nation. Ironically, General Trump’s bombastic hard-nosed style of political rhetoric is perhaps what all of America needs at this critical turning point in history.

DEATH OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS

Trump speaks his mind, often without consulting anyone. He apparently isn’t beholden to special interests. And, being a billionaire, he seemingly cannot be bought. His views on issues and the overall state of the nation are less important than the role of disruptor that he plays today in presidential election politics.

Trump has ripped off the Band-Aid of silence and is pointing to continuing conflicts and deep festering wounds that have long-needed the nation’s special attention. America cannot effectively address or resolve problems that it refuses to honestly discuss and debate. Trump is the uncontrollable force that is turning a national media spotlight on a long litany of issues journalists might otherwise ignore. The popularity of his campaign among conservative Republicans is both a Christmas and New Year’s gift to us all that the nation will continue to unwrap and analyze throughout this year. That alone is a good thing, if not a great thing.

Political correctness is the enemy of the whole nation. Hidden behind polite speeches and appeals to America’s declining white middle class population are historic battleground issues that define how America treats all of her citizens and interacts with the world. Behind these issues are strong attitudes in the Republican Party that many pundits refer to as “white supremacy,” “white nationalism” and “ethnic nationalism.”

Trump compels national discourse on myriad issues that many white Americans on both sides of the political aisle find uncomfortable and fear talking openly about: demographic shifts in America, race relations, economic inequality, systemic institutional biases, abuses of authority, xenophobia and the incremental loss of white leadership and power.

“I think what’s going on is so tragic because this kind of ethnic nationalism, a kind of white nationalism, has been unleashed in the Republican Party,” Jacob Weisberg of The Slate Group said on Dec. 16, 2015 during an interview with Alex Wagner on the MSNBC news program All In with Chris Hayes. “If Trump doesn’t get the nomination, I think it’s going to be back because I think we’ve seen it works, and there’s support for it. And that demon is out of the bottle.”

TRUMP WINS

We cannot, and should not, ignore the reason why Trump is phenomenally popular among a strong base of supporters in the Republican Party, despite his unconventional presentation. His unabashed approach to defending the status quo of white supremacy and privilege dovetails with systemic institutional biases that are the root causes of protests across America today by numerous groups, most notably Black Lives Matter.

White supremacy is the national boogeyman that haunts both political parties and has hidden in plain sight in institutional leadership and the private sector business community for more than 148 years. Ironically, Trump has already won this election by hijacking the national narrative and exposing internal conflicts within the Republican Party and the nation as a whole. He doesn’t need the White House as his bully pulpit when he can pick up the phone and call journalists directly or send up a Batman signal on social media and watch it bounce around the echo chamber of national news media the next day, marshalling his growing legion of supporters.

By the time the November election rolls around, perhaps the nation will have realized the significance of the Trump campaign as a catalyst for kicking aside political correctness that undermines honest discourse Americans need to have about our future and the soul of this nation. Trump understands that this presidential election is the biggest, and perhaps costliest, battle in a political war in which the GOP has repeatedly received a “shellacking” from President Obama on issue after issue, just like the ones Republicans doled out to Democrats in the midterm elections. And, as Trump constantly affirms in his speeches, many conservatives are tired of losing on issues they care deeply about, in particular losing to a president who many believe isn’t qualified.

“Well there’s about 40 percent of the Republican primary voter who believes that Obama was born in Kenya and is a Muslim,” Senator Lindsey Graham said in an interview on Boston Herald Radio on Dec. 11, 2015. “There’s just a dislike for President Obama that is visceral. It’s almost irrational.”

GOP CIVIL WAR

Trump’s attacks on political correctness and political compromise are the two battlefronts where he is winning Republican voter approval convincingly. And he’s sending a strong message to so-called “establishment” candidates while portraying them as the faces of political correctness and compromise who continue to lose key political battles over issues involving social and economic reform.

Meanwhile, GOP leaders fear that the resurgence of its conservative right-wing could create a national perception that the Republican Party is home to a majority of America’s white supremacists, nationalists and fascists. But these staunchly conservative voices, which were once ubiquitous in American politics, remain quite powerful at the state and local levels. And they aren’t pleased by muted milquetoast messages at the national level that dilute the power of their collective voice.

Ironically, honesty isn’t necessarily the best policy for the GOP today. The Republican Party can ill-afford the kind of fragmentation Trump has put on public display, which threatens some level of self-destruction within the ranks. The GOP holds 32 governorships and a majority leadership in 30 state houses. By comparison, the Democrats control a mere seven states. But, challenges to the GOP leadership at all levels continue to grow with every bump in the polls for Donald Trump.

TRUMP’S GIFT TO AMERICA

General Trump, acting as a lone wolf, has built a national campaign with presumably strong support from a large base of Republican voters, if national poll numbers are any legitimate indication of how the electorate will actually vote.

Trump continues to defy every prediction of doom and gloom by GOP strategists and pundits. He appears to understand the battleground fault lines on political issues better than any of his competitors, political strategists, pundits and seasoned journalists. And without a hint of consideration about how he might fare among the general electorate, Trump is trumpeting the concerns of tens of millions of conservative white Americans who wax nostalgic about the pre-Clinton era and a time when the nation could easily ignore the problems of nonwhite populations with impunity. Trump is their hero. But perhaps he is also an unlikely protagonist we should all consider applauding.

As long as Trump remains relevant in the 2016 presidential election, Americans won’t be able to sweep under the rug of willful ignorance historic racial conflicts, economic disparities and systemic institutional biases. This is the year the nation will come face to face with its demons. And we have Donald Trump to thank for the gift of transparency.

Trump’s potential nomination for president scares the GOP leadership because it might result in the most awkward outcome that no pundit has yet to predict: a unification of a majority of Americans against the GOP and possibly a distancing of the Republican Party from its conservative right wing base of supporters. That would likely result in a landslide election of the Democratic nominee for president.

More importantly, the public political in-fighting that pits the GOP leadership against its own base of supporters is unwittingly exposing raw emotions and attitudes over critical social and economic issues that both Democrats and Republicans have long hid behind the façade of political correctness.

Perhaps this year is an opportunity for the nation to stop pretending there ever was a time in history when Americans across racial divides were united, and get serious about addressing deep systemic institutionalized inequities that didn’t magically disappear the day we lost Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968.

Maybe, just maybe, if we can speak truthfully about what’s going on in this country we might have a chance at resolving many problems that have long plagued the nation. That would be a tremendous gift to future generations who will inherit a national melting pot of multiracial and multicultural Americans.

Ironically, we can thank Donald Trump for unwittingly opening the door in 2016 to a path for honest political dialogue and debate in America.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Mike Green’s story.