Donald Trump burst on the political scene last summer, declaring himself a candidate for President and telling us that he would get Mexico to build a fence on our southern border, because:
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.
On one level, it was ludicrous: Mexico (i.e. the Mexican government) doesn’t send anyone to the US, except a handful of diplomatic personnel. The influx of Mexicans represents ordinary people, both good and bad. (In fact, net migration from Mexico has almost zeroed out in recent years: the US economy has been so rotten that many Mexicans have found better opportunities at home.) And it strains the imagination to conceive of the means by which Trump would force Mexico to pay for the wall.
But it resonated with many people, including me, because it seems clear that our current leadership is not serious about securing the border, and one of the essential attributes of a place that wants to call itself a ‘country’ is that it has a functioning border.
And Trump has gone on, since then, gaining popularity to the point where he is the leading contender for the Republican Presidential nomination. It’s been interesting:
- There was a minor dustup a few months ago when Trump did not did not rebuke a questioner for asserting that President Obama is a Muslim. In fairness, Trump, as a Republican, is a member of the opposition, and doesn’t have a duty to correct what may be a mistaken impression of our President. But beyond that, a person’s religion is not just the sort of building he visits to pray, or the day he does it: it’s a set of values in one’s soul. Our Dear Leader has made any number of speeches extolling Islam and deprecating Christianity: judge for yourself.
- Shortly after, while we were considering admitting Syrian refugees, Trump proposed that we halt all legal admission of Muslims (even for business or tourism!) to the US. That would be, perhaps, a step too far, but far better than admitting tens or hundreds of thousands of refugees. Contrary to our Dear Leader’s assertions of ‘who we are as a people,’ historically we have restricted entry to the US, either generally or selectively, when we believed that such was in our national interest. And we have no moral obligation to take refugees from war-torn areas, even where we are one of the belligerents: war is supposed to be a temporary condition, and peace is supposed to return… eventually. (Alas, our Dear Leader is taking refugees by executive order, and the Republicans, to their eternal discredit, agreed to fund the effort.)
- In the earlier debates, Trump and Ted Cruz seemed to be, if not allies, at least sharing common views. But more recently, now that Cruz is doing better in the polls, Trump has questioned whether Cruz, born in Canada to a US citizen mother, is eligible to be President.
It is this last point that seems most telling about Trump. Underneath it all, there are no principles: he does and says whatever advances his interests at the moment. Cruz was an ally, until he started doing better in the polls and became a threat, and then he wasn’t.
Trump is also one of the croniest of the crony capitalists, having made much of his money by playing local governments to get tax abatements and the like for his projects. And some of his remarks as a real estate developer give pause. He remarked that Fifth Avenue in Midtown should be given over to luxury retail, and stores addressing a more modest audience should be elsewhere. (Alas, I can’t put my hand on the exact quote.) Fifth Avenue (a stone’s throw from my office) is successful as a commercial venue because it has something for everyone. It isn’t Rodeo Drive, and I hope it never will be. There are parts of Manhattan that are given over to luxury retail. I don’t go there: they’re boring.
Still, Trump is willing to name the elephant in the room that nobody else will dare discuss, and the policy directions that he has discussed so far are at least pointed in the right direction. And it is for that reason that he is the candidate that, right now, I dislike the least.
Alas, even if he should be elected, I’m sure that, in short order, he’ll turn into just another politician.
Still, one can at least hope.