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The Tentacle


June 20, 2016

Falling in and out of “Like”

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

On some inexplicable level, the idea of the Donald Trump candidacy is truly appealing. Is it the whole outsider thing? Is it the aspirational interest in the rogue billionaire who largely self-funded the primary campaign? Is it the thumb in the eye to the political and media establishment?

 

Who knows for sure? Voters have to make up their own mind. I just can’t seem to buy into the hype, for more than a few days at a time. And it’s not for lack of effort.

 

The Trump phenomenon is well-documented, here and elsewhere. His blunt and confrontational assessments, his brash and bold use of language, and his stream of consciousness rally speeches have alternately inspired and terrified voters, and sometimes both at the same time.

 

There are essentially two camps of core Trump supporters. First, you have the “blow DC up” crowd. These are hard-working and typically nonpolitical types who are so fed up with the status quo that Mr. Trump is almost a political Pied Piper, leading them on a year-long protest march that will culminate with his inauguration and takeover of the federal government. Second, you have the more traditional Republican or conservative voter who vomits, just a little, into their mouths every time they think of Hillary Clinton becoming the 45th President of the United States.

 

Regarding the first group mentioned above, Donald Trump can do or say literally anything and his most ardent supporters will applaud. Come to think of it, he already has, and they have as well. Months ago, he joked that he could walk out on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and shoot someone and get away with it in the eyes of his fans.

 

I think he’s right. And that’s just downright scary.

 

As for the second group, they’d only celebrate the shooting if his gun were aimed at Hillary. Most of those folks wince at the more stupid and outrageous things he says, but again, they keep thinking about the prospect of a President Hillary Clinton, and that thought inspires them to be more forgiving than they otherwise might.

 

It feels repetitive to review the litany of foolish comments, but suffice it to say that belittling prisoners of war, people with special needs and ethnic groups was never considered a logical path to a national elected office before the Age of Trump.

 

Nor has it ever been acceptable to adopt ground-breaking vocabulary on the campaign trail. Is “bigly” even a word, as in “I will fix this problem…bigly?”

 

People often ponder the question: “How did the Trump phenomenon come about?” The short answer is 16 years of George Bush and Barack Obama. Eight years of expansive national-building in Middle Eastern countries that view us as Satan, followed by eight years of wandering, feckless and unfocused policies designed to offend no one, thereby offending everyone.

 

So, along comes the blunt and caustic billionaire, the real estate mogul with the crazy hair and the “Make America Great Again” promise. For a blue collar worker from a bankrupt steel town, coal miner or family farmer who longs for a better time, it’s easy to fall in “like” with a guy who promises to heal what ails you.

 

Lord knows I‘ve tried.

 

There are times he succeeds. When he dismisses the obvious media bias at his rallies, it’s easy to cheer along. When he shouts down a heckler paid by the opposing party, or one of their sycophant groups like MoveOn.org, even the most jaded of us smile. When he highlights the hypocrisy and manipulation of the political process by sneaky insiders, it’s an applause line every time.

 

Unfortunately, he doesn’t stop there.

 

Like a reactor without control rods, once he gets cranked up, he melts down from his core. In response to the horrific Orlando nightclub shooting, he told us that if his ban on Muslim immigrants was in place, a guy born in the Middle East couldn’t have done what Omar Mateen did. That’s only if Mr. Trump was referring to the middle-east section of the Bronx, since Mateen was a native-born American.

 

Given a choice between voting for Hillary Clinton and crawling through a snake-infested tunnel, I’d ask if the snakes were all venomous, or maybe just some of them. Then I’d check to make sure the local hospital had a supply of anti-venom.

 

All I really need is for Donald Trump to give a reason to like him. I’ve voted for presidential candidates I didn’t particularly care for before (hint…his name rhymes with Bombney). I just want to feel like the guy generally reflects my world view, has a love of our Nation, appreciates the history and importance of the office (unlike the previous Clinton who resided in the White House), and doesn’t represent a danger to the future of my children and grandchildren.

 

Really, that’s not too high a bar to get over. Just a reason to fall in “like.”

 

And I’m still waiting.

 



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