Opinion: Theater of the absurd

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

In exactly twelve months the Republican Party will nominate its candidates for president and vice-president. Donald Trump will not be on that ticket. So what is the fascination with him and why is he leading in the early Republican polling?

First of all let’s state the obvious… Donald Trump is not a credible candidate, his personal fortune notwithstanding. He has espoused no serious ideas nor solutions to our nation’s challenges. He is a demagogue and a bully.

No person in American history has been elected President without some political experience in government or high ranking military service. Trump has none. If Donald Trump is the richest person to ever seek the nation’s highest office, he is also the most outlandish. He is a successful and shrewd real estate businessman and media celebrity. And he knows how to attract attention and press coverage.

Up until just a few months ago, aside from his hair-do, he was primarily noted for his hot pursuit of President Obama’s birth certificate. He led the charge of the so called “birthers” who wanted to prove that Barack Obama was not a natural born citizen and consequently not eligible to be President. Even the most rabid Obama haters had to give up that silly effort, but not so Donald Trump.

But give Trump credit for being dogged. He never admits a blunder even after he foolishly disparaged Senator John McCain as a faux war hero. Trump explained that all McCain ever did was get shot down and captured, spending over five years in a North Vietnamese prisoner of war camp where he was held and tortured for not cooperating with the enemy.

“I like people who were not captured, ok,” Trump stupidly blurted.

He’d rather mock a political adversary than speak sense or acknowledge truth. He is against undocumented immigrants, especially Mexicans (referring to them as criminals and rapists), although he employs many on his construction sites at low paying wages. He insinuated that his rival Jeb Bush does not join in his attacks against such persons because Mr. Bush’s wife is of Mexican heritage. He also insinuates that vaccinations are causing mental retardation in some.

So I ask again… what is it that has vaulted Trump to the top of the 16-person Republican field for president, albeit still five months away from the first presidential primary in 2016?

People from all spectrums long for candidates who will candidly speak their minds without engaging in typical political parsing or equivocation (Hillary Clinton, take note!). And Trump is speaking directly to the most disaffected and government averse people in the Republican Party. You know, like the ones in Texas who thought that recent U.S. military exercises nearby was really a prelude to occupy Texas and confiscate their cherished guns. He speaks to the people who still believe that the president of the United States is really a stalking horse for Muslim extremists or those who believe that the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is the beginning of a socialist takeover of the country. Yes, those people.

And if you believe the polls about one in six Republicans embrace one or more of those ideas. So it seems that through his celebrity status and pandering, Donald Trump has cornered that market. The bad news for Trump is that over 75 percent of the party does not support his candidacy or ideas. So when this crowded Republican field begins to winnow down, as it inevitably will, you will see Trump’s standing in the polls drop accordingly.

You may remember that in 1992 another wealthy businessman by the name of Ross Perot ran for president after forming a Third Party, which Trump has suggested he might also do. Perot did not win a single state in the general election, but he did manage to capture 19 percent of the popular vote, which more than anything else catapulted Bill Clinton into the presidency with only 43 percent of the vote. Most political observers agree that most of the Perot votes would otherwise have gone to the more conservative incumbent President George H.W. Bush.

Ironically, the Democrats’ best friend in the 2016 Presidential election might yet prove to be Donald Trump.

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