The Rise of Donald Trump

I've tried to avoid writing about Donald Trump but that has become increasingly harder to do as his numbers climb in the polls, numbers matched perhaps only by the sheer madness of it all. With a new poll out today from Public Policy Polling (PPP) now showing the irascible tycoon with a nine point lead over his nearest would be rival, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Trump's rise in the polls is impossible to ignore.

Still in looking at the PPP poll, Trump's lead isn't what surprises me the most but more on that in a moment. Trump has a name recognition advantage over his rivals for one and the media-craven self-annointed maven has over the past few weeks benefitted from appearances on The View, the Today Show not mention just about every time slot on Fox News as well as from rather public feuds with Gail Collins of the New York Times and Juli Weiner of Vanity Fair

Each of these episodes have, in turn, had a multiplier effect with each new outrageous statement being assiduously rebroadcast across every medium imaginable. Never one to shy from publicity, Donald Trump has basked in the glory of his own self-adulation reveling in every word uttered by admirers and detractors alike. There is no greater cause to Donald Trump than Donald Trump and in his mind there is no such thing as bad publicity even as he writes his own political obituary. 

The question now is whether this rise in the polls will lead our narcissist-in-chief to put his money where his mouth is and actually run for commander-in-chief. Stay tuned. If he does run, Donald Trump will convert the Greek tragedy that is today's GOP Presidential field into a full blown Roman farce.

The PPP numbers in all their farcical proportions:

Only 38% of Republican primary voters say they're willing to support a candidate for President next year who firmly rejects the birther theory and those folks want Mitt Romney to be their nominee for President next year. With the other 62% of Republicans- 23% of whom say they are only willing to vote for a birther and 39% of whom are not sure- Donald Trump is cleaning up. And as a result Trump's ridden the controversy about Barack Obama's place of birth to the highest level of support we've found for anyone in our national GOP polling so far in 2011.

Trump's broken the perpetual gridlock we've found at the top of the Republican field, getting 26% to 17% for Mike Huckabee, 15% for Romney, 11% for Newt Gingrich, 8% for Sarah Palin, 5% for Ron Paul, and 4% for Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty.

The number that jumps out at me is that 23 percent of Republican primary voters are only willing to vote for a birther. That's just insane but it speaks to level of insanity that has beset the GOP. What began as a fringe theory pushed by avowed racists which certain elements in the GOP chose to countenance for their short-term political gain now threatens to drive the Republican party off a cliff causing long-term political damage.

That 23 percent number is not only bound to keep Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty up at night but also Karl Rove and Reince Priebus. It would be nice to think that this is only a GOP nightmare developing but frankly it doesn't serve the country to have a quarter of Republican voters to be so profoundly delusional.

Still, I've had the misfortune of actually listening through some of these interviews and it's not difficult to see why Trump appeals in these uncertain times. He's not much for subtlety or nuance. In a country that has always been looking for the next Teddy Roosevelt to charge up Capitol Hill and take no prisoners, Trump plays to the under-educated, over-zealous, often xenophobic hyper-nationalist crowd. He is unapologetically the voice of the America First crowd.

His economic creed is that of right-wing populist that plays on the fears of a working class that has seen their living standards decimated by globalization and free trade deals gone awry. On Libya, he's only interested in removing Qaddafi if we can grab their oil. On Iraq and Iran, he is just as blunt suggesting on his brand new “Mondays with Trump” segment of Fox & Friends that American soldiers will have died in vain if we leave Iraq and let Iran go and take the oil fields.

But his views on the geo-politics of oil are nothing compared to his views on trade. On the pending Korea FTA, Trump said in January that it was "a deal that only a moron could sign." On China, Trump is simply apoplectic. He has for years advocated slapping a 25 percent tariff on all Chinese goods but last November he began to advocate for a trade war with China because "we would save a lot of money." It's simple-minded solutions for a simple-minded electorate that unfortunately has been ill served by governing elites.

There is really no better sideshow in politics today, having all the makings of a train wreck in process but in that there is value. However much you want to not look, you can help but look. And for cable news program that thrive on the outrageous statements Donald Trump is pure manna from heaven. Take this segment on Fox News with Neil Cavuto expresses surprises how "frank" Donald Trump is. 

It is that "frankness," a New York Post view of the world, that has Trump leading in the polls. Here are a few selected Donald Trump quotes:

"I hate what’s happening to this country. I hate to see this country ripped off by every other smart nation — China, India, Mexico. You look at the jobs that are pouring into Mexico. We give them incentives to move people out of Iowa. Newton, Iowa, got destroyed by Mexico. They had incentives from this government and they built the plant in Mexico and it wiped out a town called Newton.”

“I think the biggest threat is that our jobs are being stolen by other countries. We’re not going to have any jobs here pretty soon."

“Somebody I know very well is buying an airplane and the airplane is being made in Brazil. The reason is he’s getting a big tax credit. The plane’s going to cost $3 million. He’s getting a $1.2 million tax credit in the United States. So he’s buying a plane made in Brazil, with Brazilian workers, because he’s getting a tax credit in the United States. Is it insane?”

“We’ve spent $1.2 trillion – now that’s what they report — in Iraq and yet we can’t fix New Orleans. We can’t fix our own cities. It’s insane.”

“We go to Afghanistan, we build a road, we build a highway. We build a school at the end of the highway. The school gets blown up, the road gets blown up, and we’re starting all over again. Why aren’t we building roads in Alabama? Why aren’t we building roads in New Jersey coming into Manhattan? You come into Manhattan on roads that look like we’re a Third World country.

“And you think they’re going to have democracy [in Afghanistan]? I don’t think so."

“We’ve totally defanged Iraq. As soon as we leave, Iran will come in and take over the oil of Iraq. And frankly, I think if somebody’s going to take over the oil in Iraq, maybe it should be us.

“I would like to rebuild the United States. I go to Abu Dhabi, I go to Qatar and other places. You go to China and they have airports that are so unbelievable, that they are building with our money. China is rebuilding itself. 

We are rebuilding China. Then you come into Kennedy International Airport and it’s obsolete. It’s a Third World airport. We have to rebuild ourself.”

Nonetheless his courting of the Tea Party does have some inherent contradictions given their rather intransigent opposition to spending on infrastructure projects. Take, for example, the need for a proposed new bridge called the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) to unite Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michifan. The bridge is expected to run $1 billion and the Canadians have already offered to pay $550 million yet even the right wing governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, has had trouble getting the state of Michigan to sign off on the project.

The problem is that existing span, the Ambassador Bridge which is no longer sufficient to meet demand, is privately owned. Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun has launched a legal and financial counterattack that includes a massive television ad campaign to stop the DRIC bridge from being built out of fears the new crossing will steal away his business.

Moroun recently hired political insiders including Dick Morris and Herman Cain to recruit Tea Party supporters in the latest effort to upend the DRIC. This past Thursday, more than 500 Tea Party members protested outside the state capitol building in Lansing against high taxes and President Barack Obama and Snyder's plans to build the bridge. So it would seem that Donald Trump has his work cut out for him in persuading his target audience to back his infrastructure plans.


Tags: donald trump, GOP 2012 (all tags)


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