Why are we still listening to Donald Trump?

Donald Trump, in the middle of being excoriated from all sides for his comments about John McCain, has just upped the ante: 

1,595 retweets and counting as of this posting. It’s an impressively deft bit of spin—made all the more effective by the fact that Mr. Trump clearly knows what he’s doing here, simultaneously doubling down both on his smear of Sen. McCain and his previous incendiary comments calling undocumented immigrants from Mexico rapists.

Mr. Trump appears to have found a loophole in our contemporary quick-reaction politics; he’s discovered a way to ride the outrage machine instead of having it run him over. For those who support him, what they value is precisely his rejection of carefully scripted offend-no-one (or at least offend no one whose vote is in play) political remarks.

So the fact that Mr. Trump is saying things that many if not most of us agree are ridiculous—that Sen. McCain is not a war hero, that Mexican immigrants are predominantly rapists—merely reinforces, for some, the fact that he isn’t concerned with what’s considered respectable in the political sphere. The near-total consensus of rejection of his comments on McCain from every part of the political sphere looks less like a problem, for those who think politicians are always blowing smoke, and more like a badge of courage.

There is, of course, close to zero chance of a Trump presidency, or even a Trump nomination; his unfavorable ratings are north of 60 percent. But what his candidacy points to, vividly enough that we should have to pay attention to it, is a substantial portion of the electorate that has so little trust in politicians to say what they mean that they’re celebrating someone who says things so extreme that he shouldn’t mean them, even if he does.

His candidacy also points to the fact that there’s a reservoir of fear about illegal immigration deep enough that Mr. Trump hopes it can drown even the scandal of his remarks about Sen. McCain. The immediate chorus of denunciation for those remarks was hopeful, if you have any hope left for believing politicians. Over the longer run—which will apparently, at least for a while, include a Trump candidacy—we are going to need politicians to speak believably and truthfully about immigration as well.

Sam Sawyer, S.J., is an associate editor at America.

 

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Carolyn Disco
2 years 7 months ago
Interesting that Chris Christie is running ads in NH right now in which the punch line is, "I say what I mean and mean what I say." The focus is against the highly scripted material from politicians, but you can trust Christie to tell it like it is. My one consolation about Trump is that Herman Cain was supposedly leading in the polls at this point the last time around. Trump is truly obnoxious. May he flame out fast. I wonder if he has ever considered any praise of himself as excessive. The word, bully, comes to mind.
ed gleason
2 years 7 months ago
Andrew Jackson would have used his cane or pistol over the weekend if he had present day transportation.
norman ravitch
2 years 6 months ago
Chris Christie was just John the Baptist to Trump's Jesus, if you get my meaning.
Beth Cioffoletti
2 years 7 months ago
It's fascinating drama, and I appreciate your comments, Sam. For all of his obnoxiousness, Trump seems like some kind of Shakespearean character to me, ultimately mirroring an aspect in ourselves. I doubt that he does this consciously. It's no calculated plan with any sort of personal insight for Trump, just the role he's been dealt.
DENNIS CALLIES
2 years 7 months ago
Even though a number of commentators describe Trump as a sorry mirror of ourselves I still hesitate to draw any further attention to him.
John Walton
2 years 7 months ago
Pretty easy to understand -- Trump is speaking a different sort of English, not the K-Street variety. He has nothing to lose from the mandarins of big-media and uses simple declarative sentences with subject, verb and object. Unlike mini-shrub, he doesn't mumble. I hope he picks Ken Langone or Dick Grasso to run with him.
Angela Catherman
2 years 7 months ago
Has anyone at America noticed how quickly the Republican field came to Senator McCain's defense but Mr. Trump's disgraceful comments about Mexican people who come to this country hoping to make a better life for their families went unanswered by this same group of Presidential hopefuls? There was no "immediate chorus of denunciation", only plenty of doublespeak.
norman ravitch
2 years 6 months ago
That is because he was 80% correct about the illegal problem and only 33% correct about John McCain.
geoffrey greetham
2 years 7 months ago
EXTRACT from article: "there’s a reservoir of fear". This fear is much larger than that of immigrants. For more than two and half centuries preachers, pastors, priests et al have been filling Americans heads with the fear of sin. The fear of a wrathful god, the fear of damnation, they along with politicians have filled them with the fear of Communism, immigrants, sex/drugs/rock&roll. Nothing but fear!. No wonder some self absorbed billionaire can attracts such a following. MAYBE IF all our political and religious leaders REALY accepted Christ's teachings and preached his message of love, tolerance, forgiveness the morons that run for office today would never get any traction in the media, the polls, or the ballot box.
norman ravitch
2 years 6 months ago
Very noble words, but for 2000 years God's love has not been the focus of Christianity: the focus has been fear, sin, damnation, and the struggle against heretics, unbelievers, and Jews. Get real.
J Cosgrove
2 years 7 months ago
So the fact that Mr. Trump is saying things that many if not most of us agree are ridiculous—that Sen. McCain is not a war hero,
You might want to retract this. I am not a big fan of Trump, in a sense I am an anti-fan. But I read your post and saw his tweet in it which is entirely defensible and saw the tone of the article, and I saw a disconnect. I clicked the tweet and read some of Trump's tweets and saw he was going to be on O'Reilly on Monday night. I recorded it and last night looked at it. In it Trump makes no bones about how he sees McCain as a failure as a politician but the war hero comment got a lot of coverage in the interview. The portrayal by the press has been atrocious with the obviously intent of discrediting Trump by falsifying the coverage. Read the article by Sharyl Attiksson. http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2015/07/21/sharyl_attkisson_simply_incorrect_to_say_trump_said_mccain_was_not_a_war_hero.html
Sharyl Attkisson: "Simply Incorrect To Say" Trump Said McCain Was Not A War Hero
Love or hate him or just wish he would go away, Trump is saying things that resonate with a lot of Americans and they are not crazies as McCain implies.
norman ravitch
2 years 6 months ago
What is unfortunate is that it was left to a jerk like Trump to express a common fear and concern. The other GOP candidates lack the cojones to do so.
Tom Maher
2 years 6 months ago
Just before last fall's 2014 blowout Congressional elections where Republicans solidly took over control of both houses of Congress in a foreshadowing event the powerful Republican Majority leader and seven term incumbent Representative Eric Cantor lost his primary fight to an unknown non-politician who specifically challenged Eric Cantor's failure to secured the nation's borders and control illegal immigration and Cantor's favoring of granting citizenship and amnesty to the tens of millions of illegal immigrants. The Republican primary challenger won the primary and went on to win Eric Cantor's seat in Congress. Sorry , but the issues of border control, effective immigration control and enforcement, national sovereignty and upholding the rule of law are not issues that Donald Trump is alone on or has suddenly discovered. Republicans have been running and winning on the issue of effective border and immigration control and not rewarding illegal immigration with amnesty and citizenship which would only encourage endless more illegal immigration. All Republican candidates for President have come out publically for effective border control and against the open borders and most have come out against rewarding illegal immigrants with amnesty or citizenship. Border control and Immigration control will once again be widely discussed in the upcoming Republican primary debate in early August as these issues have been extensively as red hot topic for the last thirty years with a view toward stopping once and for all runaway illegal immigration. Donald Trump is very well received and appreciated for his decisive plans on critically and urgently needed immigration reform without amnesty
norman ravitch
2 years 6 months ago
You comment is excellent. I cannot imagine why anyone would want Trump in the White House but I agree that he has raised an issue, immigration, which is very troubling. The Catholic church had better be more prudent on this issue. It is fine to champion the humane treatment of immigrants, legal and illegal, on Christian principals. But the church is suspected widely of wanting more Catholics and facilitating their crossing of the border. I remember nuns in southern California who boasted about smuggling Mexicans into San Diego county in their vehicles!
norman ravitch
2 years 6 months ago
While Trump is not a typical rightwing Republican (he has supported Democrats in the past and has to survive in liberal New York City) he shares with rightwing Republicans like Limbaugh, Hannity, Mark Levin, Michael Savage, and others a gleam in his eye, a shaking of his facial and neck skin, a sort of palsy which to me, not a shrink, indicates severe mental illness. Limbaugh especially is on the brink of violence and I hope he is confined before he kills someone, I am serious. Trump also has that disturbing quality. You may want to call it showmanship but I call it very unhealthy, not only for the country, for for the poor individual and his kin. Have you heard Michael Savage on Pope Francis? You would think Savage were St. Michael and the poor Holy Father the Antichrist!
norman ravitch
2 years 6 months ago
I wonder (as a Republican) and perhaps some of you do also: what is wrong with our country that almost all of the GOP wannabees are fools, frauds and pharisees, and the leading Democrat candidate is a member of a notorious crime family (not Italian!)?
Peter Connor
2 years 6 months ago
Beware the specter of a not-far-removed gubernatorial election in my State of Minnesota. Who woulda thunk.
Beth Cioffoletti
2 years 6 months ago
A literary friend of mine says that Trump is a character right out of a Sinclair Lewis novel. He says "Trump is trying to start a pissing match to show that as an Anglo Saxon warrior he is the only one fit to restore the WHITE luster to the WHITE house. Keeping the other guys on their back foot is his strategy. Everyone but Rand Paul will probably sucker for it, & so he will become the lesser of the evils." I'm at the library now and just checked out Sinclair Lewis' novel, "Kingsblood Royal".
Beth Cioffoletti
2 years 6 months ago
I'm told that the Sinclair Lewis novel that most approximates Trump's character is "It Can't Happen Here". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_Can%27t_Happen_Here

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