I like to think I’m a bit of a risk-taker. Not in a jump off bridges and out of airplanes adrenaline junkie kind of way. Turns out my body’s afraid of heights. But I do take risks in pursuing work and love and friendship and have both my fair share of cool stories and broken hearts to show for it.
I mention this because at a small dinner party Friday night, conversation turned to politics and, of course, Donald Trump. No one in the room was a fan, but a couple of guests brought up an interesting perspective. They said (and I paraphrase), “Many of his supporters don’t think he’s actually going to deport 12 million people or build a giant wall. They know he’s exaggerating, but they like the points he makes. They like where he’s going.”
Let’s say – for the sake of argument and keeping an open mind – that this theory is possible. Let’s assume the thousands attending his rallies and cheering his repetitive speeches selling less compassion, more torture, heavy-handed diplomacy, nebulous policy, and casual threats think he’s not really totally serious. What does that say about who we are?
There is a way to speak to the disenfranchised and advocate for those feeling like they are struggling just to make ends meet. There is a way to galvanize a movement to fight back against special interests and say enough is enough to the corporate lobbyists and billionaires who’ve bought and now control our political system. No matter how you feel about Bernie Sanders or his chances of winning the Democratic nomination, you have to admit he’s figured out a way to tap into the energy that wants to see change. Obama did it too in 2008. The difference boils down to tone, temperament, and maturity.
Trump’s antics definitely are entertaining. His over-the-top declarations, his childish insults, and his embarrassing taunts from the podium succeed in amusing and riling up his audience. They – and the media – can’t get enough. What will he say, do, or tweet next? Just when you think he can’t cross any more lines, he draws new ones and hurdles them effortlessly.
But at the same time, I am baffled by how many people are willing to condone and encourage the methods to his madness. I don’t want to believe so many people carry so much anger and hate in their hearts. Trump doesn’t come from a place of goodness. He operates and thrives in the darkness that breeds greed, contempt, intolerance, and superficiality.
Circling back to the picture my dinner companions were trying to paint, their proposition also could make some sense if you watch the dance his surrogates do daily on his behalf. After Trump spews something inflammatory or just downright false, his unofficial spokespeople hop on cable news and say things like the following:
Katrina Pierson: “I think where he feels a little slighted is the question [Megyn Kelly] had asked him about his comments had nothing to do with Donald Trump the man. It had everything to do with Donald Trump the television character.
Scottie Nell Hughes: “It’s not riots as in a negative thing.”
Chris Christie: “I don’t think he meant literal riots.”
Jeffrey Lord: “I assure you that I mean, if there were a pool there that he could draw from, that he felt he could draw from of qualified people for all Americans, he probably would do so.” (note: there were and he didn’t)
Now before you say, “Yeah, Jacki, but surrogates defend their candidates on TV all the time,” please understand I’m not talking about simple reinforcement. Trump surrogates do something completely different. They interpret his language how they want to hear it. They take his crude and detrimental remarks and recreate a best case scenario even if that scenario is categorically impossible.
This paragraph from David Brooks’ op-ed on Friday perfectly sums up why – words aside – Trump belongs nowhere near the White House:
"Donald Trump is epically unprepared to be president. He has no realistic policies, no advisers, no capacity to learn. His vast narcissism makes him a closed fortress. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and he’s uninterested in finding out. He insults the office Abraham Lincoln once occupied by running for it with less preparation than most of us would undertake to buy a sofa."
I, too, wholeheartedly believe Trump’s substituting provocative and exaggerated rhetoric for real policy because he has nothing of substance to say and is completely out of his league. I think he’s playing a very dangerous, manipulative game that could – and likely will – have severe consequences. And I’m comfortable sharing my opinion that far too often, the media has been complicit in giving Trump a benefit of the doubt he’s definitely proven he doesn’t deserve.
Even if Donald Trump doesn’t really mean what he says, the fact that he’s mean enough to vocalize it makes him unqualified to lead.
Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.” Donald Trump’s spent decades showing us exactly who he is.
His supporters may assume or want to believe he’s exaggerating, but what if he’s not? What if when he reads the lyrics of Al Wilson’s “The Snake” at rallies now, he’s not referring to Syrian refugees? What if he’s flat out telling us he’s the snake?
Once again, I’m not against risk, but I don’t think Donald Trump is a risk this country should be willing to take.