Out of the Woods: Stumped at how political season is being Trumped
Like many of you, I am at a total loss to understand Donald J. Trump’s astounding number-one position in the national polls. He is riding high, like a knight on a white horse, trampling over his competitors, apparently with his own words and actions as the only obstacles in his way.
We continue to see headlines — as in last Sunday’s New York Times front page, “Why Trump Won’t Fold: Polls And Rapt Supporters Speak” — that alarm some of us who have been around the national political scene for a long time.
Is it possible, we ask ourselves, that a clown like Trump, the outrageous New York real estate buffoon, can actually win the White House in 2016? He has a ton of energy. He has a ton of charisma. But does he have a ton of staying power? He is, after all, turning 70, though he doesn’t act it or look it.
The Times story reported: “A review of public polling, extensive interviews with a host of is supporters ... and a new private survey that tracks voting records all point to the conclusion Mr. Trump has built a broad, demographically diverse coalition, constructed around personality not substance, that bridges demographic and political divides. In doing so, he has effectively insulated himself from the consequences of startling statements that might instantly doom rival candidates.”
On the other hand, the Times pointed out, “the diversity of his campaign could be its undoing, if his previous support for liberal policies and donations to Democrats, for example, undermine his support among conservatives.”
Further, “Trumpism,” the data and the interviews suggest, “is an attitude, not an ideology ... His most offensive utterances have, for many Republicans, confirmed his status as a unique outsider willing to challenge conventions, and satisfy a craving for plain-spoken directness.”
That said, another major national publication that obviously gave Trump a tremendous lift last week was Time magazine, with a photo of Trump on its cover with the line, “Deal with it.” The look on his face is sober, bordering on angry and certainly tough. The perfect image he is seeking. Meanwhile, the story itself opens with a double-page spread on the inside with a huge photo of Trump staring at the camera, sitting at his desk with his bold, live bald eagle, “Uncle Sam,” chained to a stand next to him on his desk. The symbolism of a strong, proud America speaks for itself — exactly what Trump wants to portray.
The headline over the article reads, simply: “The Donald Has Landed,” an obvious reference to Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969, when Astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human to step foot on the moon and the phrase, “The Eagle Has Landed” was coined. Ever the showman, Trump knows how to play history to the hilt.
Trump has threatened to run as a third-party candidate, thus all but ruining the GOP’s chances of capturing the White House (Ross Perot won nearly 20 percent of the vote in 1992, costing George H.W. Bush re-election to the presidency), but Trump says he will take that route only if he is not “treated fairly” by the GOP. He has not said exactly what that means.
Meanwhile, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is facing a stiffer-than-expected challenge from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, and independent from Vermont, from the left, and possibly from Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to announce his decision to run. All of which could complicate the outcome of Trump’s campaign.
However, this observer — not known as a betting man or much of a risk-taker — is willing to go out on a limb and predict that Trump will not drop out of the Republican primary as a result of anything that an opponent charges him with — short of an irrefutable crime. He will have invested too much ego, too much money, too much of himself, his family, too much of his entire life in this humongous gamble, to let it go. He is just that kind of man.
As he would say: “Trust me.”
Woody Klein is a Westport writer. His "Out of the Woods" column appears in the Westport News every other Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.