By Jack Paganelli
There are several schools of thought on Donald Trump. Supporters embrace his vision of a conservative and business-minded America. Detractors say his policies are extreme and xenophobic. Though many of his policies are indeed divisive, his hair has attracted bipartisan opposition.
Trump’s hair isn’t the only aspect of his persona that has attracted negative attention from both sides of the political spectrum. Bernie Sanders, a leading candidate for the Democratic party, remarked in an interview with the New York Times that Trump is an “embarrassment for our country.” Hillary Clinton stated in an interview that Donald Trump’s candidacy was “troubling.” Even some of Trump’s peers in the Republican party have criticized his policies and the way he carries himself. Jeb Bush, a serious contender for the Republican nomination, has gone so far as to state that Trump was trying to “insult his way into the presidency.” While this may be a bit of an overstatement, Trump certainly isn’t one to shy away from controversy. He made headlines recently with his statements about Mexican immigrants to the U.S., saying, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems.” Trump has remained unapologetic about his statements regarding Mexican immigrants, even threatening to end birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants. Trump has shown a willful antagonism towards members of the Mexican community in America and abroad, alienating thousands, if not millions, of potential voters. And so, a question must be posed: Is Trump truly speaking his mind, or is this just evidence that Trump’s campaign is nothing more than a publicity stunt?
On a related note, Trump recently called into question the “heroism” of John McCain, insulting him and stating that “he was a war hero because he was captured.” This comment led to outrage amongst GOP leadership figures such as Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, Jeb Bush, and Rick Perry, who questioned the motives behind his attack. Donald Trump is an alienating political figure, even within the confines of his own party.
Trump was a candidate for the 2012 presidential election, but dropped out in May 2011. The February after, he endorsed fellow Republican Mitt Romney, who ended up losing to incumbent candidate Barack Obama. By the time his campaign was over, Trump had drummed up a considerable amount of publicity and had made a great deal of money. This lead to accusations that his candidacy had been nothing more than a business scheme – a ploy to be more visible in the public eye, and to make money doing so. Is his current bid for the presidency a business scheme as well? As a result of his statements regarding Mexican immigration, NBC has terminated their contract with him and Univision decided not to air the yearly Miss Universe pageant, a great source of profit for Trump, who co-owns the Miss Universe organization and who has recently filed a $500 million lawsuit against Univision. Trump is doing a poor job if the primary motivation for his campaign is financial.
Trump’s comments, while controversial, have made him the center of attention, at least politically. In a recent SurveyUSA poll of a subset of registered voters, over 50% said that they pay “a lot” of attention to Trump. Of the ten participants in the first Republican Debate, Trump had the most airtime, with eleven minutes and fourteen seconds of total response time. The aforementioned debate became the most watched broadcast in cable news history, with 22 million viewers. This visibility has been beneficial for Trump, who, according to a recent SurveyUSA poll, was more popular with voters than Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and Al Gore.
Trump’s campaign has been ridden with turmoil. By all accounts, it should have failed by now. He’s alienated the GOP leadership by insulting key figures and all but given up on the key Hispanic vote with his caustic remarks on Mexican immigration. In spite of these hardships, Trump leads in nearly every poll. Why? The key to Trump’s success lies in his visibility. Trump isn’t popular in spite of his inflammatory comments, he’s popular because of them. Fellow businessman Mark Cuban said that Trump was “probably the best thing to happen to politics in a long, long time,” referencing the fact that he gives “honest answers rather than prepared answers.” Trump has found a demographic he can work with and lead with, and what he says doesn’t matter to them; it’s that he says what he thinks, regardless of how others may feel about it. This benefits Trump in more than one way. Trump’s caustic comments get him more media publicity than his rivals in the Republican party, effectively drowning out other candidates and earning him the support of conservatives disillusioned with politically correct politics.
Ultimately, Donald Trump is a businessman, selling his campaign to a demographic he has experience with. His lack of boundaries leads him to “speak his mind” on hot-button issues, giving him publicity. This publicity allows him to overpower his rivals in pandering to the key Republican demographic; white, middle-class conservatives. A candidate winning the presidency based solely on their visibility is unprecedented in American politics, but if Trump’s lead is any indication, it is a possibility.