Donald Trump has offended so many people in the U.K. that, this month, the parliament debated measures to ban him from entering its country. In the U.S., on the other hand, Trump has offended so many people that the electorate is strongly considering letting him run the county. Only in America.
As the presidential primaries rapidly approach the early voting states, Trump is exactly where no one thought he could be: leading in the polls. Pundits and beltway bloggers all said Trump’s appeal was a fringe flash in the pan. They said his bigotry, sky-scraping arrogance and lack of political tact made him utterly unelectable.
Yet, here we are days after the caucus kick offs—when the radicals and longs-shots are supposed to be found out and drowned out, leaving only those “serious” candidates capable of winning a general election—and the one they called the longest shot is right at the top. Either the pundits missed something, or we’re still missing it.
Everyone’s acting surprised, but really, it makes perfect sense. Americans have had it up to here with careerist politicians who promise one thing and—flip-flop—deliver another. Republican voters may have reached their last straw with the previous nominee, Mitt Romney, whose positions spanked around like a trout in the bottom of a row boat. And now, they’re pushing back against the establishment and looking for the furthest thing from it they can find. They may have just found it.
Trump does everything politicians don’t. He balks party orthodoxy from free-trade to entitlement spending and subsidies. He doesn’t pander, rather, he slanders. His unfiltered anger is indiscriminate as a carpet bomb, and it has struck virtually every demographic on the map. Unlike his closest challengers, he’s unconstrained by the one thing every politician shares—a voting record. The only flop he’s got sits right on his head, and that thing’s budging for no one.
Meanwhile, his opponents’ records are rearing their ugly heads.
For example, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, the youngest and most charismatic presidential contenders, worked tirelessly in the Senate for immigration reform, which created a pathway to citizenship. However, in an attempt to duplicate the popular response to Trump’s anti-immigrant rants, Cruz and Rubio renounced their own reforms in favor of an “anti-amnesty” hardline, because “a lot has changed in the last 24 months,” Rubio said during the most recent debate.
Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor known best for his mafia-esque, bridge-closure style of politics, has reneged on the assault-rifle ban he supported as governor, hoping to reload his coffers’ magazine with NRA funding.
Jeb Bush, the purportedly “smarter” Bush brother and one-time front-runner, has both supported and not supported his sibling’s decision to invade Iraq. It’s not an uncommon switch in politics. What’s strange is the fact that he voiced both positions just months apart and, stranger still, just months ago.
The list goes on (and on, and on), and it’s certainly not exclusive to the Republicans—Hillary Clinton has as many conflicting statements as she does pant suits. The trouble is people put politicians in office, but so do wealthy donors and special interests.
Trump is ostensibly unbeholden to the special interests that tie politicians in knots, because, as he never misses an opportunity to explain, he’s filthy freaking rich! So, he can do and say pretty much whatever the hell he wants, and that, more than anything else, is why we love him.
Even the people you’d assume disliked him the most are showing support. For instance, he’s leading with Evangelical Christians in Iowa, whose values of mercy, grace and (God knows) humility hardly seem embodied in Trump. Even women, who he has notoriously demeaned and objectified, are reporting strong support for the man. What gives?
Trump is rewriting the rules of politics, and Republican voters are signaling what matters most is not (I hope) his content. They just appreciate that he’s genuinely being his own hateful, prickish and xenophobic self.
“You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”
–interview with Esquire, 1991
“It’s certainly not groundbreaking news that the early victories by the women on ‘The Apprentice’ were, to a very large extent, dependent on their sex appeal.”
— How To Get Rich, 2004
“Rosie O’Donnell’s disgusting. I mean, both inside and out. You take a look at her. She’s a slob.”
–Entertainment Tonight, 2006
“Cher is an average talent who’s out of touch with reality. Cher is somewhat of a loser. She’s lonely. She’s unhappy. She’s very miserable.”
–Fox News Interview, 2012
On Apprentice contestant and former Playmate Brande Roderick, who said she got down on her knees to beg to be a part of something. Trump asked, “Excuse me, you DROPPED to your knees? It must be a pretty picture. You dropping to your knees.”
“26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men and women together?”
–Twitter, May 2013, verbatim, misspelling and all.
“If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America.”
On Carly Fiorina, Republican Presidential Candidate:
“Look at that face. Would anybody vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?! I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
–Interview ABC, 2015
We need a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
–Stump speech, 2016
“I have a great relationship with the blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.”
–Albany’s Talk Radio 1300, April 2011