It’s Funny, Until It’s Not

The official time-limit on Donald Trump’s spectacle of a Presidential run has now been set….

by: Michael Shields

It’s funny, until it’s not. A phrase that applies fittingly with those moments in life where all is fun and games until a line gets crossed. We’ve all experienced the sensation, that anxietal rush instantaneously begging the question in the midst of merriment, “Wait, are we taking this too far?” It’s a sobering juncture to cross into, but also a vital reactionary response to finding oneself on the precipice of a dire situation. And that is indeed where we as Americans currently linger in regard to Donald Trump’s Presidential run, intoxicated with the comicality and impossibleness of it all. But haven’t we reached the point where we must now tread carefully?

It is easy to look at America’s infatuation with Donald Trump as a fad; an innocuous fling embraced to fill the void in entertainment common during the dog days of summer. As exhibited by fourteen seasons of The Apprentice, Trump is an enthralling human being. He is brash, straight to the point, conceited without remorse, and unpredictable. The fascination with “The Donald” has never been just the hair, but with a larger than life figure that fired people for sport on television and who operated under the assumption that his own shit doesn’t stink. While this is all well and good for entertainment, these are perilous characteristics to possess when we are discussing the candidate for the highest office in all of the land.

Although unexpected, the fact of the matter is this: Trump appears to be an authentic player in the race for the Republican Presidential nomination. While there is evidence that Trump’s polling support is overstated, he indeed leads all other G.O.P. candidates, notably in polling of the party’s most frequent voters. Although his advantageous margin is slim, and it is emphatically early in the nomination process, Trump’s potentiality cannot be dismissed. This is an extremely frightening thought, especially as he falls in line with the other candidates in terms of campaign fundraising ((The Trump organization is now prepared to solicit from wealthy donors through a new superPAC called “Make America Great Again.” The fact that Trump was financing his own campaign has always set him apart from the other “puppets” he was running against. But that is now changing.)). Trump’s presidential run has been manufactured around personality, not substance. What is distressing about this approach is that this is somehow working to his advantage. Because of Trump’s no-nonsense approach, he is being celebrated by his supporters for the rashness he displays on a daily basis. What would normally be seen as missteps (open misogyny, combative racism, twitter wars) capable of vaporizing a campaign run, Trump’s insolence is viewed as a breath of fresh air in a stale and political climate, where the nation’s discontent with the national and global elite’s incompetence has reached a fever pitch.

I get it. I do. There is something refreshing about a break from the status quo. There is something invigorating about an aspiring politician that speaks from the heart and shoots wildly from the hip. But it is just this sort of unpredictable and erratic behavior which makes Donald Trump decisively un-electable. This piece of performance art, this schtick of his, while atypical, has caused a nation of voyeurs to rubberneck in unison. Stretching the truth in the world of Reality-TV isn’t cause for much concern, and so far taking this approach for a political edge in attempting to gain the Republican Party’s nomination has only strengthened the bond between him and his supporters. Trump has contorted reality on matters ranging from the global economy, the law-breaking tendencies of illegal aliens, the rate of immigration, and his militaristic penchant. He knows no shame. He is Kenny Powers with a bulging bank account, and will say anything to garner voter’s attention.

As I said, I do understand the appeal. Ignorance ((“I have black guys counting my money. … I hate it. The only guys I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes all day.”)), intolerance, and misogyny disguised as a backlash to political correctness aside, there is something enthralling about a departure from the hemming and hawing that exemplifies the methods in which politicians communicate with their constituents. But if it is indeed a break from the norm you are looking for, allow me to offer up a suitable alternative to help us as a nation wean off Trump. If it’s a straight shooter you are looking for, just step into the ring and Feel The Bern in the form of the Junior Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. While Trump haughtily spiels about anchor babies, Rosie O’Donell’s “fat, ugly face,” or the “hoax” that is Global Warming ((“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”)), Congressman Bernie Sanders empirically and purposefully communes about transforming our energy system, the wastefulness of military spending, universal healthcare, expanding social security, ending the War on Drugs, rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure, and ending police brutality while demilitarizing their ranks. Or as Cornel Well puts it, “while Brother Bernie and Brother Trump are authentic human beings in stark contrast to their donor-driven opponents, Bernie has authenticity and integrity, whereas Trump is for real but not for right.

It would be foolish to confuse Donald Trump’s apparent lack of self-awareness in regards to how his prejudicial rants are received, with naivety. Trump is calculated. He has honed his media manipulation skills whilst chasing ratings and the national spotlight for decades now ((“One thing I’ve learned about the press is that they’re always hungry for a good story, and the more sensational the better….The point is that if you are a little different, or a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you.”)). Under the facade of denouncing a corrupt system, Trump wields the phobias of the far right to rile up G.O.P base voters, harping on inconsequential and fantastical conversation pieces such as Obama’s birth certificate, the raping proclivity of illegal immigrants, or whether John McCain is a war hero. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, is running the most grounded campaign in recent memory, pragmatically offering ideas that he has been championing for years with the goal of molding a better and fairer world. With an ideology forged from decades of working hands-on with his constituents, Sanders understanding of the needs of the Nation are deeply-seated in reality and the goal of his campaign remains clear and focused: a better America and life for the people the Government claims to represent. If it’s candidness and sincerity that you desire, there is an option.

It should go without saying that elections are far too important to allow a side-show to divert our attention. With that in mind, I believe it’s due time we put a  limit on all this madness. I don’t mean to be a total buzz kill, as I appreciate the entertainment value of Trump’s offensive, but it’s time to set a timer. It’s time to discuss drawing that line in the sand. With 438 days until the November 8th election, and 325 until the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, I think we can still spare a few months. Thus, I propose that by the end of October, as we begin to move into the holidays and leaves waft aimlessly from the trees, we give Donald Trump that shot in the arm of reality he so desperately needs. Because if this joke goes too far, it is possible that Americans wake up one day forced to come to terms with the fact that we elected a Reality-TV star with delusions of grandeur and a dangerously inflated ego to a position of great importance. President Trump. Say that out loud. President. Trump. It is hard to fathom, but it’s a possibility unless we put an end to the spectacle.

I refuse to believe Donald Trump is the embodiment of what America is. Donald Trump is not who we are. Hell, Trump isn’t even representative of the flawed and outdated Republican Party. America can no longer be the bully, something Trump emphatically is. The President of the United States of America would never tell a Mexican reporter to “go back to Univision,” with contempt. Would he? The President of the United States of America would never share the personal cell phone number of a fellow politician publicly. Would he? America is not The Donald. We are better than that. Not marginally better, but much. So let’s enjoy the folly for now, but never forget it’s funny, until it’s assuredly not.

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