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September 2015

Why Donald Trump's momentum matters, and can't be ignored

 Almost everyone knows that Donald Trump has no shortage of self-confidence. And after dabbling in the 2012 Presidential campaign, we expected just as much bluster from him this time around. However, since announcing his candidacy earlier this summer, Trump has outdone himself. He has single-handedly made it almost acceptable - in the eyes of some - to insult immigrants, women, POWs, and anyone with whom he does not agree. He has spoken disparagingly about Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and nearly every candidate for President. Conventional wisdom first said to ignore him, that by not dignifying him with a response, his novelty would fade. Clearly that is not happening, and at this point, the lack of any response sends the message that his sweeping generalizations and middle-school barbs are tolerable. And they're not. They're not fair, not accurate, just plain mean...and certainly not Presidential. And if that needs to be spelled out, then that's what must be done.

The problem with Donald Trump's candidacy is not necessarily Trump himself, a buffoon who cares much more about himself than he does any of us, and who will never win the general election. The problem is the mindset of his supporters, many of whom find his rants to be "refreshing" and "honest". Somehow an environment has been created in the United States where xenophobic and sexist insults barely cause a blip in the radar. The majority of Americans will at least roll their eyes at his bloviation. But there is a subset of the population who either: 1) use Trump's words to validate their own biases, or 2) simply assume that a businessperson such as Trump will always be more believable than a politician. In fact, Trump is betting on getting support from both those groups. He has to rely on this "cult of personality" attraction, because he has already admitted that he gets his foreign policy understanding from television and newspapers, (and his military understanding from attending prep school) and he certainly knows nothing about diplomacy and economics. He has not laid out any plan more specific than building a wall to keep Mexicans out of the United States, and dodges any and all questions about specific policies. All he has going for him is a huge mouth and absolutely no shame when it comes to criticizing his personal foes, the current administration, and worst of all, allies of the United States.

 I am not trying to imply that all Trump supporters are racist misogynists. Many are simply uninformed and easily convinced citizens, who are frustrated with politicians and blindly grasping at anyone who represents a change from the status quo in Washington. But Trump's bull in a china shop approach is simply not the way. "Make America Great Again", as Trump's motto says, is one thing. Making America feel better about itself by figuratively stomping on other countries, cultures, and officials is quite another. The media and the other Republican candidates need to start calling Trump out daily on his lack of specifics. I won't bother to suggest that cable news stop covering his appearances, because sensationalism sells, but they should also show the counterpoints. Showing the other Republican candidates' rallies, as well as those of Bernie Sanders, the breakout star on the Democratic side, can help show voters that there are options other than a brash, narcissistic bully who wants to be President solely for his own vanity.