Dumping on Trump: Why it doesn’t work

By Leonard Hitchcock

His fellow Republicans are now attacking Donald Trump with everything they’ve got. They’ve accused him of betraying conservative values, of being a CINO — a Christian in name only — of being devious, arrogant, rude, foul-mouthed, and egocentric. And they have been dismayed to discover that a great many of their fellow Republicans just shrug and wave their Trump signs harder. Trump is on his way to winning the Republican nomination and the self-styled genuine conservatives, like Cruz and Rubio (who are actually tea-party wing-nuts), and Kasich (who is, indeed, a traditional, establishment Republican) are baffled at his success.

What they don’t understand is that Donald Trump is admired by millions of Americans for being just who he is. He’s straight out of a 21st century Horatio Alger story. He’s rich, he’s a TV celebrity and he lives the sort of life that most Americans live only in their dreams.

He’s not just rich, he’s so rich that he can say whatever he wants. How many bus drivers or office workers or small businessmen or mid-level bureaucrats wouldn’t give anything to be able to say what they really think at work? Being “politically correct” means being buttoned up, being afraid to say things that might offend people who can do you harm. Trump can say what he likes, and a good deal of what he says is what a lot of people can only mutter under their breaths — people, for example, who don’t like Latinos and Muslims, but the only places they can air that opinion is at home or in the local bar with their buddies. Trump says it on national television.

Admittedly, Trump didn’t start out selling shoelaces on the street corner, like Horatio Alger’s heroes, nor, like them, is he an exemplar of honesty and generosity and virtue, but so what? He may have inherited millions from his dad, but he made billions on his own. He’s got mansions all over the world, a private jet, beautiful women on call, and he never has to wait for a table at a fancy restaurant.

His critics say he’s a con-man and a liar. Do they imagine that the public doesn’t know how someone becomes successful as a real estate agent? Do they think that the secret of being a good salesman is to be totally honest? If you told your customers about everything that was wrong with the houses you were peddling, how many sales would you make? And what is deal-making, after all, but doing whatever it takes to get more out of the deal than you put into it? That’s the way capitalism works. Of course Trump’s not going to admit to lying. He has to protect his brand, and we wouldn’t expect any businessman to do differently.

Trump is refreshingly honest about why he gives money to politicians. He doesn’t do it because he shares their convictions and wants to help with a good cause; he does it because it gives him influence, influence he can use to further his own goal, i.e. making more money. He knows that the politician is just as much out for himself as he is.

People admire Trump because he judges people on the basis of how they treat him — just like we all do — but, unlike the rest of us, he can get away with telling them openly what he thinks of them. Most of us remember those names that we used to yell in the schoolyard at recess — the ones that we were eventually taught “polite society” wouldn’t tolerate. Trump uses those forbidden names in town halls, in front of thousands of respectable citizens.

Critics, especially Ted Cruz, make a lot of noise about how Trump doesn’t know how to quote the Bible properly. I wonder how many people actually think that matters. It wouldn’t surprise me if a great many faithful, church-going Christians secretly hate it when someone sanctimoniously drops a Bible quote into a casual conversation. Isn’t that what we have ministers for?

There are also those who have taken offense at Trump’s treatment of women. Ask yourself this question: how many men in America, when they hear Donald Trump make a crack about a woman’s appearance, say to themselves: “Hey, he’s a regular guy. “ And the same goes for Trump’s truculence, his braggadocio , his self-assurance, his chutzpah. Isn’t that the way that men are supposed to act? Look at it this way: what happens to you, on the street, if you back down or apologize?

There are millions of people in this country that were ruined by the Great Recession and that the vaunted recovery hasn’t touched. They see hypocritical congressmen who talk a lot about principles and end up doing nothing. To those people, Trump is the real thing. With him, what you see is what you get. He could be the guy on the next bar stool having a beer — only a lot richer. Is it really a mystery why he’s going to be the nominee?

Leonard Hitchcock of Pocatello is an alumnus of the University of Iowa and did graduate work at Claremont Graduate University and the University of California, San Diego. He taught philosophy in California and Arizona for 15 years. In 1985, after earning a library degree, he was hired by ISU. He retired in 2006.