This far out from any actual voting and caucusing, it’s hard to say just how serious a candidate for the Republican nomination Donald Trump actually is. But that he’s leaving the rest of his rivals in the dust both in terms of the polls and of media coverage can’t be denied. Theories abound as to why that might be so, most of them centering around the notion that Trump simply says out loud what the most radically conservative bloc of American voters actually believe, which comes across as courageous when his rivals continue to confine themselves to dog whistles.
But when actually asked what’s appealing about him, his fans and proponents have so many reasons they defy broad categorization. So while Trump’s obvious appeal to the 27% surely plays a role, it also seems that he’s got the same kind of projection of personal hopes onto a candidate thing going on that Barack Obama did in the run-up to 2008. Which makes a certain amount of sense, given how underdeveloped his policy platform is.
Put briefly, his support, I think, is based on his being Donald Trump, who is famous for being famous and for doing and saying whatever the fk he wants without thinking twice or ever apologizing for it.
And that, I think, is the crux of it. Donald Trump is a rock star.
Americans love us some rock stars. It’s almost pathological, the devotion to them we can and do manifest. And often as not, it’s only tangentially to do with their talent and accomplishments in whatever their chosen field is.
No, what we love, I’m convinced, is that there exist people in our world who are freed from the bounds civilized society places on people, who are free to act on their basic human instincts with relative impunity. Because as much as civilization has done for us as individuals — and as a species — those advances come at a cost, and in order to conform to the patterns of behavior that civil society demands of us, we must curb our instincts and rein in our egotistical desires.
And that’s a good thing. But I’m convinced there remains an atavistic desire to set aside those limitations, even in those of us who wouldn’t actually want to follow through on it. Maybe especially those of us who wouldn’t actually want to follow through on it.
But I think the desire exists for there to remain at least some people who can and do do that. Who do and say whatever the fk they want, whenever the fk they want, and to hell with any consequences because their fame and/or wealth can and will buy them out of any trouble they might get themselves into. For whatever reason, we as human beings seem to need there to be people who are free in that way, even if we ourselves never will be, and rock stars like Donald Trump fulfill that need.
At this stage of the Presidential campaign, it’s all theater, anyway. We’re months out from the Iowa caucuses and the various primaries soon scheduled to follow. To me it makes perfect sense that a buffoon as ridiculous as Donald Trump should be leading the polls. Because the stakes are still low, and his competition (save for Bernie) is about as exciting as dry white toast, and between the media’s self-degradation and the Citizens United ruling the whole thing borders on farce to begin with. Why not tell the pollsters you support the most farcical candidate?
And don’t get me wrong. I think there are folks who genuinely think he’s the man for the job. My gut says there aren’t as many of them as it seems like now, and that when it’s time to cast votes and caucus his appeal will dry up and shrivel down to the size of his conscience.
But he is entertaining. He is a rock star. And in a system that privileges style over substance, even when it comes to the hiring process for the world’s — or at least the country’s — most important job, it makes perfect sense that this should be Donald Trump’s moment to shine.