Navigating the complicated and at times totally absurd landscape that is the American political system can be either exhaustive or exhilarating, depending on whom you ask. If, like me, you’re a full-blown junkie who works in the industry, reads Politico every morning and has your Congressperson’s phone number memorized, then the great spectacle that is the race for the presidency every four years is your jam. But for those to whom politics is either confusing or outright boring, trying to keep up with the shifting platforms, policies, and polling numbers of the presidential candidates can be mind-numbing, leaving many to throw their hands in the air and wait to see who shows up on the ballot come election day. In an era when the media is often guilty of oversimplifying candidates for the purposes of a sound bite, and candidates themselves tend to pander to an audience, it can be difficult to cut through the clutter and figure out what a candidate actually stands for, or what their presidency might look like. That’s why over the course of the next several weeks, Femme & Fortune is going to break down who each of the major candidates have been, as well as discussing some of the smaller, less well-known ones, to keep you our modern, savvy reader, in the loop as you’re on the go. And if we’re going to be looking at these behemoth political figures as regular people, we might as well start with the big, whopping, painstakingly coiffed elephant in the room.
Donald Trump: Front Runner for the Republican Presidential Nomination
It almost seems silly to start with Trump, given that the media has already given him nearly $2 billion worth of free press since his campaign began, but he’s inarguably the most infamous candidate, and regardless of how you feel about him as a person, you have to give him credit — the man is absolutely everywhere, and for better or worse that “means something” in today’s society. The man as a media presence has been a shocking contradiction, despite his personality remaining more or less unchanged. He’s built a persona around his wealth to such a degree that most people think of him as the richest man in the world, despite only ranking number 324 on the Forbes list of World Billionaires at the time of this writing. He has had a string of famous affairs despite having always been a fairly goofy looking guy. He’s most well known not for his successful money-making ventures, but a reality show about people wanting to join those money-making ventures. And until 2009, he was a registered Democrat.
So how exactly did he end up the front runner for the GOP?
Why Some People Love Him:
A lot has happened to our country in the last ten years that has dramatically shifted political attitudes. The economy failed and has been slow to pick back up, particularly for low-income families and young adults. The political system has shifted significantly, and this will be the first election where Millennials outnumber Baby Boomers. These two powerful, complex factors have created an environment wherein an increasing number of people feel — whether it’s due to age, opportunity, or income bracket — marginalized, and from someone in their position that’s a fair assessment of the system. Trump’s promise to “Make American Great Again” speaks to those who feel they’ve been left out or overlooked, with many supporters feeling overwhelmingly isolated and disenfranchised. At their core, most Trump supporters are looking for someone who they think their opinion matters to, and as a “political outsider,” Trump seems to fit that bill. They’re looking for something different, because everything else so far hasn’t been very useful for them.
Why Some People Hate Him:
Much of what Trump has said up until now has been two-dimensional representations of just about every group he’s been asked to comment on. Mexicans were rapists. Women who argued with him were on their periods. Muslims were terrorists. For even moderate pundits and voters alike, this seemed to be in poor taste, and many have found themselves frustrated not only by his rhetoric, but by its surprising popularity. Despite backtracking pretty much everything he’s ever said as a candidate in a recent TV interview (skip to the 10:00 mark), it’s hard to undo years of insensitive rants, Tweets, and remarks that border on the absurd. With each primary victory, mainstream Republicans and Democrats alike have found themselves scratching their heads, asking the same, simple question….
What Does This Candidacy Say About America?
Now that Trump has the Republican nomination, he’s already begun the process of moving to center, a tactic long used by politicians of either stripe in order to appeal to the widest swath of general election voters possible (see above interview). So in all likelihood, if Trump was elected president, he’d be a very (OK, maybe not very, but definitely somewhat) different man than the one we’ve seen running so far. But his success up until this point has exposed the wide, but previously ignored fissure in the Republican Party between the rich, highly-educated elites who have so far been in control of the party and its statistically poor, under-educated (and under-served) voter base. He may be a bit of a clown, but he’s a clown who’s getting America to ask itself some very serious questions about who we are as a people, and how much of ourselves we want to see reflected in our elected leaders.
So really, who’s having the last laugh?