America Must Take Donald Trump’s Campaign Seriously

By Nicholas Riebel || Contributing Writer

Donald Trump is not a joke anymore. Even if his candidacy began as one, it is not anymore. He is a serious candidate, not just for the Republican nomination for president, but to be our next Commander-in-Chief.

Donald Trump isn’t just the odds-on favorite at the moment to earn the GOP nomination. He has a huge lead in every way imaginable on the other contenders: he is leading nationally, and in almost every state. Plus, among other demographic groups, he has a huge lead amongst female Republicans (http://abcn.ws/1UJ3Kzx).      

Whatever your political leaning, despite everything he has said and done, despite most pundits and politicians never thinking that he would even do that well in the field, Trump has reversed his unfavorability amongst Republicans. He is absolutely demolishing the alleged front runner Jeb Bush, and now leads both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in the general election (http://bit.ly/1IPkPke).

Laugh all you want, but the reality TV star could be our next president. And it isn’t even so far-fetched: Donald Trump is a sort of hybrid between former Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.

The Republican Party during and after the Civil Rights era knew that Lyndon B. Johnson had cost the Democratic Party the Southern states for a long time, which even LBJ seemed to know after signing the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.

But Richard Nixon, running in 1968, successfully used a “law and order” campaign to appeal to people who were scared by race riots. He was the first Republican candidate that began the GOP on a trajectory to consistently win elections in Southern states. It’s a pretty big coincidence, I would say, that Donald Trump is using that old “law and order” dog whistle in relation to racial unrest in Baltimore and other places: designed to sound innocuous to most, but sends a clear message to a certain minority of racist people in our nation (http://wapo.st/1hpNBlF).

Nixon is known for two traits that, I suspect, endeared him and Donald Trump to the GOP: nasty rhetoric and dirty tricks. Donald Trump uses both, whether using ad hominem attacks against those he disagrees with, or blackmailing CNN into giving up the profits they make at their debate this September (http://cnnmon.ie/1Nip3an).

Trump combines this Nixonian political personality with Reagan’s: a likable, tough, able-to-get-things-done kind of guy, a former liberal Democrat who found conservatism and promised to use it to make America great again (http://rol.st/1VW2H1B).

I liked Anjeli Chapman’s article; I thought it was well-thought-out and well written (I refer to the article that appeared in the last edition of The College Reporter, entitled “Trump’s campaign continues to spin out of control.” But, I cannot agree with a conclusion that this piece draws, that “Donald Trump will not, under any circumstances, become our next president.” And even if Trump somehow manages to secure the Republican nomination, the thought of pitting him against a truly qualified, competent Democratic candidate like Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton is laughable.

I believe this is one of the few areas of the article where the author was mistaken. Trump says, does, and believes, horrible, nasty things. And the Republicans love him more and more for it: he even seems to be leading with moderate Republicans, as far as recent polls show (http://bit.ly/1EVYp64).

Trump is a symptom of a greater problem in America and American politics: our willingness to accept “leaders” such as Sarah Palin, George W. Bush, and Trump as serious candidates for president.

Our willingness to accept Donald Trump may let him into the White House.

The conventional wisdom may be right: perhaps Donald Trump is just a joke candidate who will lead the polls for just a bit longer, but will see his standing collapse. I hope that’s true, but both my gut and my brain tell me that as long as he doesn’t implode (and I’m not sure how he would at this point, every offensive thing he says seems to just make him more popular with Republicans).

I think that right now it is more likely that Donald Trump will become our next president than any other person running, because the American people are so hungry for true change, to make “America great again,” that they may embrace a man who in another place and time would be seen as a dangerous, xenophobic tyrant.

If Donald Trump isn’t just putting on a show, his opinions are real, and so are his “solutions.” And the GOP loves him. I think we need to take him very seriously, and even though he sounds ridiculous now, some of the most bombastic demagogues in history became some of history’s worst monsters.

Please, take Trump seriously.

Junior Nicholas Riebel is a staff writer. His email is nriebel@fandm.edu.

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