The property billionaire has announced his candidacy but needs endorsements. Here is mine: Trump! The worst of America!
When I was a kid, growing up in New York in the late 80s, Donald Trump just seemed part of the deal if you lived in the city, like bed bugs or head lice. All that hair, all that wealth and the obligatory trophy wife – he seemed like a natural part of the landscape of 80s Manhattan. So it is one of the weirder phenomena of my life that, 30 years on, Trump is still, somehow, a presence when other figures from that era have long since faded away: junk bond king Michael Milken, say; or former Salomon Brothers boss John Gutfreund, whose wife, Susan, once allegedly shut down a whole street to lift a giant Christmas tree by crane into their apartment.
Next to those guys, Trump looked like a mere pretender. I know the 80s are making a comeback, but witnessing the tenacious survival of Trump, well, it’s as if Milli Vanilli were still in the charts. (Speaking of the undying power of the 80s, the very first presidential campaign I remember was George H W Bush’s 1988 bid, which I watched with my parents. And now, as I’m about to become a parent myself, a Bush is still running for president. Ahhh the circle of life, hakuna matata. Maybe in some universe a Bush will always be running for president, and when I say “some universe”, I obviously mean “this universe”.)
The Donald, again just like head lice and bed bugs, has proven himself to be utterly indestructible. On Tuesday he announced that he is running for president – really running for president, that is, as opposed to that time during the last election when he said he might run, but that turned out to be an elaborate means to promote the new series of The Apprentice. Or something. It’s never entirely clear what on earth Trump is on about when he opens his mouth, which is always. (Try and picture him with his mouth closed – you can’t. It’s like trying to imagine Beyoncé ugly, or Rush Limbaugh not being an ass.) Endearingly, this world-class self-promoter was, 24 hours after the announcement, only able to re-tweet one celebrity endorsement of his campaign, and that came from Piers Morgan, so we know we’re dealing with a political heavyweight here.
I hate to see a man looking lonely so I’d like to add my own very strong endorsement to Trump’s campaign “to make America great again” – the US equivalent of Britain’s “hard-working families”, a phrase now apparently obligatory for all campaigning politicians to mention. Oh sure, some people might bring up the many, many, personal issues that come with this man. But in Trump we have the perfect presidential candidate. Indeed, he distills so many qualities of the modern Republican party that I briefly wondered if he is actually an elaborate satire, like Al Murray was of Ukip in Britain’s last general election. It does seem the logical explanation for a man who on Tuesday listed his qualifications for being president as: “I’m in competition with Isis – they just built a hotel in Syria!” and “I just sold an apartment for $15 million to somebody from China.”
But satire requires self-awareness, which is not something one can expect of a man who bloviates against jobs being outsourced to China while simultaneously outsourcing the manufacturing of his own clothes to that same dreaded country. The truth is, he is the essence of the Republicans boiled down into the figure of a bullfrog topped with a Weetabix. There is the belief that personal wealth makes him special: “I’m really rich! I have a total net worth [of] over $10bn,” he crowed on Tuesday. (No mention, strangely, of the four times Trump’s companies have filed for bankruptcy.)
This might seem a little awkward for Republicans, post-Mitt Romney and his 47%, but it makes total sense in a country where, as Chris Rock has put it, people regularly confuse wealth with intelligence, and no one more than Trump. There’s his refusal to believe in things like science, as demonstrated by his ragings against vaccines (“tiny children are not horses”) and climate change, which he brilliantly disproves with a tweeted photo every time it snows in New York.
There’s the xenophobia, of course, such as this plan to keep out Mexican immigrants: “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall.” As ideas go, that is not even the worst one mooted by former presidential candidates. (I’d go for Rick Santorum’s comparison of Obamacare with apartheid.) His long-term inability to believe a black man could be born in America, as expressed through the euphemism “birtherism”, can also fit under that category. And finally, there’s the fact that he is the product of convenient family connections, something which should help him fit in with America’s political establishment from both parties.
Jon Stewart described Trump this week as “America’s id”. I’d describe him more as America’s spirit animal, the feral creature that exemplifies the country’s extremes. Barack Obama ran in 2008 on the idea that he represented the best of America. Trump could do exactly the same, but in reverse: he is the worst-of-America candidate. So while I definitely don’t want him to be president (he won’t be), I could not endorse his campaign more strongly. Trump! The Worst of America! Feel free to tweet that, Donald.