I have refrained from writing about Trump until today. I’ve tried. Really, I have.
I haven’t always abhorred him. For starters, since he’s a New Yorker, he and I go way back. I started reading about him when he was still just a local spectacle. (Also, fun fact: we share a birthday). I have memories of looking at the cover of the New York Post or the Daily News as a twentysomething and seeing this or that story about his spectacular divorce from Ivana or his exploits with the Georgia peach whose name escapes me right now. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for him and his crazy love life. Anyone who’s been married three times must be a true believer in love, like I am. His hope springs eternal, as does mine. And who can knock that?
So when he turned into a bit of a sideshow with his increasingly blustery ways and silly hair, I cut him some slack. I watched The Apprentice from time to time and was amused by his unrelenting self promotion. What must it be like to never turn it off? I wondered. Still, I regarded him as an extreme but interesting specimen, like a bird with impractical but eye-catching plumage: Americansis capitalisticus. He was what we were at our reptilian core, the naked ambition, the manifest destiny of the personal empire, the almost adolescent sense of self. Like our young country, he thought we were here to run things and didn’t much listen to reason. He was fun to watch.
All that changed when he got involved with the Truther movement. It seemed off message from a guy who liked to slap his name on steaks and mattresses and anything name-slappable. What was he doing? Then I saw how much press he got from it and I understood. This was another way to amplify his message, to raise his Q score, to keep his name in the papers. More media mentions, more Trump University tickets sold. Strange and a little unsavory, but all about the Benjamins. Got it. Okay.
But then I had my “and then they came for me” moment. After a ho-hum campaign in 2012, he finally found the issue with which he could stir the lowest common denominator in our country: immigration. I don’t mind a debate about the state of our borders or our policy, but that’s not what he’s engaged in. His cynical manipulation of the media to stay relevant is doing real damage, entrenching xenophobia and inciting hate. I doubt he really means half of what he says, but the people he’s riling up don’t know that.
I made a joke on my Facebook page the other day, “Trump for president in 2016, so Hillary can breeze into the White House while on vacation eating bonbons.” But I realize how wrong that was. I do want the Democrats to win, but not at the expense of turning the Republican Party into a laughingstock. No one party is right about everything, and we need a viable opposition so that our ideas keep getting challenged and compromises keep happening. When a Donald Trump coarsens the conversation the way he is, it’s not just Republicans who lose, it’s all of us.
The Huffington Post made an announcement the other day that they would only cover Trump on their Entertainment page now, no longer considering his presidential “campaign” viable or honest. I think they’re on to something. Perhaps if we all stop paying attention to his antics, he’ll go back to hawking the “Trump Home Mirror Collection” and let the rest of us get on with the real work of having discussions about issues that concern us all with dignity and a view toward our common ground.