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Horowitz: Trump: It’s Time to End his Free Ride

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Any time you think Donald Trump can’t sink any lower, just remind yourself that the basis of his Presidential trial balloon in the last contest was loudly proclaiming President Obama wasn’t born in this country, and demanding he show convincing documentation to prove otherwise. The Donald was all-birther, all-the time, only marginally retreating from his outrageous claims—ones that if he is half as smart as he says he is he couldn’t possibly believe--when Obama punctured his balloon by releasing his long-form birth certificate. Trump coupled his wild birth certificate claims with calling on Obama to release his college grades, because they would show that his success was a result of “affirmative action.’  Striking divisive racial chords isn't new to Trump; they are his political calling card.

A telling moment in Trump’s abortive 2012 Presidential campaign occurred at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011, during the height of Trump questioning the President’s birthplace. Obama poked fun at the Reality TV Star and businessman, pointing to Trump’s decision to fire actor Gary Busey instead of rock singer Meat Loaf from Celebrity Apprentice: “These are the types of decisions that would keep my up at night,” said the President, “Well handled, Sir”

Instead of laughing along with the rest of the room, the cameras panned to a visibly seething Donald Trump.  As a classic bully, Trump has a sense of humor about everything but himself. In fact, judging from his speech in Phoenix over the weekend, the only thing worse in Trump’s view than being an ‘illegal”, is saying anything negative about the great man himself.  Trump spent more time attacking the businesses that had cut ties with him and any politician that had even mildly criticized him than he did on illegal immigration.

In Trump's political forays to date, he has benefited from the fact that it is hard to know whether to take him seriously or not.  If his short-lived 2012 Presidential campaign was conducted by a more traditional politician, he would have been branded an out-and-out racist.  But many people thought he was just nodding and winking. This didn’t make it any less disgraceful—but it did buy Trump some slack.

This past weekend’s demagogic fest in Phoenix should serve as a wake-up call to anyone who is still amused by Trump’s antics. Trump was introduced by fellow birther Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty of racial profiling of Latinos in 2013 and who oversees a law enforcement agency which demonstrated the worst pattern of racial profiling in our nation’s history, according to the Justice Department.

Despite the fact that, as has been widely reported, research shows that undocumented immigrants do not commit more crimes than people born in the United States, Trump continued to assert that “the illegals are doing the killing.” Not allowing the facts to get in his way and never one to admit a mistake, Trump is standing by and even going further than the comments he made about Mexicans in his announcement remarks:   “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

In Phoenix, Trump talked about a new ‘silent majority’—a term used by Richard Nixon. But the politician of that era he is truly channeling is George Wallace. Striking the disruptive chords of race, either by just plain ignorance or clever design, Trump is appealing to our worst instincts.

At this point, his movement in the polls is more a reflection of the fact that no other Republican candidate has broken through in what is a crowded field. And he has a ceiling, with most Republican primary voters finding him an unappealing choice.  With most general election voters generally having an unfavorable view, an independent candidacy is an unlikely scenario—and a successful one difficult to envision. He is also not going to wear well; people are likely to tire of his bluster, rarely if ever backed-up by any substance.

Still, the sheer media attention he is getting demands a more forceful response from the Republican candidates for President whose criticism has been generally tepid and from all other thinking Americans who reject discrimination and bigotry even if it is being uttered by a successful businessman in a three piece suit. 

It is long-past time to hold Donald Trump to the same standards to which we would hold any other Presidential candidate.  It is long-past time for the free ride to be over.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island


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