I Miss Trump, But I Don't Want Him Back
When confronted with snide female interviewers who regarded him with thinly veiled hostility, Donald Trump simply uttered, "Excuse Me," and they were chastised like schoolchildren. Other Republican politicians just did not know this was an option. Along with his bold assertiveness, Trump proved himself to be a first-class rabble-rouser, electrifying audiences across the country. Mr. Trump was not just about showmanship, though. Behind his eccentric hairstyle, behind the ridiculous reality show, was a man with some fascinating ideas. While his platforms did not necessarily conform to the conservative orthodoxy, they appealed to a wide swath of the Republican base. In sum, Trump posited himself as the antithesis to Obama, and the scourge of political correctness.
It's interesting to reflect on how angry Trump made people. When he questioned how Obama got into Harvard, the left cried racism. Trump was in fact implicitly broaching the subject of race by tacitly suggesting President Obama had benefited from affirmative action. If people are resentful of the status quo, racial preferences, and this line of inquiry reignites that resentment...fair game. This was not a distasteful show of demagoguery. Rather, Trump called attention to an important issue which has been strangely absent from the public discourse.
Another issue which enraged Trump's critics was his inquiry into the status of Obama's birth certificate. We would be well reminded, though, that his stance was always presented as a conditional: if the president wasn't born in America, then that would be a disaster. That remains an accurate statement. The President was born in America, hence there is no disaster. And who can forget the press conference following the production of the birth certificate, when Trump hysterically proclaimed that he was, "very proud of himself"?
The media was contemptuous of Trump, and portrayed him as frivolous and unserious. But who was really frivolous: those who dismissed him on the basis of his haircut or those who supported him based on the policy positions which he articulated? I fail to see how Trump's hair would have negatively affected me if he were elected president. Granted, The Celebrity Apprentice is an absurd show, but that did not seem relevant to his role as a potential political leader. It didn't help -- yet it was by no means a deal-breaker. Mr. Trump's decision not to enter the race, however, at least in part vindicated those who characterized his foray into politics as a publicity stunt.
Ultimately, this is for the best, because we could not rely on Mr. Trump. He sabotaged himself, most notably, by giving an inexplicably profanity-laced speech in Las Vegas. He betrayed the trust of his supporters in doing so. Whether he did so intentionally or fulfilled a subconscious death wish, that speech was where his campaign really ended. He must have realized that, too. His spontaneity, which had served him so well, ultimately proved to be his undoing.
Since that time, Mitt Romney has become the leader of the Republican candidates. He would not act in so haphazard a manner; rather, Romney is a paragon of control. It is true that Governor Romney doesn't have Trump's creativity, or spontaneity. Nor does any of the other current Republican candidates, as evidenced by Monday night's debate. They all delivered messages consistent with conservative principles; but they also ran the risk of blending into one another to become an amorphous entity, rather than distinct personalities. Were Mr. Trump present, he would have provided a contrast to the other participants of the debate in a variety of ways. Instead, the candidates differed in terms of degree, but not in direction.
Trump is threatening, ominously, to emerge as a third-party candidate. This would certainly be a disaster for almost everyone involved, except the President, whom Trump professes to consider "the worst ever." If he ran in this capacity, Mr. Trump would effectively hand Obama a second term, as did Perot Clinton in '92, and as did (arguably) Nader Bush in 2000. The most successful third-party candidate in history, Teddy Roosevelt, received 27 percent of the vote in 1912. I am not confident that Trump's visage will ultimately be chiseled onto Mount Rushmore. Hence, he cannot expect greater results than TR.
Romney and Trump are polar opposites, yin and yang. Trump was an exciting gamble (no pun intended). Mitt Romney is more of a reliable standard-bearer; he may not satisfy everyone, but he is focused on bringing home the prize. Republicans want that prize, and need someone who will not sabotage himself in pursuing it. Trump had a meteoric rise, and then vanished. Governor Romney has been like the tortoise to Trump's hare. The confluence of several events persuaded Mr. Trump not to enter the race. After the fact, he realized Obama would have been more vulnerable than he had thought, and Mr. Trump appeared to be having second thoughts: "who knows if I made the right decision?" he wondered aloud. Too late, Mr. Trump. I miss you, but I don't want you back.