Here’s the thing about Donald Trump that’s gone largely unsaid to this point: He simultaneously manages to be one of America’s preeminent bullshit artists, and one of the country’s foremost practitioners of jaw-dropping straight talk, depending on the circumstances. It’s this selective two-facedness that’s catapulted Trump to the top of the business world, as well as the staggeringly odoriferous Republican presidential garbage heap.
One minute Trump is claiming he can bring jobs back from overseas by forcing China to magically strengthen its currency, the next minute he’s admitting — no, bragging — that he’s given wads of cash the size of his ego to candidates of both parties.
That brings us to the bigger dichotomy here, and that is the difference between what voters say they hate, and who voters are willing to support. As poll after poll has demonstrated, one of the biggest complaints Americans have about their elected officials is that they’re beholden to special interests. Granted, “special interests” is a vague term and encompasses a litany of factions including oil companies, Big Pharma, unions, gun lobbies, trial lawyers, Wall Street banks, and so on. But fundamentally the complaint boils down to this: Politicians don’t care about regular folks because well-financed puppeteers are behind the curtain pulling the strings after buying their way backstage.
But for all their complaining about special interest money leading to “business as usual” in politics, a shocking number of voters are willing to throw their support behind a real estate and casino tycoon who for decades has been pulling (or at least trying to pull) those very same strings using his mountainous fortune. In short, Donald Trump is business as usual because Donald Trump is a special interest.
Consider that 23% of likely GOP primary voters would right now vote for Trump in a primary, and that more than 40% of American voters would right now vote for Trump in a general election against both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. What this means is that a significant chunk of Americans either haven’t realized that Trump is the very thing they say they loathe; or, what’s more likely and hilarious, these Americans do realize that Trump is the problem, but figure it’s much easier to just cut out the middle man by putting the special interests directly into office.
Whatever the case, Trump’s shameless bombast and unwavering cocksureness have made him the frontrunner for the time being. That’s because voters value highly a candidate who sticks to his guns. Trump has made innumerable outrageous comments during and before this campaign, but you’d be hard pressed to find a story about him apologizing, or walking back his comments, or saying he “misspoke.” That’s because Trump gives zero shits about being viewed as politically incorrect. Indeed, he’s relying on this perception.
There’s a lot of campaign left until primary season, but Donald Trump is doing something “right.” And unlike his GOP frontrunner predecessors who became also-rans in previous years, Trump doesn’t have to rely on special interest money to fund his campaign to the tune of a cool billion or more.
Because Donald Trump is a one-man special interest.