For as long as I can remember, two types of people have especially annoyed me.
The first are those — and they typically are male — lucky enough to have wealthy parents who give them every advantage, even passing on businesses for their sons to run. Often, these fortunate offspring then righteously embrace a conservative political philosophy — Republican, Libertarian or both — and dismiss the less fortunate as lazy or unmotivated. In shorthand, I invoke baseball: born on third base but think they hit a triple.
The other type, and you will recognize them, are those who treat people beneath them on the social ladder shabbily, even cruelly, simply because they can. The victims of these bullies are waitresses, desk clerks, cab drivers, flight attendants, employees, customer service people.
Donald J. Trump is both types — profoundly so — born to a family with a successful real estate company he stepped into. And he is, of course, a bully.
Yet I can’t get enough of Trump these days because his outsized persona is exactly what the Republican Party deserves. For decades, the GOP has been fomenting rage among angry white guys against women, minorities and anything touched by government. To a disturbing degree, that cynical approach has succeeded, with Trump its ultimate manifestation.
The problem for other right wingers is that he’s gone public — too public — bypassing the sort of dog-whistle messaging Republican leaders like Scott Walker typically use to communicate subtexts about race and gender.
It’s a delicate dance for these other Republicans, who try to assure the right-most in their party, the tea party fringe that make up perhaps 10 or 15 percent of the total electorate, of their fealty to far-right doctrine without riling the vast majority of prospective voters in a general election.
From a progressive perch, it is a pleasure to watch the GOP marinate in the stew it has created.
Comedian Stephen Colbert, who is about to debut his new talk show, told the New York Times about Trump: “Every night before I go to bed, I light a candle and pray that he stays in the race.” Colbert was talking about Trump as a rich target for humor, but I second his sentiment for its political implications.
Granted, it is repugnant if one pauses to understand the genuine nature of Trump’s appeal. For example, Reddit, a website built around discussion boards, asked Trump’s supporters to say — seriously — why they back the wildly outspoken real estate mogul. So into Reddit I dove, seeking out-of-the-mainstream insight.
What I found was a cesspool. Writers there seemed to compete to see who could be most profane. I’ll try to summarize: every politician running for president on either side is, more or less, scum. As a class they are corrupt and despicable tools. Trump is a breath of fresh air. We might as well blow everything up and start over, damn the consequences. Trump is different, not politically correct or beholden. And so on, and so on.
And there were pro-Trump, sexist comments growing from his much- publicized fight with Megyn Kelly of Fox News. Speaking of misogyny, it’s intriguing to watch other GOP hopefuls pretend to be aghast at Trump’s sexism and forced to wrestle with this conundrum: Do we attack Trump and risk his wrath, or do we sit silent and look weak?
Such hypocrisy was captured in this Slate headline: “As long as Donald Trump is running, Conservatives Oppose Misogyny.”
And this from the article: “Take, for instance, Scott Walker, who tweeted … that there’s ‘no excuse for Trump’s (sexist) comments.’ Walker also explained during Thursday’s debates that women should be denied abortions even at the risk of the woman losing her life. Trump has a nasty mouth, but hey, at least he doesn’t think pregnancy should carry a potential death sentence.”
Jeb Bush, another front-runner, took gender flak from Trump. Bush had told an audience recently that “I’m not sure we need a half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” He says he was quoted out of context, but Trump pounced in an interview.
“I watched Jeb Bush give the worst answer the other day. I think that is going to be his 47 percent,” Trump said, referring to Mitt Romney’s comment in 2012 that 47 percent of voters regard themselves as victims and depend on government, which helped torpedo his candidacy.
As for Walker, the other early front-runner, he may claim in the title of his autobiography to be “Unintimidated,” but, by Trump, he clearly is.
Trump has blasted Walker for doing a poor job on Wisconsin’s budget and economy. But Walker’s initially tentative responses seem to be evolving. He has apparently decided that playing nice with Trump is not going to spare him from The Donald’s sharp rhetoric.
Walker said this week that Trump’s critiques of him mirror those Hillary Clinton uses against him. Hitting Trump may seem perilous for Walker, but may also be required because his position in the race appears to be weakening, perhaps from a debate performance in Cleveland that was widely assessed as mediocre.
A Suffolk University poll this week showed 17 percent of likely GOP caucus voters in Iowa now favoring Trump to Walker’s 12 percent, with Marco Rubio, off a strong debate performance, at 10 percent. Iowa is regarded a must-win for Walker.
Another poll, by Franklin Pierce/Boston Herald, showed Walker’s support in New Hampshire dropping. That poll showed Trump first among likely GOP primary voters at 18 percent. Walker’s support was 4 percent, down from 15 percent in March. Back then, he was tied for first with Bush; now he is in a three-way tie for seventh. Another national poll this week by Rasmussen Reports had Walker falling from 14 percent last month to 9 percent in the latest poll.
And next week, a Marquette University Law School poll of Wisconsin residents is due out. In its April poll, Walker’s approval rating was 41 percent, while 56 percent of respondents disapproved of his job performance. He lost a hypothetical matchup in Wisconsin with Clinton, 52 percent to 40. It’s hard to fathom how those numbers would improve after a stormy budget process and the continued whiff of scandal, whether from the admittedly defunct John Doe probes or the ongoing train wreck of one of Walker’s favorite projects — the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
One can imagine Trump asking this: Scott, my polling numbers are great. Why are you so unpopular in your own state?
That Trump, what a guy.