It’s the sideshow that just won’t stop.
The name-calling, the stereotyping, the hair. The xenophobic rants masquerading as stump speeches. The verbal fisticuffs on Twitter with El Chapo, a Mexican drug lord on the lam. The “the” in front of his first name.
Donald Trump is his own walking and (unfortunately) talking reality TV show. And, as hard as it may be for many of us to understand in California, he has fans, lots of them. There are many people who take him seriously and are willing to drive hundreds of miles and stand out in the Arizona heat to hear him ramble.
On Saturday, thousands – 15,000, according to Trump’s people – attended his rally in Phoenix. And later, another 5,000 packed the Phoenix Convention Center. The line wrapped around the building before he took the stage.
He lobbed his usual indiscriminate, anti-immigrant bombs. Hold-your-nose-worthy classics like: “We have to stop illegal immigration. We have to. We have a situation that’s absolutely out of control.” And: “This has become a movement because people don’t know what’s happening. We can’t be great if we don’t have a border.”
Oh, and, of course, the obligatory “We’re going to take our country back.” That’s sure to get chants of “USA! USA!” for all of the wrong reasons.
It’s easy to dismiss Trump as a buffoon with billions. And he is. Boy, is he.
It’s also easy to wave off Trump as someone who will never become president. And that’s true. I don’t care what the polls say – which, by the way, now have Jeb Bush leading the Republican field. Trump has as much of a shot at winning the nomination as Rachel Dolezal has of actually becoming black.
But that’s not the point. The point isn’t who Trump is, but what he’s saying.
Trump is popular because he is simply saying very loudly what many Americans – too many Americans, if you ask me – are thinking. And he’s sickeningly crass and unapologetic about it.
This is easy to forget in California, where we’re set to become the first state in the nation to offer subsidized health care to undocumented children and where Sacramento County leaders are patting themselves on the back for doing just that.
California fought this war years ago; for the most part, we’re past this.
Not so in many other states. Elsewhere, The Donald has lots of fans among Republicans and Libertarians. And not just in Arizona, where anti-immigrant sentiment has long flourished thanks to the state’s proximity to the border. Trump has supporters across the country, even in states that are far removed from the cost and drama of the border, and don’t really have much of a problem with illegal immigration.
Indiana is such a state.
I spent a decade in Indianapolis, and for every ridiculous stereotype that has come out of Trump’s mouth thus far, I can think of plenty of people there who agree with him – even the most horrific statements, such as the one he made in June that caused Macy’s, Univision and NBC to dump him and California lawmakers to call on the state to boycott him.
“They’re sending people who have a lot of problems,” Trump said during his announcement speech at New York City’s Trump Tower in June. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Thankfully, this kind of thinking is something that we are largely done with California. But other states aren’t. So we can’t turn a deaf ear to The Donald’s rhetoric and blind eye to his popularity just yet.
Let’s not confuse the seriousness of the message and its implications with the idiocy of the messenger.