09 NOVEMBRE 2015
Donald Trump: Serious Presidential Candidate or Not
DI Francesca Centracchio

Donald Trump’s announcement to run in the 2016 Presidential election was very controversial. Many had a hard time taking him seriously because he almost ran in 2011 when he was trying to undermine President Obama, but he never took the steps to start a legitimate campaign. He is best known as a real estate mogul, host of a popular TV show called The Apprentice, and for his infamous comb-over hair style. His campaign website states that he is the definition of an American success story and that Donald Trump was a large supporter of the Republican Party in 2014. His personal campaign site also boasts that “You’re fired!” is listed as the third greatest television catchphrase of all time, which seems unrelated to his ability to run the United States. He has received an abundance of media attention early on in his campaign due to his status as a TV personality and his personal tendencies to be outrageous.

Although Trump has never held an elected government office before, he has three main issues that he has chosen to focus on thus far in his campaign. These are tax reforms, the right to bear arms and immigration reform. His tax reforms are aimed to help middle class Americans and he wants to change the current system so that it is much simpler. Currently, there are seven tax brackets and Trump believes that there only need to be four. In addition, he wants to further simplify the American tax system by reducing the paper work involved. Another main goal of his reforms is to grow the American economy and create more jobs, but this is typical of any Presidential Candidate.

Gun control is a prevalent issue in the United States as a reaction to the violent crimes committed with guns in recent years. Donald Trump defends the Second Amendment, or right to bear arms, saying that every American has the right to defend him or herself and their family. Trump criticizes the Obama administration’s record for prosecuting violent criminals and wants to make the justice system much stricter when it comes to prosecutions. He references a program that was used in Richmond, Virginia, called Project Exile. The explanation on his site states “that if a violent felon uses a gun to commit a crime, you will be prosecuted in federal court and go to prison for five years – no parole or early release.” He calls it a plan for success and thinks the program will be an effective way to get gang members and drug dealers off the streets. Trump also thinks that mental health system is broken and that is directly correlated with violent acts of gun violence. He states that mentally ill people don’t want to be violent, they just need help. He doesn’t have specific guidelines for how to fix the mental healthcare system, just that it should be fixed. Trump doesn’t like that people associate gun abiding citizens with the acts of “deranged madmen,” or the mentally ill, who are giving guns a bad reputation. His position is vague and ignorant. Mental health screening is necessary for preventing guns from getting to the wrong people, however, the mental health system can’t be held responsible for individuals who go through illegal channels to obtain guns. While improving the mental health care system would be a beneficial project, it is unrealistic to assume this would stop people from committing gruesome crimes using guns.

Trump is determined to defend the rights of people who deserve to have guns because they abide the law. There is no problem with him wanting to do that, but he doesn’t seem to have a plan on how to keep guns out of the wrong hands only what to do after and a vague hope to keep the mentally unstable from obtaining guns. He does not touch upon what to do about guns that are obtained though back channels or stolen from individuals who legally have the right to own them.

Trump’s third main position is on immigration and this topic has been an issue for republicans in the past. Republican strategists often state that one of Mitt Romney’s reasons for losing in 2012 was that he did not get the Latino vote. The Hispanic and South American voting population has continued to grow since 2012 and may be even more important in this upcoming election. Trump believes that a nation without borders is not really a nation and that America’s southern border needs to be a wall. He wants a wall that separates Mexico and America, but he wants Mexico to pay for it. He also wants to deport not only illegal immigrants who have committed crimes but also children who were brought here illegally. His harsh views on immigration have managed to gain him support among conservatives, who would have likely voted for him already, but it has done nothing to win over new voters.

Trump has managed to make plenty of enemies since taking the lead on the Republican side, but he had more to do with that than his first place position. During the second GOP debate on September 16, 2015 many of the candidates got to address personal issues they had with Trump on live television. Carly Fiorina stood up against Trump on women’s rights after he insulted reporter Megan Kelly saying maybe she acted the way she did because she had her period during the last debate. Jeb Bush had an especially personal request, which was Trump to apologize to Mrs. Bush for dragging her into issues in the previous debate. Trump declined the opportunity to apologize, suggesting that he doesn’t care who he insults if he gets his point across. Finally, Rand Paul tried to remind Trump that is was only cool to insult the personal appearance of others when you were in junior high and adults shouldn't need to stoop to such a level. These are just from one night and Trump has been continuously insulting politicians, gender/ethnic groups, reporters, and sometimes random people via twitter. A New York Times reporter wrote, “What his actions haven’t done, however, is position him to win the presidency, or to govern effectively were he somehow to get elected. In fact, they have done just the opposite by offending many of the people whose support he would need, needlessly provoking fights with important nations and generally coming off as unpresidential.” He has a long list of personal enemies that would just have to be added on to America’s list of enemies if he were to become President.

Despite all the offense Trump has caused he still came out as the number one GOP candidate in the both the Iowa and New Hampshire polls, which are among the first states to start polling for Presidential candidates. The two states have also voted for the eventual winner on numerous occasions, making them important polls for predicting. Trump is one of 37 republican candidates who officially declared their intention to run in 2016. This large number of candidates has split the primary vote into extremely small majorities and minorities. Trump has around a 20-30% support in most polls taken in the U.S.; however, this is relatively small majority that has allowed Trump to continue without having to have a huge numbers of supporters.

While Trump’s tweets, extreme right ideals, and offensive comments may seem to be impulsive they have done a great job of catering to and exciting the extreme right of America. This may be his strategy, in fact, so that he can gain enough support to win the primaries, since extremist voters tend to vote more than voters who aren’t as passionate about the issues. If this strategy gets him to the general election he would have to moderate his positions and arguments to win the Presidency. The only problem with this strategy is that Trump may have already angered too many Americans to win them back over in the general election.

One of the hardest things for republican candidates to do is stand out in such a large group. Trump has been able to capitalize on the division in the party, while many others have fallen through the cracks. His extremism has set him apart from other candidates who have tried to stay more moderate and he has ignited passion in many groups with his slogan of “Making America Great Again.” Trump has also been able to use his lack of political experience to benefit him by painting himself as a political outsider. The American public has grown tired of career politicians because they feel they haven’t helped the American people. Interestingly, people seem to have forgotten that Trump has donated large amounts to republican candidates over the years and even toured with some of them during their campaigns. He has spent too much time working closely with the Republican Party to be an outsider, but Americans forget about his involvement.

Another obstacle that many Republican candidates have struggled to overcome is getting enough media coverage to keep them in the running. Reporters and news networks are spread thin among the candidates and don’t have time to report every small detail on each candidate. Trump has had no trouble getting coverage due to his celebrity status. He already had seven million twitter followers when he announced his campaign giving him a huge, free way to promote himself. In addition to his media connections, Americans are intrigued by Trump as a Presidential candidate. He is like a car crash that you want to look away from, but can’t because you just have to see what happens. Trump can make a random statement on the street and it will be in the news that day, whereas other candidates have press conferences that may not even get mentioned by major news outlets.

Trump’s other strategy is to use his success as a way to gain support from the general population, instead of alienating himself as one of the privileged elite. He advertises how well he has been able to run major corporations, thus convincing Americans he is capable of running a country. His financial success is used to push the idea that he can bring economic growth and wealth back to the United States. It is important to remember that Trump hasn’t always been financially stable though because he has filed for bankruptcy in the past. He has successfully been able to spin his story in a positive way that many Americans have embraced as a welcome change to the usual Presidential candidates.

However, as campaigns continue it is unclear if America will take Trump seriously if he acts like the host of The Apprentice instead of a future President of the United States. His tactics have been successful because of the considerable number of candidates, but these same tactics may alienate some of the voters he will need if he were to be in the General Election.