Ted Jacobi, Staff Writer
If you’re anything like me, you find the rise of Candidate Trump fascinating. I want to clarify that I consider Candidate Trump and Donald J. Trump to be different. Donald J. Trump is a basic private citizen; he is rash, egotistical, and energized by the attention. Scan his Twitter feed and Trump Organization biography, and you might agree. However, Candidate Trump, while of these same characteristics, is more complex. He is the front-runner for the Republican Party’s nomination for President of the United States with the support of more than 7.5 million primary voters (only Ms. Clinton has more). The voters supporting Candidate Trump are of the same Party that chose John McCain as their presidential nominee in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. How can one make sense of this choice?
The most sensible analysis of Candidate Trump I’ve encountered is from Philip Gourevitch of The New Yorker, who applies Abraham Lincoln’s political logic to our current situation. Unfortunately, the political logic of the president who declared an end to slavery can still be practically applied today, and Candidate Trump embodies many of the characteristics of which Lincoln warned. Luckily, Lincoln also offered a solution. Defeating Candidate Trump “will require the people to be united with each other, attached to the government and laws, and generally intelligent.” To me, this election will test where America stands on the issues Lincoln posits: our unity as a country, our trust of government, our attachment to laws, and our general intelligence as a country.
Unfortunately, modern America fails to meet most of the characteristics Lincoln said would be necessary to defeat Candidate Trump. We are not united; we are not attached to our government; and we are not acting with general intelligence. America will not fail if Candidate Trump is elected president, but we certainly will be moving away from a more perfect Union.
Candidate Trump’s rise is made possible by an ugly side of America where some find it acceptable to suppress the freedom and liberty of fellow citizens. His support is also a referendum of sorts on our political leaders. Congress, the people’s voice, is one of America’s least revered public organizations. According to Gallop’s Confidence in Institutions survey, 48 percent of people questioned said they trust the organization “very little.” Many politicians in Congress are happy to keep bickering over old wedge issues like same-sex marriage, abortion, and healthcare rather have substantive debates about criminal justice reform, Justice Merrick Garland, water infrastructure, the future of higher education, spending reform, and America’s place in the world.
Part of what makes America great is that Donald J. Trump, the private citizen, is able to exist. His beliefs are protected so he can keep on makin’ deals. However, Candidate Trump is running for President of the United States. He is auditioning to lead America at home and abroad and what he says as a candidate is consequential; he is leading America away from greatness down a path of blame, hatred, and discord. This primary season has shown that there is anger and frustration in America. As crazy as it may sound, I think Donald Trump is part of the solution.
The Republican Party is headed for a historic contested convention, which should ensure this primary season is remembered for years to come. With this in mind, I return to the point about Candidate Trump being part of the solution. I am a millennial and this is the first election cycle that a friend my age is running for public office. Our generation needs to move America toward a more perfect Union, to a place where Candidate Trump wouldn’t stand a chance, not even in a primary. As more millennials engage in political action and run for office, we can never forget what it has been like for Candidate Trump to drag our political discourse down to the level of an unsupervised eighth-grade gym class. We can never forget what it was like to hear him disgrace our neighbors in Mexico, propose unlawful war policies, and support a travel ban on Muslims. But we also cannot lose sight of what made Candidate Trump possible: lack of trust in politicians and dissatisfaction with government. What Donald J. Trump represents will never disappear. It’s up to our generation to foster a more trustworthy political culture and a more adaptive government. This would be generally intelligent and a worthy cause around which to unite. Let us make President Lincoln proud.
Ted Jacobi is an MPA candidate at NYU Wagner studying finance. You can follow him on Twitter at @tedjacobi