I have tried to avoid writing too much about Donald Trump, but something insightful that David Ignatius wrote recently about Trump caught my eye. Last week, Ignatius wrote a thought-provoking piece asking, “Is Donald Trump the American Putin?” In describing why people are drawn to both Putin and Trump, Ignatius wrote, “The appeal of such politicians is partly their brash self-confidence. They don’t explain the mundane details of national revival; they just assert it.” I can see why distinguished internationalists such as Ignatius see parallels between Trump and Putin, but on a coarser domestic political level, Donald Trump reminds me more of reality TV phenomenon Kim Kardashian. In short, Donald Trump is to politics what Kim Kardashian is to entertainment.
Kardashian and Trump are both all about projecting an attitude and a vibe that is compelling to behold. They are exploitative, titillating and fun to watch – but there’s not really any “there” there. Kardashian is a huge celebrity. Some people find something about her that they admire. Kardashian can draw a crowd at any mall she enters – but that doesn’t mean people will ultimately trust her with the things they really care about.
As evidenced by The Post’s Ruth Marcus’ smart dismantling of Donald Trump’s immigration policy in her piece, “The false assumptions underlying Trump’s immigration plan,” Trump’s attempt to lay out specifics opens the door to criticism. Just as having to act or sing could be career suicide for Kim Kardashian, having to articulate coherent policy proposals is a buzzkill for the Trump movement. In fact, they may be his kryptonite. As Marcus writes, “The outcry is understandable; the facts prove Trump wrong.” The question is, how long can Trump avoid talking about serious policy positions? When you actually listen to his stump speech, you hear different exclamations of his self-proclaimed prowess in virtually everything, but not a lot about how he will handle this or that problem. Will part of his inevitable decline be a result of him having to say how he will actually change things via Congress, negotiations with foreign leaders and executive actions?
Months before the election, before anyone really tunes in, it’s enough to be interesting and catch people’s attention and garner media attention. But specifics are Trump’s enemy. After some of the initial glitz and glamour of the Trump campaign has worn off, the Republican coalition is going to refocus on the issues that consistently bind them together.
In the meantime, supporting the Trump campaign is a good outlet for anyone who is sick of more of the same and wants to find a home for their frustration. Anyone who has ever had a case of road rage and flashed a middle finger at the guilty party knows that doing so brings some short-term satisfaction, but ultimately, it isn’t productive and it doesn’t help you navigate traffic to get where you want to go. And sometimes, it’s even followed by regret for letting yourself lose your grip. In the here-and-now, the Trump campaign is a way for many frustrated voters to give the political system the middle finger. But at the end of the day, it’s not effective. What we need is for someone to take charge, stop the decline and start making Washington work.