A friend helped me decode the ongoing, head-scratching appeal of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
The sorry truth: Trump is us. The 69-year-old billionaire stands at the front end of the baby boom. More than 75 million Americans, born from 1946 to 1964, are counted in the “me generation,” and Trump embodies the overindulged, overbearing culture in which many of us grew up.
Like a lot of young guys with money and options Trump managed to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War. Like a lot of rich guys, he made his money the old-fashioned way — he was born into a wealthy family.
Trump made it grow, and with it his ego swelled as did his knack to say and do unpredictable things. Trump attacked Megyn Kelly of Fox News, Sen. John McCain and GOP presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina. He mocked Serge Kovaleski, a reporter for The New York Times, for Kovaleski’s physical disability, and then denied it, though it all appeared on camera. Surely that would have ended Trump’s presidential bid. But it didn’t.
Trump painted Mexicans as criminals, and he hangs his candidacy on building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. He would register American Muslims and bar others of the Islamic faith from entering the U.S. Despite these examples, intense criticism fails to stick to Teflon Don. His poll numbers remain high, and people like him. He trashes political correctness, which many view as Trump telling it like it is. That has included sexist, racist, xenophobic blasts that offend many.
The GOP had planned to draw women, Latinos and blacks into the party after losing the last two presidential elections. But Trump has found a raw Republican core that would rather not be so inclusive.
Never mind that Trump isn’t well-versed on domestic or international issues. Forget about his failure to be outstanding, or even coherent, in presidential debates. He’s the richest guy on the stage, and Americans adore rich and powerful men who can dodge taxes and accountability. Trump’s appeal is based on people’s dreams of being like him. So anyone who trashes Trump trashes them, increasing Trump’s appeal.
Trump’s generation is vastly different from the one that carried the U.S. and the planet to victory over the Axis powers in World War II, and then helped rebuild war-torn nations, including Germany, Italy and Japan. That was the generation that gave us the space race, built impressive cities with magnificent skyscrapers, great schools and world renowned universities, shopping malls, Disneyland and Disney World, giving baby boomers places to play.
But the World War II generation also taxed itself to build cities, suburbs, the U.S. interstate system, schools and mass transit.
Donald Trump’s baby boom generation has pulled back, buying the false intoxicating dope about small government and low taxes so working families can keep more of the money they’ve earned. Now test scores in schools slump; water, sewers, roads, bridges and highways fail; and America’s wonderful cities falter.
Instead of folks bonding together and paying taxes for the greater good, people think they’ll someday get rich like Trump and be able to tell off everyone. The lotteries, with their “dollar and a dream,” have made it possible for folks to think they have a shot at being rich and openly cursing the next guy instead of being like our parents, who knew they had to work hard for a living, depend on others and being rich would never happen.
So for now, many people will continue to cheer Trump. Other GOP presidential wannabes will do what they can to sound just as outrageous to draw crowds. None of it is presidential, and it won’t make America great again.