Baloney, I say.
Americans actually love politicians. They just don’t realize it. How can you tell? Because Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
“But,” one might protest, “Trump is a political outsider! He’s no politician at all!”
Baloney, I say again.
Trump may have a short political résumé, but he is still a quintessential politician. Arguably, he is the most politician-y politician who has ever politicked.
Consider the cardinal sins of the political class: pandering, lying, flip-flopping and overpromising. Trump has partaken of every single one, and transformed each nearly into an art form.
Everywhere he visits, he insists that he “loves” whatever industry, quasi-celebrity, hobby or demographic the place is known for, or at least that he thinks the place is known for.
This strategy has led to some awkwardness on occasions when he didn’t do his homework, or lost track of where he was. He accidentally praised an Alabama football team on the rival turf of Arkansas. In Pittsburgh, home of the University of Pittsburgh, he advocated bringing back disgraced Penn State coach Joe Paterno (or perhaps just the deceased man’s statue?).
He’s transparent about his pandering, too. When he told an audience at Liberty University that he loved a verse in “two Corinthians,” he added, “is that the one? Is that the one you like? I think that’s the one you like!”
It’s nearly impossible to inventory all of Trump’s lies, given that he lives in a parallel universe, wherein suggesting that a rival candidate’s father helped kill JFK is not a mistruth but a thoughtful academic inquiry. Even when called out on his dishonesty — such as when he claimed that Hillary Clinton was the original birther — he merely barrels through, repeating the lie again and again, until it almost sounds plausible.
Still, some have attempted to assess the bounds of his dishonesty. Of all the presidential candidates this election cycle, Trump has received the highest percentages of “Pants on Fire” and “Four Pinocchios” rulings by PolitiFact and The Post’s Fact Checker, respectively. And by a lot: The Fact Checker team has designated Trump’s statements as “Four Pinocchios,” the worst rating, nearly 70 percent of the time, compared with about 10 to 20 percent for most politicians.
Not bad for someone who’s officially been a politician for only less than a year.
Trump’s flip-flops are legion, too.
His only policy constant is inconstancy, as he regularly and effortlessly reverses himself on taxes, health care and other issues. He changed his stand on abortion five times in three days. He amended his view on high-skilled immigrants three times in one day. He contradicted himself multiple times in a single foreign policy speech — a particularly impressive feat, given that the speech was scripted.
When called out on his fickleness, Trump merely trumpets the virtues of unpredictability.
Then there’s the overpromising. So much overpromising.
As I’ve noted before, voters today don’t want a politician who tells it like it is; we want one who tells it like it isn’t. Republican voters especially seem to want a candidate who promises obscenely absurd things, such as getting Mexico to pay for a wall that our neighbor has unambiguously refused to fund, “humanely” deporting 11 million people and rewriting the rules of arithmetic. Trump has promised to bring steel jobs back to Pittsburgh and to put displaced coal miners back to work in West Virginia.
Also, he’ll pay off the nation’s $19 trillion federal debt within eight years. This would require (at a minimum) doubling the size of the U.S. economy in that time, maybe even quadrupling it.
How does Trump get away with making these promises, when Americans claim to be so cynical about similar pledges from other candidates? It helps that, as a newbie to campaigning, he doesn’t have a political record to contradict his rose-colored vision.
To be sure, Trump’s many cardinal political sins have not swayed all Americans, most of whom still view him unfavorably. But as long as Americans continue buying his bogus line that he’s “not a politician,” they will continue to offer him absolution, if not always praise.