Real estate mogul Donald Trump has talked about running for the presidency before. He generated some buzz but little real interest, and then skipped away to happier and more lucrative pursuits. Now he’s back and poised to launch a race for the White House in 2012. And this time there is a great deal of interest. The question beckons: “Why now?”
For conservatives, the downsides are obvious. Trump is not a conservative in the small government sense of the word. He has cooperated enthusiastically with politicians of all stripes. This is not surprising, as his business interests are heavily impacted by federal, state and local government policy. He is much more likely to be a big government Republican in the mold of a George W Bush than a game changer like Ronald Reagan. So do we prepare the brickbats and attack this budding candidacy?
Not necessarily. True, Donald Trump has to convince a lot of perfectly reasonable people who have very understandable doubts about him, this writer included. After the debacle of 2008, any GOP contender has to prove himself, not just rely on name recognition to prevail in a vacuum. But there are two reasons why The Donald may carry the day.
First, the scrappy New Yorker is beyond intimidation, surprise or embarrassment by the Obama-leaning media. It’s all OUT there- the wives, the divorces, the hair, the multiple financial crises and restructurings that have besieged his empire. He has come through them all, ready for the next big game, his celebrity status undiminished. Many GOP contenders are desperate to be liked. Others retreat into ideology and are thus incomprehensible to the average voter. Trump doesn’t give a damn about the former and is too pragmatic to be concerned with the latter. For Trump, it’s the thrill of the hunt- wealth, women and now history.
The hunt brings us to the second consideration, where the operative word is fight. Trump has already shown a willingness to go where other people are afraid to go – Obama’s murky origins, his even murkier values, our competition with China, the decline of American power. These are not ideological issues, and The Donald can get a lot of the nuances wrong. But they must be talked about. Trump has shown an appetite for the fight at the end of his career that goes beyond the art of the deal. Once very supportive of Obama, he appears genuinely appalled at the direction the president has taken this country, and is telegraphing his dismay directly at the voters, who feel the same in record numbers.
Is he a good bet? Who really knows at this point? And what about the vision thing? To be sure, Trump is no righty heartthrob. But he is a builder to the depths of his being. And builders don’t like the philosophy of decline that entrances Obama and his coterie. Someone who builds in America is instinctively drawn to the goal of a thriving and prosperous nation that can hold its own in competition with foreign powers, and one that can take on its enemies if need be.
For the voters, that may be enough. Time will tell.