No matter how successful, how wealthy, or how well-educated, every presidential candidate poses — sometimes accurately, sometimes through exaggeration — as a modern version of salt-of-the-earth Abraham Lincoln, the rail-splitter born in a log cabin. Apparently, populist America always wants a man-of-the-people candidate who can relate to everyday folks — and who doesn’t think he or she is any better than the rest of us. But a log-cabin upbringing has little significance when most 21st-century candidates and their spouses are far wealthier and far more privileged than 99 percent of the country.
All of which brings us to the flamboyant Donald Trump, who so far has turned the log-cabin motif on its head. Unlike this year’s other presidential candidates, not even a fabulist such as Trump can claim that he is an up-from-the bootstraps, self-made man whose dad was a bartender or mailman.
Trump may have inherited more than $40 million from his real-estate-magnate father, but he has made no apologies. Instead, Trump inflates his net worth to more than $10 billion. He brags about his moneymaking and his “tremendous” and “fantastic” real-estate holdings and various companies. Far from being ashamed of his opulent upbringing, Trump wallows in it.
Trump’s logo has been emblazoned on everything from skyscrapers and golf courses to ties and vodka. His crass message is something like, “I was born rich and then got even richer — and now I want to make you as rich as I am.”
So how does Trump pull off his populist act without sounding like a pampered rich kid? Certainly not in patrician fashion like Franklin D. Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy. Instead, Trump boasts that money is the only measuring stick of successful people — apparently, presidents included. Rich guys are “winners”; the rest are “losers.” Trump’s accent is Brooklynese, not Fifth Avenue.
His vocabulary is street-crude. His behavior is uncouth. His finger-pointing rants and attacks turn debates into brawls. He is certainly no fussy, windsurfing multimillionaire like John Kerry. Trump tells voters that he knows politicians are corrupt because as a New York businessman, he knew how to corrupt all of them.
Trump is not a banker, techie, or Wall Street investor, but a wheeler-dealer builder who talks more like a New York cabbie or street hustler.
For the first time in recent memory, a candidate is neither trying to convince us that he grew up poor, nor that he is an elegant aristocrat who feels a sense of noblesse oblige.
When you look at the classic American archetypes like the Frontiersman, the Cowboy, the rags-to-riches Self-Made Bazillionaire, they all have a quality of roughness – crude, uncouth, and lacking in refinement. They are not displaced aristocrats, they are just common folk of heroic stature.
Yes, Donald Trump was born filthy rich. But he doesn’t act like it. He comes across like a street kid who, with luck and hard work, made it big. But he doesn’t put on airs. He’s still Donnie from the block.
The conventional wisdom (among the pseudo-elites) is that he is a con-man and his supporters are his marks. The keep insisting that when people finally learn the TRUTH about Donald Trump they will abandon him. So they tell us how terrible he is and how stupid we are for supporting him.
When that doesn’t work they tell us again. And again. And again.
Mitt Romney gave a “major” speech today. The topic? What a bad person Donald Trump is. He didn’t have anything new, just the same old, same old.
They just don’t get it.