COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE HAWKINS

Trumped: The strange appeal of The Donald

The American public is being trumped. The Donald has captured headlines and is leading the popularity polls among the 17 announced Republican Party candidates.

The analysts and Donald Trump’s opponents characterize the millionaire businessman’s current polling success to be the direct result of his ability to tap into the anger and disillusionment felt by some Republicans and a few Democrats.

“He says what he thinks,” is one of the lines of support, “and he doesn’t care if one or another of his opponents doesn’t like it.” This devil-may-care approach as a successful political tactic is catching many off guard. It shouldn’t. It isn’t new.

Several years ago another irreverent candidate, former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura, followed a similar political path and was elected governor of Minnesota. I was in that land of 10,000 lakes at the time, and the initial view of Ventura then is the same as it is now for Trump.

Trump is a lot more aggressive in his comments about others than was Ventura, but the attitudes expressed by both are essentially the same. “Those bozos are insiders. I have a regular guy’s point of view, and it ain’t the same as theirs.”

That seemed to be Ventura’s message and it appears to describe Trump’s political views as well. It is a style that caught voters’ attention in Minnesota and it is getting plenty of consideration in the Republican Party nomination marathon that has been underway this year.

Ventura was a larger-than-life candidate, seemingly coming out of the shadows with a fresh look, hairless head and a pugnacious attitude that brooked no nonsense. Ventura’s run for governor was his second attempt at public office. He was mayor of Brooklyn Park, whose population is now 75,000.

Trump has hair, though he uses it more creatively than just shaving it off, and he clearly did not come out of the shadows. On balance, however, there is a great deal of similarity in their campaigns.

Ventura and Trump both poke at their opponents. Ventura’s jabs were more comedic than mean. There is a great deal of viciousness with Trump.

There is no telling if Trump can win the nomination and if he does, that he could win the election for president. Most critical observers see him more as a political annoyance than a viable candidate. At least that is their hopeful view for the moment.

If he should win, it is hard to expect much from someone who says he used money and power to gain some of his success. His story of why Hillary Clinton attended one of his weddings is illustrative. He gave her money, he said, and she was beholden.

That is one of the many things Americans don’t much appreciate about politics. He could quickly lose support as that fact sinks in during the state primaries and caucuses to get to the nomination.

It does not appear Trump is making many friends in the establishment, either. That is likely to be an insurmountable mountain with which he would have to contend and conquer should he win in November of 2016.

Ventura is not likely to be ranked high on the list of successful Minnesota governors. The pugnacity may have brought him to the office of governor played little role in Ventura’s tenure as Minnesota’s top elected leader. The reality is that it takes more than being politically incorrect to govern.

In the meantime, the circus continues. The conservative media decries all the attention Trump is getting everywhere, including the conservative side of the fourth estate.

It can’t help but be entertaining. Trump says things a lot of people consider outrageous. Those provocative statements and claims will be repeated ad infinitum.

In the meantime, one can only hope this distraction from the long-term objectives, at least for Republicans and other conservatives, will fade and matters of substance will come to the fore.

Stay tuned. It is going to be a long, not-quite “reality” show.


Hawkins is retired after 35 years as a construction industry association manager. He was a broadcast reporter and news anchor in Denver. As a Navy officer, he saw action in Vietnam in the River Assault Squadrons and is the recipient of a Silver Star and Purple Heart.

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1 UserComments
Michael Englehart 12:00am August 22, 2015

While I dread a Trump Presidency; I applaud him for getting everyone talking about illegal immigration. However, I'd also like to see him get us talking honestly about the Islamic invasion and the butcher shop that is planned parenthood.