I first heard of Donald Trump when I came to New York in the fall of 1986. He was already something of a celebrity then, and when one of the funny papers ran a poll asking who was the most hated person in the US Trump came in second, third, sixth and ninth. I don’t remember who was first but it may have been Ross Perot, who was just beginning to make some noise around that time. In the 1980s Trump was in the casino business, primarily in Atlantic City, but when the casinos started going bankrupt he divested himself and focused on building and acquiring residential buildings and hotels. His buildings are always glitzy skyscrapers, with golden escalators and the name ‘Trump’ in big fat golden letters plastered on the façade. Apparently he did well, because now there are ‘Trump Towers’ in many of the US’s major cities. Next to real estate ‘the Donald,’ himself a low handicapper, developed and acquired golf courses. Among his prized properties are the Trump National Doral in Miami with the famous Blue Monster, where annually a PGA tournament is held, and the Ailsa course at Trump’s Turnberry Resort in Scotland, where periodically the British Open is being played.
In spite of his first place in recent polls presidential candidate Trump has been less successful. As the leader of the ‘birther’ movement he made a name for himself during Obama’s presidency as a barely closeted racist, and his recent characterization of Mexican immigrants as drug dealers and rapists didn’t make things much better. Although Trump always tells his audiences that he is very smart and very rich those xenophobic statements must have cost him a bundle. Univision stopped broadcasting the Miss Universe contest that he owns, NBC announced that Trump would no longer be involved with the reality TV show ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’ Macy’s took his clothing collection off the racks, the PGA of America pulled a tournament off one of his golf courses, and two world famous chefs cancelled their plans to open a restaurant in his new hotel in Washington, DC. All that is actually bad news for the GOP, of which the leadership would like to see candidate Trump disappear faster than a frog in a stork’s beak. The price he’s now paying for his stupidity might very well lead to the phenomenon of ‘escalation of commitment,’ and keep Trump much longer in the race than he originally anticipated.
Nobody expected Trump to be leading the polls at this point in time, but as a prolific marketer he knows exactly how to play to the lowest sentiments of the Republican base and exploit them to his advantage. In the process he takes down other Republican candidates, of which no one except for the totally irrelevant George Pataki has the guts to stand up to him for fear of being verbally destroyed.
The GOP’s biggest worry is that Trump will reduce the candidates’ debates to a mud fighting contest that only he, the pig, will enjoy, and there are attempts under way to keep him off the stage. Rumor has it that Fox, host of the first debate, will only allow candidates to participate who have fully disclosed their finances, assuming that Trump, who still has almost 90 days to disclose, won’t meet its August 6th deadline.
In the meantime the Democrats are leaning back and enjoying the spectacle. Campaigning on their side is a highly civilized process without any namecalling, where the relevant candidates agree on many of the issues. The joke in Washington is that Trump will stay in the race as long as the Democratic Party pays for his campaign, and as often with jokes there is some fundamental truth in those words.