The man who wasn’t really a Republican bested 16 Republican candidates. The man who has put four businesses into bankruptcy and says his net worth fluctuates based on his feelings ran as a billionaire business success story.
The man who sold steaks, and real estate diplomas, and ties, and casinos, and hotel rooms, and bottled water, and vodka, and golf club memberships, and anything else he could stamp his name on, sold his vision for America to a record-breaking chunk of the American electorate.
Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president of the United States.
Trump sold pure racism, with his proposals for a ban on Muslim immigration and a wall across the Mexican border. He sold pure fantasy, with the idea that the Mexican government would pay for the wall. He sold pure confusion, with his muddled stances on women’s health and reproductive rights, foreign policy, military policy, economic policy, and so much more. He sold pure fear and loathing, and he sold it to a populace in the market for a dream.
Having lost faith in compassionate conservatism, and never truly subscribed to the idea that equality in America demands a reckoning of its history, he sold a rosy-hued, movie version of the country to a population that desperately wants to believe this version of America actually existed once and can be resurrected, with just a ballot.
Just like his shops in the lobby of Trump Tower, he sold whatever product he thought people would buy, and if they wouldn’t buy it, he would shove another one, and another, and another, in front of them, until something made them pull the lever.
Trump is not a dealmaker; he’s a salesman. He gets up every morning ready to bite the ass off a bear. Whatever needs to be done or said to close the sale, he does it. Let others sort out the details, the fallout, when his pitch doesn’t match up with reality. He leaves the room, victory in hand.
He sold America on purity. And the problem with purity is that reality in fact is quite messy.
Purity is going along with the party until suddenly you’re the impure one, the one upon whom scorn and blame are heaped. You’re on the outside of the big tent, and your country has no use for you. Hey, Muslim, get out. Hey, Mexican, go home. Hey, coal miner, go find yourself a job. Hey, black people, your lives don’t matter. Hey, poor people, figure out your own health care. Hey, homeowners, stop complaining about pollution in your backyard. Hey, women, men will decide what’s best for you. Hey, lazy, maybe you wouldn’t need Trump’s help so much if you weren’t so lazy.
The truth is, America needs more from its government than most people want to admit. And the government needs accountability and regular oversight and periodic reform. It also needs to level the playing field, to create opportunity, to build infrastructure, to set economic strategy, to regulate business and health and welfare. The world is incredibly complex–simplistic, retro visions of America and its constitution are pure fantasy.
A Trump presidency will not slay the government any more than a George W. Bush presidency did. It will only twist the government from service to malice, from being equally difficult for all Americans to being prosecutorial toward those who don’t look, and act, and think like Trump or—even worse—have the misfortune of meeting his shifting, capricious definition of who is weak, of who is nasty, of who is a loser, and yet still dare to demand the rights and privileges afforded them by the laws of the land.
Trump sold fear, and voters bought it. No candidate who ran against him could figure out how to sell hope married with progress. The last politician who did that is winding down his term in office, and his road these past seven and a half years illustrates how tough the job is.
Trump didn’t sell his voters the idea that America had to be made great again; he sold the idea that America had plunged deep into morass and mediocrity. Looking at their options, Republicans agreed with him, and 16 other candidates were not better salespeople for their vision of the future of the American experiment. Now, Republicans have their nominee.