Widgets Magazine


Trump is dead, long live Trump!

During the Republican debate on February 25, Marco Rubio finally found his groove. Rather than painfully repeating the same mechanical talking points, he forcefully interrupted and called out Donald Trump for repeating himself and not having substantial policy ideas on health care, to roaring applause from the audience.

And millions at home (myself included) cheered Rubio on, too, not even necessarily because they like Rubio, but simply because people tend to like it when little guys stand up to their bullies.

And for whatever reason – either for personal satisfaction or (much more likely) for political expediency – Rubio has continued this uncharacteristically aggressive attacking stance. Since that debate, Rubio has mocked Trump’s supposed “fake tan,” insulted his face and hair, recycled an old attack on the stubbiness of Trump’s fingers and even threw in a barely-disguised jab at the size of Trump’s private parts.

And each time Rubio does this, it’s tempting (for non-Trump supporters, at least) to cheer Rubio on, if only to spite Trump. This very much fits in with the general mood of most of the country (again, with the exception of the Trump supporters) towards Trump: Democrats hate him for obvious reasons, and a significant segment of his own party – including pretty much all of the Republican establishment – is also dead-set against him.

Across the political spectrum, Donald Trump has become the big fat villain that most of the country has grown to love to hate. Everything in this election has become about Trump, and there is a growing and increasingly popular narrative that places him as the root of all the problems in this election season. It’s a sentiment best captured by the mock presidential lawn signs declaring “IDK, not Trump tho 2016 [sic]”  – if we could just get rid of the man, everything’d be fine and dandy.

This undue focus on demolishing Trump is a dangerous one. In many ways, Donald Trump is a red herring: His bombastic vitriol gives us an illusion that his success is a phenomenon of his own making, when it is decidedly not. For example, we can call Trump racist, but he certainly didn’t create racism in America; we can call him xenophobic, but he didn’t create xenophobia, either. These are just two examples of phenomena that have been around in the darker corners of the collective American psyche for time immemorial. The point being, our tendency to treat Trump as a sort of a novel, unprecedented phenomenon is simply incorrect: There is nothing special or new about Trump’s campaign – it is a rehashing of the same old populist, nativist, fear-mongering message that has been used by American politicians for centuries (see: Chinese Exclusion Act, Strom Thurmond trying to preserve segregation, the Bush campaign smearing John McCain in the 2000 primaries by falsely accusing him of having an illegitimate black child, claims that Obama is a Kenyan Muslim and so on).

So, even if someone does manage to unseat Trump and prevent him from becoming the nominee (which is becoming progressively more unlikely by the day), we can’t expect the great mess that he has stirred up to simply disappear. Sure, talk of the border wall, for example, might quiet down for the time being if its loudest spokesperson were to lose his pulpit. But, while Trump might be gone, his supporters won’t be, and if another politician comes along and talks of building the wall, those same supporters will flock to that person, and what is happening now will simply repeat again with a different archenemy that we feel the need to put down at all costs – it’s an endless cycle.

Politicians are transitory; the only consistency in politics is the electorate itself. Sure, a particularly effective politician may be able to somewhat sway public opinion one way or the other, but in general, the political views of the electorate will remain constant, and it is up to the politicians to cater to what the people want. And right now, the people want Trump, so surely enough, while also trying to appear moderate and electable, the other Republicans are furiously catering to Trump’s base. Ted Cruz, for example, wrote Trump’s ban-all-Muslims idea into an actual Senate bill. And Marco Rubio, who started this latest phase of aggressive campaigning by criticizing Trump’s lack of substance and concrete policy, has quickly descended to the same level by criticizing the shape of his opponent’s fingers.

In brief, while we are busy getting rid of Trump, the other Republicans are slowly becoming him. The Republican establishment is so bent on sinking the Trump campaign at all costs, they’ve failed to realize that even if they are successful, the nominee they’re left with has already, in an effort to court away Trump’s voters, become as terrible as Trump himself. To quote Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars III, “[they] have allowed this dark lord to twist [their minds], until now [they’ve] become the very thing [they] swore to destroy.”

So instead of trying so hard to take down Trump, perhaps it is high time that we focus on destroying the conditions by which candidates have been able to – and will continue to be able to – achieve electoral success by appealing, like Trump has, to the lowest denominator.


Contact Terence Zhao at terencezhao@stanford.edu


About Terence Zhao

Terence Zhao '19 originally hails from Beijing, China, before immigrating to the US and settling in Arcadia, CA, a suburb of Los Angeles. He is majoring in Urban Studies, and promotes the major with cult-like zeal. In his spare time, he likes to explore cities and make pointless maps.
  • maddogsfavsnpiks

    Could not have said it better myself.