Vail Daily column: Outsiders staying off script
Kids say the darndest things. When asked her religion by her classmates my daughter replied, “American.” On her first day at summer camp a few years ago Brigitte told her counselor she was from, “Earth, the green parts.” While the remarks of children can be refreshingly honest and uncensored, they also often lack diplomacy and tact; such as the time my son greeted me in the morning with, “Mom, your hair looks crazy.” Pot meet kettle.
As the 2016 election cycle gears up, cue the carefully crafted photo ops and the scrupulously composed political statements by the politicians running for office. Most of the veteran politicians will be surrounded by teams of pros who will orchestrate their campaigns and ensure every utterance stays on message. It is enough to make you look forward to attack ads.
But wait, Chris Christie announced he is running for president. He joins a pack of candidates vying for the GOP nomination, and I could not be more thrilled. It is not that I share his views on major issues, I do not. I am excited at the prospect of a Christie campaign, not an administration headed by the man.
Unlike many of his competitors, especially GOP front-runner Jeb Bush, Christie is anything but carefully crafted, and like my kids, he often lacks diplomacy and tact. Christie’s campaign slogan is “Tell it like it is.” He is famous for his blunt talk at town hall meetings and press conferences, once asking an attendee if they were stupid and telling another to “sit down and shut up.”
But Christie has nothing on Donald Trump. Trump has caused heads to explode with his comments on Mexican immigrants. When challenged by Don Lemon on CNN Trump calmly explained, “All I’m doing is telling the truth.” Univision, Macy’s and NBC may have dumped him, but he continues a strong showing in the polls. Several recent polls by CNN and Quinnipiac put Trump second to Bush and tied with Dr. Ben Carson.
Most pundits predict Trump’s allure will wither and many Republicans hope that happens before the August debates. Their fear is that Trump will garner one of the coveted 10 debate slots, edging out a more palatable candidate such as Mike Huckabee or Carly Fiorina.
For the moment, Christie and Trump are making rogue work for them. It was not always so. When presidential candidate Howard Dean showed a little too much enthusiasm in 2004, what became known as the “Dean Scream” was replayed hundreds of times over the following days reinforcing an image of Dean as un-presidential and wacky. Matthew Yglesias writing on Vox.com contends that we cannot have interesting politicians because the media exploits any gaffes, just as they did with Dean. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen the clip of Trump suggesting some Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists.
So why is it working for Trump now? Backlash against political correctness is one factor. This backlash is now coming from both ends of the political spectrum with Bill Maher and other comedians denouncing PC militancy on college campuses and Jonathan Chait penning an incendiary piece about the damage wrought by PC culture on liberalism in New York Magazine.
That Trump’s outrageous comments were about immigration touched a nerve with the Republican base that counts immigration among its top issues along with national security and terrorism.
Trump also appeals to voters who think America takes too much guff from other countries. China is frequently Trump’s foil in his stump speeches, accusing the nation of stealing U.S. jobs. They deny this charge.
Many politicians rail against Washington insiders but only Trump and Carson are truly political outsiders. Trump’s success as a businessman is yet another aspect of his appeal. His supporters seem to think that if he can make billions of dollars for himself he can make even more for America.
It is hard to pin down exactly who Trump’s supporters are. However, since his entry into the race, poll numbers have gone down for most of the other candidates with the exception of Bush. For the time being Trump seems to have cannibalized support from Huckabee, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio.
I see voting as both a right and a duty. I take my political decisions seriously. That said, I view political campaigns as overly staged. It seems I am not alone in this assessment. Whether or not Christie or Trump go the distance, I hope their combined influence on the 2016 campaign is to make it more interesting, and make their competitors deviate from their carefully crafted scripts.
Claire Noble is the author of “State-Sponsored Sex and Other Tales of International Misadventure.” She can be found online at clairenoble.org or follow her on Twitter @thewriteclaire.
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