By Erin L. Cody
At this stage in the presidential primary season, several months and two debates in, it would be almost impossible for anyone to not have formed an opinion about Donald Trump. Since announcing his candidacy by proudly riding the escalator down into the main lobby of Trump Tower (a move designed, I’m sure, to emphasize that he is so important he doesn’t even need to walk – a trick from The Art of the Deal, perhaps?) Trump has emerged as a dark-horse candidate and GOP front runner. He’s been labeled a racist, a misogynist, a man in desperate need of a hairdresser, a darling of Fox News and (more recently) a Fox News apostate. There is one other label, however, that the media and the public have largely failed to explore – Donald Trump, unintentional experiment in campaign finance reform.
Everyone knows that Trump is very rich. For those who had been living under a rock, he quite helpfully cleared up this point in his campaign announcement when he informed us that he is “very rich, and running for President.” Several buildings, resorts, golf courses and casinos across America bear his name. (So do several bankruptcy filings, although he’ll be quick to remind you that those were his corporations that he managed to run into the ground, not his personal assets.) Trump has taken every opportunity during speaking engagements, stump speeches, media interviews and debates to remind America that he is incredibly wealthy.
He is so wealthy, in fact, that he can afford the billions that it would take to self-finance a campaign. Trump’s campaign website does accept donations, but makes very clear that they must be from individuals, not corporations or labor unions. He hasn’t publicly disavowed the Make America Great SuperPAC (which cannot coordinate with his campaign but can raise funds to campaign in his favor) or the 501(c)4 of the same name (which has different legal restrictions than a SuperPAC but can still raise funds and campaign on his behalf) but he’s made very clear that he won’t be doing any favors in return for donations. He has allegedly turned down people who have offered to write checks to his campaign for “millions and millions of dollars.” The vast majority of his time is spent on stump speeches, being overdressed while visiting the border with Mexico, and getting into Twitter fights with members of the media – anything but, it would seem, fundraising.
When he does speak, it is with profound indifference to public opinion. Despite the fact that he reminds us of how many polls he’s leading and how many magazine covers he’s been on almost as often as he reminds us of how rich he is, he doesn’t appear to care who he insults. Here’s just a short list of groups who he’s managed to piss off in the few months since his candidacy began:
–Hispanic/Latino people (announcing your campaign by calling Mexicans “rapists and murderers” did not exactly earn their love)
–Women (pro tip, Donald: maybe don’t make references to Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycle or Carly Fiorina’s aesthetic qualities)
–Veterans (Trump’s version of a war hero includes only those “who didn’t get captured,” which I’m sure went over like a pregnant pole vaulter with the millions of POWs, MIAs, and their loved ones)
–Muslims (whose presence in our nation he has referred to as a “problem,” among other things)
–Fox News (despite a brief detante after the Megyn Kelly incident, Fox and Trump have subsequently banned each other from their respective spheres with the icy determination characteristic of diplomatic relations between the Koreas)
–Neil Young fans (Mr. Young was quick to announce that Trump did not have permission to use Young’s music in his campaign, which is ironic on several levels, not the least of which is the fact that someone has a copyright on rockin’ in the “free” world)
Granted, Hispanics, Muslims and women are frequent punching bags of the GOP. Neil Young is Canadian, so as far as the GOP is concerned he’s a pot-smoking socialist on the level of Bernie Sanders. But in what universe can a Republican candidate insult the military and not have people calling for his head on a spike? Troops and veterans are the actual third rail of Republican politics – as MC Hammer would say, “you can’t touch this.” Not to mention Fox News – the next time he misinterprets the Constitution or says something offense about literally anyone, what media outlet will he turn to in order to deflect the conversation to Benghazi instead of his most recent gaffe?
Despite all this, Teflon Donald has managed to not only ascend to the top of the polls but remain there. When the citizenry are polled as to why they like him so much, the common refrain is that he’s “honest.” They know exactly what they are getting in Candidate Trump. He isn’t afraid to speak his mind, which we have seen time and time again when he insults literally everyone who isn’t him. But why would he be afraid, when the only funding base he has to answer to is his own checkbook?
People who are scratching their head wondering how this guy could run for dog-catcher, much less POTUS, need only to look to Trump’s finances for the answer. The American public is so fed up with Big Money’s influence in politics that they will accept absolutely anyone not beholden to large donors, even someone who has managed to insult every major voting bloc in our country, as their standard bearer. We value a candidate who will be honest about the fact that he is a complete and unfettered jerk over one that is a decent human being, but who appears to moderate his/her positions based on donor influence. We are actually willing to send an arrogant human-combover to the White House, and by extension the de facto leadership of the free world, for no other reason than he is immune to the political influence of Big Money. This, my friends, is what our post-Citizens United world has come to, and Heaven help us if it takes a Donald Trump candidacy to prove it.
Erin is a local attorney and unapologetic feminist, who already has a bottle of champagne ready to toast Madame President-Elect in 2016. The foregoing opinions do not constitute legal advice.