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The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

The danger in mocking Donald Trump


When my friend and I were talking politics, discussion turned to who would win the general election in November and, of course, the name Trump came up. My friend laughed when I said the words out loud: “Celebrity billionaire Donald Trump will almost certainly be the Republican Party’s nominee for the President of the United States of America.” Reflexively, I chuckled too, and then I sighed. The joke was on me.

Given that Trump seems poised to win a spot on the GOP ticket, we’re forced to ask ourselves a question: how could this have possibly happened? On paper, Trump shouldn’t have gotten this far. On paper, Trump’s campaign fizzled out in two months so America could get back to doing real politics. But here Trump is, having taken New Hampshire and come close in Iowa, a state Trump skipped a primary debate in. It’s absurd. This has to be a joke.

But that might just be the answer to the question I asked. Trump is able to cultivate, maintain and grow support at least in part because of the perception that he’s not being taken seriously. In other words, it’s my fault, and maybe yours too. To make this case, I’ll start by indulging in the hottest new craze among Op-Ed writers and make some sweeping generalizations about Trump voters.

Much of Donald Trump’s success is owed to his brutal honesty. For better or worse, Donald Trump is not a politician. He is a take-no-bull—- business magnate who has neither the financial incentive nor the personal desire to soften himself up for the electorate. This makes him the perfect candidate for a Republican electorate that has been tolerating eight years of an Obama administration that conservatives often called elitist and distant. A Republican voter may think Trump would be a breath of fresh air in a Washington completely bound up in obtuse political folly.

When you laugh at Trump or dismiss him as a joke, you confirm our hypothetical Trump voter’s fears that the political mainstream doesn’t care about you. I’ve reprinted a particularly condescending nugget of Trump-hate from Tumblr below, but it’s just one fairly typical example of jokey Trump-dismissal you could find on even your own Facebook feed.

This kind of “funny” post, to stretch the definition of the word, does absolutely nothing but bolster the Trump cause. For one, I doubt anyone who didn’t believe before that Trump supporters are all crazy, racist and brainwashed will start to believe it thanks to mysharona1987’s “hilarious” Tumblr post. More importantly though, imagine (or maybe you won’t have to) reading this as a Trump supporter. You’ve just been called crazy, racist and brainwashed. You’ve been condescended, called some of the worst things you can call a person, and utterly dismissed.

What Trump-bashers and recovered Trump-bashers like me will have to contend with is that democracy guarantees people their votes, no matter how much you mock them or their candidate. Love him, hate him or mock him, Trump will turn votes and he will probably win the Republican ticket.

England learned the same lesson recently with the rise of the UK Independence Party (UKIP). While Trump is sometimes described unofficially as a “right-wing populist,” UKIP is, officially, the United Kingdom’s right-wing populist party. Right-wing populism is characterized in general by its laissez-faire liberalism, strict stances on immigration and, you guessed it, anti-elitism. The following tweets from Irish Twitter user @MechaGamezilla tell the story of UKIP, which in many ways is basically the Trump story.

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It happened in the United Kingdom, and now it’s happened here: right-wing populism was met by the mainstream with laughter and derision. And yet now, Trump has left the rest of the GOP in the dust. He won in New Hampshire and came in second in Iowa after skipping the debate (which I reiterate only because of how mind-blowing that should be). This is no joke. It doesn’t deserve to be treated like one.

Treating Trump like a clown and his supporters like bozos does more than just reinforce a narrative about political elitism, it’s fundamentally disrespectful and alienating. I don’t want to send the wrong message here, because I am a dyed-in-the-wool Trump opponent. I think his policy ideas at worst (ban on Muslim immigrants) run contrary to the values that “made America great” in the first place. But Trump’s camp deserves that conversation. We are American voters: we have issues we care about and this November we each have a very important decision to make. As members of a democracy, we at the very least owe each other the courtesy of saying “Yes, your candidate is the real deal. Let’s talk.”

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The danger in mocking Donald Trump