The Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle wrote, “The history of the world is nothing but the biography of great men.” On Tuesday, real estate mogul, reality television star and extraordinary egomaniac Donald Trump made his bid to join the ranks of Carlyle’s shapers of history by announcing his candidacy for president, with a rambling speech delivered in his iconic Trump Tower in New York.
“Our country needs a truly great leader, and we need a truly great leader now,” he said. And in case anybody had the slightest question about who he meant, he added, “We need a leader that wrote The Art of the Deal,” a reference to the autobiographical account of his business career that was published in 1987.
Just as nobody serious about history actually believes Carlyle’s theory about the Great Man, nobody serious about politics thinks Donald Trump will be president of the United States. His announcement speech, which appeared to be largely off-the-cuff, had the tone of that annoying relative at Thanksgiving holding forth on how the country would be much better off if people just did things his way.
When a person begins his presidential announcement with this:
“There’s been no crowd like this. And I can tell you, some of the candidates, they went in, they didn’t know the air-conditioner didn’t work. They sweated like dogs. They didn’t know the room was too big, because they didn’t have anybody there. How are they gonna beat ISIS? I don’t think it’s gonna happen.”
…it seems fairly safe to assume that they haven’t put a whole lot of thought into the process.
What Trump might be able to do is cause some serious disruption to the Republican field, which is already overflowing with declared and potential candidates. Fox News, which is hosting the first Republican debate, has set a cutoff of 10 participants who will be chosen based on polling data and other factors.
With more name recognition than many serious candidates, it’s at least possible that Trump could find his way onto the stage at the party’s first major debate, possibly displacing another contender.
While it’s unlikely that Trump will be anything more than a disruptive distraction in the Republican primary, that’s exactly what the party, and its chairman Reince Priebus, have been hoping to avoid. The infamous “clown car” debates of 2012 were damaging to the eventual candidate, Mitt Romney, and also drove the entire conversation farther to the political right than the party’s leaders wanted.
Trump won’t be president. Now that he’s joined the race, the real question is, How much damage will he do to the GOP field before he inevitably moves on to his next marketing ploy?
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