I guess the Donald Trump phenomenom is complicated, but to me, some of it is that some of what he says is true. Far from all of it, and more pointing to problems that coming up with solutions – in fact, Trump is virtually a solution-free zone beyond “trust me, if I can't handle it personally we'll look into it closely and I'll get the best possible to handle it.”
Another part of it is style. While he is crass, his directness is refreshing to many. He has the aura of someone who calls a spade a spade. His entertaining and preposterously grandiose style might be at odds with the more circumspect and stately persona we look for in a President, and in the end will surely defeat him, but having a mix of entertaining style and apparent truth-telling has been potent.
When you think of it, actually, it is amazing how poor so many politicians are in public, when communicating to the public is one of their most important functions. Anyone who has taken acting 101 can see that so many of them just blow it. What is your “action,” to be technical about it? Is it to convince, to proclaim, to charm, to dazzle, to intimidate, to find out, what? All these are possible. Even Obama, for all his eloquence, and he is very eloquent, is professorial and declaiming. Bill Clinton convinces pretty well by 'splaining, that's in his wheelhouse. Hillary yells and is combative, and that's not being sexist, she yells at you. Others speechify. Others try to be charming by saying aw, shucks. George Bush was one of the worst; he talked to someone else beside you who were listening, seemed to me. But I digress.
Trump makes his points in an oppositional, the-king-has-no-clothes style (“they're stupid, am I right?”) that is designed to pull you in as a likeminded viewer who understands that the pezzonovente have been pulling fast ones all along. But some of them are right. When he describs a problem with outrage, there have to be people out there saying, “Yeah!”
So I was just thinking, what would I do with the surprising strength of his candidacy if I were on the questioners panel at a debate – Republican or Democratic? I think I'd use some of his points that I think are right to steer the debate. So, here is what I might do. It might be a fun game for you, as you follow his progress, to think how you might add to the list.
Recommended questions for questioners of presidential candidates
My intro: “While Mr. Trump has been derided as a grandstanding agent of chaos without real policy prescriptions, nonetheless, many of his pronouncement seem to resonate with many Americans. Without getting into personalities, could you please respond to some of the issues he has raised?”
#1. Mr. Trump has stated that our system of financing elections makes for a broken political system. He has stated that politicians without great personal wealth are dependent on donations from persons and corporations who expect a great deal in return.
Do you agree with this view? Do you think the election financing system is broken? Are candidates compromised by the need for large contributions? What changes are needed and would you support?
#1a. Mr. Trump has indicated that much of government is virtually owned by the rich. Do you agree?
#2. Mr. Trump has stated that the United States has been repeatedly out-negotiated in trade and other agreements. He has stated that our negotiators, both elected and appointed officials, are not of the top rank, are soft, and indeed are often “stupid.” He has stated that he would find “the best” personnel in the private sector and drive agreements that were more in the interest of the United States. Do you agree with his assessment? What would you do about it?
#2a. Do you think our governmental personnel are of the first rank, or do you think our first rate people are predominantly in the private sector? Also, would you please answer this question directly in terms of technology? And what would you do about it if you agree that this is a problem?
#3. Mr. Trump has decried an unfair tax system that extracts too much money from everyone. But one important point he has not been alone in making is that it is a scandal that certain investment institutions have been able to benefit unfairly from “carried interest.” Do you agree that carried interest is an unfair tax rule? If so, would you do anything about it?
#4. Mr. Trump has stated that the Iraq war was a terrible mistake, and would much rather have invested the trillions invested in Iraq in domestic priorities of infrastructure, especially roads, bridges, and airports. He has stated that the United States should cast a much less substantial shadow in foreign affairs, and induce other countries to shoulder more of the burden. Do you believe the war was a mistake? If so, do you believe it was avoidable? Do you believe that the United States should stay home more?
#5. Mr. Trump has said that our openness to immigration, both legal and illegal, has sold out our working class to the interests of the wealthy. Do you agree, or do you thin the Trans Pacific Partnership is a good idea?
In sum, Trump does have some challenging ideas, seems to me, despite lots of the vile things he has said, and his terrible low class demeanor. If I were a questioner, I might capitalize on it.