Trump Channels Traficant
Guest Post: Steve Oravecz
Most political writers seem to expect GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump to self destruct. If he didn’t do himself in by claiming Sen. John McCain is no war hero, it is only a matter of time before he says something even more outrageous and plummets in the polls. Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post wrote on Thursday:
In the end, my confidence that Trump will fizzle comes from Trump himself. “You can’t con people, at least not for long,” he wrote in “Trump: The Art of the Deal.” “You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.”
I’m not so sure about that. Right down to the bad hair, Trump sounds a lot like the late James A. Traficant of Youngstown, who was elected to Congress eight times before kicked out for taking a bribe. At the beginning, Traficant had some real populist credence. As sheriff, he refused to foreclose on steelworkers who had lost their jobs when the Youngstown mills closed. But as his career wore on, Traficant kept his seat by playing to the anger and frustrations of blue collar workers who saw their jobs move overseas as their way of life slipped away. His bombast gave him a reputation of telling it like it is, of standing up for the little guy and telling the fat cats to go to hell. Thanks to his billions of dollars and his celebrity status, Trump is Traficant on steroids.
Here is what Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said of Trump:
“He says what’s on his mind. He gives honest answers rather than prepared answers. This is more important than anything any candidate has done in years.”
Chris Cillizza of the Post wrote:
‘ “This guy isn’t afraid of anyone!,” you can imagine a Trump supporter saying. “He says whatever he damn well pleases!” ‘
People said the same thing about Traficant. So for all those waiting for Trump to flame out, recall that Traficant NEVER LOST until he tried to make a comeback after his prison sentence. Traficant’s career is littered with promises he never fulfilled. A Democrat, Traficant once voted for a Republican to become speaker of the house, ending any prayer he had of being an effective advocate for his constituents. But for the true believers, it didn’t matter. He still won. He was on their side. He was one of them. So don’t be surprised if Trump survives the attack on McCain just as Traficant weathered the vote for Dennis Hastert. As Cuban said,
“I don’t care what his actual positions are. … I don’t care if he says the wrong thing.” As long as Trump can keep people thinking he is the only guy telling it like it is, he will be a force in the GOP race for the White House.