Donald Trump's seemingly comedic rise in polls for the Republican Presidential nomination reveals the broken state of American democracy.
Trumps consistent candor--as adored by his supporters--has sensationalized coverage of his campaign, concealing his lackluster understanding of essential pillars of national policy and taking time from other candidates to prove theirs anymore impressive.
Trump's desire to address issues directly is admirable and could force candidates to take-on tough issues. However, Trump doesn't use his stand against political correctness to ignite meaningful conversations and suggest real solutions. Rather, he creates spectacle by insulting once shared American ideals like hope for a better future and equality.
Yet, his unmistakable entrepreneurial spirit, wealth and alpha male attitude allow some to see Trump as an American hero: a straight-shooting businessman who will fight for the little guy. "The common working man is tired of politics and Washington continuing to screw us over... We want to give a businessman the chance to prove that this country can be great again!" claimed one Trump fan.
But while Trump's reality-TV-like appearances have allowed him to highlight his own "net worth of much more than $10 billion", he has failed to demonstrate an understanding of the crises facing a hollowing middle-class and the almost forgotten American poor. Trump's failure to suggest specific policy measures to help small businesses and average Americans is as indisputable as his success in real-estate.
Although, some forgive Trump's policy shortcomings, assuming his business successes arm him with the necessary competencies for acting as President of the United States. As these supporters see it, Trump's private-sector prowess and love of austerity will jolt him into office ready to "make America work again". But--yet again--while trump has done well pointing out problems, he has suggested few solutions.
Trump's most disappointing backing, however, stems from voter apathy. The comedy of his campaign is enough for some: "At some level, I don't really care how things go with America as long as it's fun to watch." This disheartening attitude is so ridiculous it needs little criticism. Though, it does highlight the rampant perspective that participating in the American political system will not actually impact what happens in Washington.
Even so, there are Trump supporters who move beyond the superficial, humorous value of Trump's potential candidacy; these people are seriously concerned with the state of the nation and are looking for ways to tear down and rebuild broken systems. As one supporter notes, "Those of us who buy Trump's vision, nearly to the point of blind trust, are loudly professing our disgust with the current immoral situations that taint and threaten our blueprint of the American dream."
However, electing Trump may not be the "collective middle finger to the establishment" some of his supporters expect. There are unmistakable and deeply rooted problems in Washington, but most reach beyond the Oval Office. Take Washington's special interest plague for example. Corporations now spend around $600 million more lobbying Congress--the body which creates the policies and laws which impact day-to-day life--than US tax payers spend funding Congress each year.
But, unfortunately Trump, or any other candidate, could only muster a modicum of impact on the increasingly influential role of lobbyists in Washington. Electing Trump might actually help the cause of special interests by keeping attention on Trump's character and off the broken system at hand. Moreover, Trump's understanding of--and therefore ability to do anything about--the plague of special interests on policy-making is questionable.
Trump brings American's disappointment with a failing democracy to life. His candor is a refreshing break from unfulfilled promises. He makes some folks feel he empathizes with their daily frustrations. And he is waking people up to the fact that the status quo must not be accepted.
However, the "like really smart person" is not the American solution. He appears entirely inept to handle sophisticated policy and geopolitical challenges and may threaten to insult the very concept of what it means to be American.
Let's use the surprising success of Mr Trump's campaign as a wake up call to start expecting more from America again. After all, and even though he is not fit to deliver it, his presence in the race tells us we're hungry for positive, systematic change.