If you vowed not to watch the news in 2016, or if you hopped off the grid to build a tiny house under a large boulder, it's worth noting that real estate mogul and reality television superstar Donald Trump has a solid chance of becoming the GOP nominee for President of the United States.
I'll give you a second to let that sink in.
A large number of you are totally on board with this, and as much as I hate to admit it, in a sense, I get it. Trump has mastered the art of utilizing his uncomfortably brusk approach not only to rise to the top, but without harming his candidacy in the process. Trump is a professional bully, and we're happy to watch from the sidelines and cringe a little while we snicker uncomfortably and shrug. We watch as Jeb Bush is reduced to a blush and a whimper while Trump calls him a "low energy person." While we may think his approach is tacky, enough of us are okay with it so that Trump takes home South Carolina, and next thing you know, Jeb Bush is out of the race. The approach is working.
Since nobody seems to want to silence the playground bully, most of us continue to sit on the edge of our seats to listen to what Trump will say next. As it happens with bullies, we tend to listen when the voice is the loudest, but when the bully does something mundane like orders a sandwich, we tend not to pay attention. If it isn't sexy and controversial, we turn to other news.
This is why I need you to take a moment and pay attention to this.
Recently, Trump has been offering a subtle yet extremely powerful message during interviews. In late January, Trump switched from treating Ted Cruz like he was a chummy old pal and potential running mate to calling him the "p" word while we dealt with our conflicted feelings about whether to high five each other or ask ourselves how in the hell did things get this classless. Then, without fanfare, his interviews began to include a variation on this theme:
"Before I was a politician, to be honest with you, my views change and everybody's views change," Trump said.
Before I was a politician.
Take a moment to truly consider this statement, because it's one of the loudest statements Trump has made during his three ringed circus of a presidential campaign. Trump is drawing a distinct line between the person he was before he became a politician and the person he is now, and he wants you to do the same.
Before Trump was a politician, he still spouted off exactly what was on his mind, right? It's not like Trump decided to run for president and suddenly started shouting from the bully pulpit. He's been loud and in your face since he styled his first combover. However, before Trump became a politician, he could say whatever was on his mind without concerning himself with polls and political strategies.
To me, this defined line in the sand is -- to use Trump's buzzword -- "Uge."
First, you must draw a distinction between pre-candidate Trump and candidate Trump, at which point you are given a choice: Trust the comments of pre-candidate Trump, or trust the comments of the candidate? If Trump wants to send a message that we should dismiss his opinions before he became a candidate, he's essentially asking us to strike his record prior to his decision to run.
Before Trump was a politician, we liked watching him fire Omarosa on "The Apprentice." Quite frankly, we liked that he was an ass because we were watching a reality show, he was the king of it, and it was entertainment. Before Trump was a politician, we thought his feud with Geraldo Rivera was hilarious because it was entertainment. We may have thought his comments about Rosie O'Donnell were out of line, but we laughed along anyway because he was entertaining us.
So let's elect him as our next president, since we seem to be headed in that direction. Are we okay with Trump calling Putin the "p" word? When Trump decides to spout off insults to the Supreme Leader of North Korea, is that going to be entertaining and funny?
Ask yourself whether you're on board with either version of Trump, and if you're truly okay with a bully becoming our next president. If you can't decide, perhaps that tiny house under a rock is the best real estate investment you can make, or perhaps you should crawl out, pay attention, and vote.