On Donald Trump

Back in the late 1840s, a growing nativist movement coalesced into a political faction. Calling themselves the “Native American” Party, they were vehemently anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic – which were at the time pretty much the same thing, given that the largest influx of immigrants were Catholics from Ireland. The party almost always met in secret, and when asked about their activities usually responded with “I know nothing.”

Naturally, they became known as the Know-Nothing Party.

This can be applied to Trump and his followers, in more ways than one. Not only are they staunchly nativist and anti-immigrant, but Trump himself seems unashamed of his ignorance.

Trump ran for president on the Reform Party ticket back in 2000, and has considered running on a couple of other occasions. He’s not really a stranger to the process. Why, then, hasn’t he learned anything?

One would think that over the many long months of a campaign, you’d learn not to shoot your mouth off and say things that you have to “clarify” the next day. You’d memorize standard and safe answers to the expected tough questions from interviewers. You’d refrain from bragging about your “hands”, and then claiming that your opponent started it (as if you were a five-year-old). You’d learn not to threaten important allies and trade partners with what amounts to extortion. These things should be “no-brainers” for anyone in a serious campaign.

I doubt that Trump ever intended for this to be a serious campaign on his part. He just happened to strike a nerve this time around, and the early support fed his immense ego. Now he’s trying to ride the wave as far as it will take him, without any real concern over what might happen when he reaches the end, wherever it may be.

The size of his ego has to be obvious. He got his wealth the old-fashioned way: he inherited it. Since then, most of his business ventures have involved him buying other people’s stuff and slapping his name – in gold-plated capital letters – on it. He’s a celebrity, not a businessman. This run for the White House is just another way to expand his celebrity.

Anyone taking a campaign – or the presidency – seriously would readily understand that a wall on the border is a colossally stupid boondoggle, a ban on Muslim immigration is both offensive and impossible to enforce (How would you do it? Seriously, what test or check would you put in place? Ask them if they are Muslim?), our allies already pay a large share of our mutual defense costs, nuclear proliferation is irresponsibly dangerous, and the global economy is so interconnected that a trade war would be a disaster for everyone.

One might have excused these positions if they’d been moderated over the course of the campaign. But Trump doesn’t appear to be taking advice from anyone. Not only is he a Know-Nothing, he doesn’t even seem to be aware of his ignorance, much less show a desire to learn. And that’s extremely dangerous for anyone who wants the job he’s applying for.

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