The prospect of a Trump presidency seems to distress many liberals, as the New York billionaire moves closer and closer to getting the Republican nomination. The specter of a Trump administration may frighten liberals, but their fears may be misguided. Trump attracts so much fear among progressive circles because he is skilled at attracting media attention.
Trump’s 1987 book, The Art of the Deal, outlines the strategy that defined his presidential campaign almost thirty years later: “One thing I’ve learned about the press is that they’re always hungry for a good story, and the more sensational the better,” he wrote. “The point is that if you are a little different, or a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you … the result is that the press is always going to write about me.”
Trump has been dominating press coverage from the outset of the presidential race by breaking conventional standards of politeness, such as when he suggested that Sen. John McCain was not a war hero because he was captured by the Viet Cong. Such provocations are designed to both anger and attract attention. So far, Trump has accomplished both goals masterfully.
Even the most extreme views that Trump has espoused to attract media attention — the ones that attract the most liberal ire — are not too far out of step with the rest of his party. Though Trump made headlines for stating that he would halt Muslim immigration to the United States, so-called establishment moderate Jeb Bush said he would only allow Syrian refugees to come to the United States if they were Christian. Donald Trump did say he would be in favor of closing mosques and creating a federal database of Muslim-Americans, but his current main competitor Marco Rubio upped the ante, saying that he would close “any facility that’s being used to radicalize.” Though other Republicans display a more listless style, their substance is essentially the same.
Sure, Donald Trump believes that global warming is a hoax and that the government should cut funding for the EPA. However, unlike most Republicans, he also wishes to preserve Social Security and Medicaid and enact campaign finance reform. He is the only Republican candidate willing to call out the Bush administration’s spread of misleading information in the lead-up to the Iraq War. Though it wouldn’t make sense for a liberal Democrat to cast a vote for Trump in November, his views are probably preferable to those of Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz.
If anything, Democrats should be happy if Trump is the Republican nominee in July for one reason: electability. Polls show that Donald Trump has the worst favorability ratings of any presidential candidate. If the Democrats are unable to beat Trump in the general election, they probably don’t even deserve the White House.
Though Trump attracts a lot of attention, he is probably not more worrisome for liberals than the rest of his party, only louder and with less of a filter. If liberals really want something to worry about, they might want to look at something that does not get a lot of attention from the national media: local races. Following the 2014 midterms which featured low turnout from traditionally liberal demographics, Republicans have managed to capture 70 percent of state legislatures, with states as liberal as New York and Maine having split control between the two parties. Even if a Democratic president is elected, Republicans will be able to pass conservative legislation at the state level unless Democrats are able to win local races.
Liberals shouldn’t pay too much heed to the loudest man in the room. He isn’t too different from the rest of the Republican party, and even if he never entered the race, a Republican just as — if not more — conservative would win the nomination. What should really be worrisome is that same party controls the majority of state governments because the same people fretting about Trump didn’t bother to vote for their state representatives last election.