From any rational perspective it is incongruous that a crude, flamboyant, egocentric real estate tycoon and reality-show host could stand any chance of being nominated, let alone elected president of the United States. If this scenario were proposed as a reality-show for television, it would be rejected as too implausible. And yet, that is what we are witnessing.
What is so surprising and fearful for many is that Trump has used his ostentatious persona to dominate the 2016 election cycle and become the leading candidate for the Republican nomination. What was once considered a joke is now considered a serious threat. The big-wigs of the Republican establishment are in full, fearful panic-mode over the possibility of Trump winning the Party’s nomination for president. This situation puts the Republican establishment in a difficult position, because they have been forced to choose between the feelings of fear or loathing; and when given that choice, they have embraced loathing.
Fearing Trump more than the Zika virus, the Republican establishment has embraced Ted Cruz, a man they universally despise and loath, as their preferred candidate for the nomination. This despite an anonymous poll of all 100 U.S. Senators last year that discovered all except one (Cruz) were steadfastly against the idea of Cruz becoming president; it seems his Senate colleagues universally loath him for both his abrasive personality and rigidly dogmatic, self-serving attitudes. One Republican Senate colleague was quoted as saying, “The word “hypocrite” was invented, just to be able to describe Ted Cruz.” For the vast majority of the Republican establishment, supporting Cruz is akin to drinking a full bottle of feces-flavored castor oil, but they gulp it down out of fear of Trump. The Republican leaders have become so paranoid about Trump’s potential nomination they have taken to saying, “It’s better to lose with Cruz, than it is to win with Trump.”
The Secret to Trump’s Rise
If the political rise of Trump is so outrageous and absurd to so many, what is the secret to his success? Trump has been perceptive enough to tap into a secret that has been known by humorists and satirists for centuries. Just as comedians and satirists use this secret to entertain their audiences, Trump uses the secret to make a point and connect with voters.
Just so long as there is an element of truth in the sarcasm, not matter how outrageous or offensive it may be, it can not only trigger a laugh, but it can also bring home a specific point. It is this underlying truth in sarcasm that touches the feelings of the audience and allows them to relate to the “humor” and the point being made that gives sarcasm credibility. Trump seems to understand this and has used this technique to relate to voters. And this is the reason the Republican leaders are crying now, rather than laughing.
Sarcasm has long been considered by humorists and social critics to be the most effective tool to put a spotlight on raw social issues and expose the foibles of the elite to the masses. That is the reason why Saturday Night Live has been so popular for over 40 years. It is the reason why television shows such as Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, The Family Guy and The Simpsons have been so successful with the masses. Trump, better than any professional politician (most of whom believe they are the elite) recognizes the secret of sarcasm and makes it central to his campaign.
When you think of Jeb Bush, do you think of a son of a president, a successful businessman and two-time governor of Florida or do you think of “low-energy Bush?” When you think of Marko Rubio, do you think of a polished 44 year old Senator and bright shining star of the Republican Party or do you think of “little Marko?” When you think of Ted Cruz, do you think of an extremely intelligent, driven and experienced individual or do you think of “Lyin’ Ted?” When Mitt Romney was out on the stump attacking Trump, did you think of him as the wise sage of the Republican Party, or did you see the “choke-artist” who blew the 2012 election?
When you think about it, Bush did give off an aura of low energy. When you think about it, Rubio did seem like the little kid on the block, jumping up and down trying to get the attention of the older guys. When you look at Cruz giving one of his debater-like speeches, that little smirk on his face just makes it look like he is lying. And there is no doubt that Romney choked in 2012.
Trump seemed to innately recognize that by adopting the comedic techniques of sarcastic humor and mocking style against his opponents, he would be more successful than if he challenged them straight-up on the issues. The Republican establishment (and almost all others) considered it to be a joke when Trump announced his campaign. But to Trump’s credit, he turned his weakness as a traditional candidate into a strength and the joke was on the Republican establishment. It may be a hollow way to approach running for president and is certainly against all the “rules” for how a campaign should be conducted, but it has worked so far for Trump. Trump has used sarcasm and mocking to expose issues other politicians would just as soon duck, and he has brought to light the elitist tendencies of the Republican establishment. This is the secret that has put Trump at the top of the polls and caused the leaders of the Republican establishment have their underwear in knots.