Here we go again.
If you thought the intrusion of Donald Trump’s media circus into presidential campaign politics ended last year when President Obama released his birth certificate the same weekend he killed Osama Bin Laden, you were very wrong.
First there was Trump’s mumblings that he might aspire to the Americans Elect ticket. Now, Trump is putting together big fundraisers and Super PACs for Mitt Romney. The stories that have predictably sprung up about this prove one thing above all else: Despite everyone’s predictions and intentions, this presidential race is going to be about much more than just the economy.
As Bill Clinton’s campaign strategy James Carville immortally said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” It’s always difficult for an incumbent to reclaim the presidency in tough economic times. Franklin D. Roosevelt may have served an unprecedented four terms in the Oval Office, but he never would have gotten there in the first place if he hadn’t been so adept at placing the blame for the Great Depression squarely on Herbert Hoover’s shoulders.
HBO movies like Game Change can fault Sarah Palin for McCain’s 2008 loss as much as they want, but the truth is that McCain’s bid was doomed the moment the Great Recession started under a Republican president’s watch. Therefore, it seemed obvious that the Republican nominee would simply use the economic tough times to defeat Obama. But Donald Trump’s reentry into the story is the latest indicator that this is not the case, and that this campaign will go above and beyond economic discussion.
This tumultuous Republican presidential race began, of course, with Trump leading a few polls. Considering that the closest thing he had to a "platform" was a stubborn insistence on easily disprovable “birther” arguments, this was probably due to his recognizable name in a field of then-unknown contestants.
Once Obama released his long-form certificate, Trump returned to his reality shows and it seemed that the primary debates would regain a focus on the many real issues facing our nation.
But they didn’t, not really.
Michele Bachmann’s argument against Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan consisted entirely of the fact that 9-9-9 inversed is 666, the Number of the Beast from the Book of Revelation. This being the very same Herman Cain who quoted the Pokemon movie and whose campaign was eventually derailed by his history of sexual assault. Texas Governor Rick Perry couldn’t remember his own platform and declared he would end Obama’s “war on religion.” And of course, Rick Santorum refused to talk about anything but gay marriage.
Speaking of which, even though it’s now clear that Mitt Romney will be facing Obama come November, Obama’s first salvo has been his declaration of support for gay marriage. So the forums of this election cycle have focused on almost everything except those “jobs” and “economy,” and now we’re coming full circle with Trump’s re-entry.
So what do the particular circumstances of Trump’s reappearance tell us about the coming campaign? Considering that Trump’s new role is as benefactor for Romney, the prospective host of a fundraising benefit lunch, and that this comes on the heels of George Clooney performing a similar function for Obama, it’s clear that this contest will be infused with the after-effects of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed for unlimited funding, corporate donations, the formation of Super PACs, and everything else. That is, despite the social concerns raised by Occupy protesters, this campaign will be a high-flying, swaggering duel of campaign contributions that will make your eyes pop out of their sockets.
Those huge funds will inevitably be followed by negative ads and mudslinging, so don’t expect very much “real talk.” Then there’s Trump’s refusal to give up on birtherism, and Obama spokesman Brian LaBolt’s instant comparison of the Trump allegiance to Romney’s infamous comment about liking to fire people, final proof that this presidential campaign will continue to be a bunch of posturing, name-calling, and general stupidity, rather than become the honest debate about America’s future we so desperately need.