News & Politics

The Shocking Truth About Donald Trump: He’s Actually the Least Terrifying GOP Candidate

His virulent immigration politics are shared by the GOP field. But the places where he differs are illuminating.

With all of the outrageous and downright offensive remarks that have been regurgitated by Donald Trump over the past few months, the most logical forecast made by political analysts was that his campaign would implode, sooner than later, as so many have before. Like the stock market, Trump 2016 seems to be based on a bubble of irrational emotions — in this case fear — and at any moment, that bubble could burst. Today, however, it’s looking more and more like Trump’s lead in the polls is not going to burst anytime soon, and that the man who seems to be the perfect manifestation of a stereotypical American — a loud, obnoxious buffoon — actually has a chance of winning the GOP nomination for president.

This is scary to think about. Not just because of his virulent xenophobia and nationalism, but because of how damaging a President Trump would be to America’s reputation in the world. At the same time, maybe it will take a joke like Trump — who, just a reminder, once released his birth certificate to prove that his father was not an orangutan — to show just how much of a farce American democracy really is. Trump is creating a dangerous new nationalist movement that is absolutely adored by white supremacists and Tea Party conservatives alike. His big personality may be a bridge between the more extremist right wingers who preach intolerance and hate, and the moderate conservatives dedicated to blindly loving their country.

That being said, if we take a look at Trump, beyond all of the controversial remarks from him and his supporters (i.e. “Go back to your country!”) and the despicable attack on immigrants, it becomes quite clear that a president Trump would actually be less dangerous than, say, a president Walker. In fact, just about every other major GOP candidate is probably more threatening to progress than Trump.

This is because Donald Trump isn’t really a part of the GOP. He doesn’t depend on corporate funding and is more concerned with his own ego than the party he is currently running in. While his unfiltered remarks have gotten all of the media’s attention, he has also made certain comments that would have probably been enough to kill any other GOP candidates campaign.

Take, for example, his defense of Planned Parenthood. In the midst of the hit job on the women’s health organization, as every other candidate was jumping on the bandwagon to defund the entire organization, Trump correctly said that the abortion services were a very small part of Planned Parenthood, and that they do undeniably important work for women. Compare this to the supposedly moderate Jeb Bush, who said that the organization is “not actually doing women’s health issues. They’re involved in something way different than that,” which PolitiFact.com fittingly rated “Pants on Fire.”

When it comes to economic issues, Trump is also very different than his GOP competitors, and is more or less running against the GOP orthodoxy when it comes to taxes. Last week he almost sounded like a progressive when talking about the tax code:

“I would change it. I would simplify it. I would take carried interest out, and I would let people making hundreds of millions of dollars a year pay some tax, because right now they are paying very little tax and I think it’s outrageous. I want to lower taxes for the middle class.”

When asked about paying more taxes himself, he affirmed his willingness:

“I do very well, I don’t mind paying some taxes. The middle class is getting clobbered in this country. You know the middle class built this country, not the hedge fund guys, but I know people in hedge funds that pay almost nothing and it’s ridiculous, OK?”

Compare this to the basic GOP talking point of lowering all taxes, including those for the hedge funds guys. When Rand Paul and Ben Carson come out with a flat tax program, they promote it is a gift to all taxpayers — especially the middle class — but really it is a gift to the richest of the rich. Trump is running against this GOP dogma and the creepy Grover Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” which has long had a hold on the GOP. Whether a candidate promising to raise taxes on the ultra-rich will be able to withstand this force will be interesting to see.

Beyond these issues, Trump has opposed cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and also, as was made so very clear at the first debate, previously supported universal healthcare and opposed the war in Iraq.

Trump’s bluntness and independence, along with his big mouth and unapologetic nativism have so far proven to have lasting power, at least with the GOP base. The reactionary movement that has grown louder over the past few months, however, may end up being much more dangerous that Trump himself — embracing his nativism and nationalism while ignoring some of his saner policies that could actually help the middle class.

Trump winning the primaries is still a long shot. And he’s even more of a long shot to win the national election. But the scary thing is that America would probably be better off with a president Trump than any of the other major GOP contenders, who are either puppets for their corporate masters or wholly controlled by their dogma (i.e. Mike Huckabee’s Christian chauvinism).

The fact that Trump is the most progressive of GOP candidates, at least when it comes to certain policies, simply shows how very backwards the GOP actually is. Of course, Trump’s supporters don’t much care about policies, and this may be why he is still doing so well in the GOP field. According to a recent poll, 66 percent of Trump supporters believe that President Obama is a Muslim, while 61 percent are not convinced that he is American born. So the majority of his supporters are basically conspiracy theorists operating in the fantasy world of Trumpland. They don’t really know what he supports, but they know that he’s tough and doesn’t seem to like immigrants or Muslims — so he’s their man. Again, the nativist movement that Trump has given energy to may be much more dangerous than Trump himself — but when compared to the GOP at large, Trump is only a minor villain to progress.

Conor Lynch is a writer and journalist living in New York City. His work has appeared on Salon, The Hill, AlterNet, and openDemocracy. Follow him on Twitter.

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