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Steven I. Platt: Living in Donald Trump’s world

Donald Trump has clearly taken political theater to a new level, and the mainstream media – not to mention social media – can’t resist the temptation to give him their almost undivided attention, thereby encouraging and enabling him to take it even further.

I have previously written about the dangers of allowing political theater to drive public policy. This year, we are witnessing it being substituted for policy development with no regrets or apologies.

Trump is, of course, leading the way with his off-the-cuff rhetoric and tweets tailored to the events and of the day and the desire to “hit back hard” at whomever annoyed him or his followers. That can be one of the other candidates or even a media member such as Fox News’ Megyn Kelly.

In fact, Trump has on more than one occasion described what he has been doing as “having fun” and “waging war” with one or more of the other candidates. He is clearly enjoying himself at the expense of even a modicum of civility and substance in our political discourse.

With Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Trump said he thought Walker was a “nice man” and gave him money. But then Walker criticized Trump, “so now I can attack him.” In the case of Jeb Bush, his basic criticism is that Bush is “low energy” and therefore “can’t and won’t get anything done.”

Three policy positions

As far as I can, tell Trump has at least three policy positions. He would round up and deport all 11 million “illegal” immigrants at an unknown but no doubt prohibitive cost in dollars, time and personnel; build a “wall” between Mexico and the U.S. also at an unknown cost; “police the hell out of the Iran deal”; and unilaterally defund “Planned Parenthood,” for which he apparently developed strong negative feelings in the last year despite supporting the organization previously.

In short, “The Donald” has, as his overarching narrative and political philosophy “The Art of the Deal,” the name of his most recent book. His position in a nutshell is, “I’m really rich” and “really smart” and all the other candidates in both parties, as well as President Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of State John Kerry are “dumb” and make really “bad deals.” Elect me president and, in four years, as he told “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd, “you’ll interview me and tell me, ‘You’ve done a great job as president, ‘Mr. Trump.’”

Trump has been heavily criticized and called “irresponsible,” “insulting,” “dishonest” and “a flip-flopper,” even, heaven forbid, “not a true conservative” as well as disrespectful of women, Hispanics and others. But let’s be honest – in one way he has been more candid with the public than all of the other candidates as well as his critics in the media.

Trump has dramatically injected the culture and ethics of the private world that most of us live and work in as well as the world of Big Business into the world of politics with its unspoken but widely recognized hypocrisy in the form of political correctness. The world of politics and the political class, including all of the other candidates who inhabit it, are obviously having difficulty coping with this unexpected intrusion and disruption of their world. The polls reflect their inability to overcome it or cast it aside.

What Trump is doing is appealing directly to the desire of what at first appeared to be 10-to-15 percent of the voters of both political parties. Now, it looks like as much as 30-to-40 percent of voters of both parties support a candidate who will not only speak to their values, but act on them in a way that convinces them he can and will do what he promises.

‘Not one of us’

The basis of that appeal is that “Donald Trump is not one of us.” And he is not pretending to be. He presents himself as smarter and richer than we are and, more importantly, as “much smarter” and “much richer” than all of the candidates of the “political class” he is running against.

So, unlike the other candidates, his overarching position on all the issues can be summed up as, “I’ll manage the hell” out of the government, and because our government will be managed efficiently for a change, we’ll make better trade deals, have more jobs and better healthcare.

This will result in everyone (you and me) except the bad guys (the rapists, murderers, and gang members) that are deported leading much healthier and happier lives than ever before. In other words, Trump will “make our country great again”.

How will Trump “manage the hell” out of the economy and the government can’t be predicted or spelled out in advance as other conventional candidates try to do because, as Trump forthrightly and correctly points out, events on the national stage and the international stage can never be predicted. But The Donald tells us not to worry about the details, pointing to his business success and the fact he can’t be bought.

The visuals and sound bites of this world presented by Donald Trump are seductive, as demonstrated by his support in the polls. Machiavelli recognized that political judgment, to be effective, must follow principles more ruthless than those acceptable in ordinary life.

“It is necessary for a prince wishing to hold his own to know how to do wrong and to make use of it or not according to necessity,” he wrote in “The Prince.

Prince Donald presents his character and his history convincingly as evidence that he alone, among the candidates in both parties, understands that and will act upon it.

How much longer this will play out remains to be seen. A more important question would be how would this private and very different world transition into governance if it doesn’t go away. Trump’s world is perhaps even less real than the world of the other politicians he so far has successfully scoffed at rhetorically and otherwise.

Todd, of “Meet the Press,” presciently tried to address this by asking Trump recently who would be his advisors on foreign policy if he were president of the United States. Trump’s answer was not a confidence-builder. He said he hadn’t really thought about it, but, for the time being, he got his information from watching the talk shows.

So do I. But I’m not running for President of the United States.

Steven I. Platt, a retired associate judge on the Prince George’s County Circuit Court, writes a regular column for The Daily Record. He can be reached at