The other day, I walked down to Trump Tower, and over to the section where I could buy one of the trucker hats that says “Make America Great Again” across the front. I got a black one. The young lady who sold it to me told me said that people had all sorts of reasons for buying the hat, from genuine support to as a gag gift for friends. She liked my reason: that it topped off my campaign swag ensemble of the day, which included a Bernie Sanders button and a Hillary Clinton lapel pin.
I wore it around the rest of the day, and did not see anyone else wearing one, even in the vicinity of the tower. Apparently, if I’d been in Brooklyn, I might have seen a lot more of them, as I later learned. My hat, though, is not a gag gift for myself, and I don’t plan to wear it ironically only as long as that’s cool. For one thing, I collect hats, and I don’t have one in this style yet. I also collect campaign swag, and so this was really an irresistible purchase. It will be usable for years, to keep the sun out of my eyes and off the top of my head. But those reasons alone did not compel me to, technically, make a contribution to the Donald Trump presidential campaign. My motivations go deeper.
I knew, but I did not care who Trump was earlier this year, or even shortly after he announced his run officially. I did not care who he was when he was talking about running for president in 2012, nor when he was the honoree of a Comedy Central Roast. I didn’t care who he was when he was needling President Obama about his birth certificate, and making grand claims about having inspectors in Hawaii who had uncovered very interesting things, or when he started talking about Obama’s college transcripts, though I did enjoy Obama poking fun at him at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011.
I have been aware of him, after all; I just didn’t care. Nor did I have much interest in his reality show, The Apprentice, later Celebrity Apprentice, and before that I had never heard of him, because, growing up, I didn’t follow politics or New York City real estate. But something has changed. Now he is the star of my favorite reality show, “Who Wants to Be America’s Next Top President?” Congratulations America. You’ve finally made me a fan of Donald Trump.
Fan is not the same as supporter. In buying the hat, I made a contribution to his campaign, that’s just how it works. But I have given more money to other candidates, and I don’t consider my hat purchase to be a campaign contribution, but the price of admission to the show, for which I also get a useful souvenir (made in America, no less). His policies are beside the point and incomprehensible besides. I enjoy how he talks, the aggressive sentence structure, the things he says whether sensible or vile (more the latter than the former), and the way he gestures.
He’s not just another side show candidate in the primary, he is truly the main attraction, and part of that attraction is that he somehow seems simultaneously more and less likely to win the Republican nomination than other fringe candidates. In 2008, one attack ad called Obama “the biggest celebrity in the world,” but even now Obama’s got nothing on Trump celebrity-wise. I’ve become a political junkie, but I haven’t had this much fun watching the process since 2008, and I anticipate it only getting better. Hillary Clinton has said she would love to debate Trump, and I would love to see that.
I’m a fan of Trump in kind of the same way I was a fan of the character of Walter White on Breaking Bad. Hit after hit after hit, impossible situation after impossible situation, and White would escape. Trump has insulted Mexican immigrants, John McCain, women, Carly Fiorina (who I had hoped he would pick, showing the courage of his convictions, as his running mate, since she’s the other big business person in the race, and is gaining in the polls), and none of it has brought him down, nor have the other Republican candidates.
Thus, one thing I’m watching for is what eventually will be his downfall? And then, what will he do next? He can’t go back to his television show, because NBC cancelled their contract with him. More importantly, how, if he loses, will he spin it? He prides himself on being a winner and all of his enemies losers, but there is probably no bigger way to lose than to lose the American Presidency if you get to the general election. Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time in Trump’s life things have not gone his way, and he still refers to himself as a winner, so if anyone could spin it, he can. And that’s the point, that’s why I want to watch.
What for me, then, after his moment in the sun is past and his story all but finished? I’d like to read his book. I didn’t even know he had any books until my first visit to Trump Tower. But The Art of the Deal is on my to-read list, now, and I plan to pick it up as soon as I can find it for 50 cents at a used book sale. I’m sure Trump would be impressed by my fiscal savvy. I suppose I’ll buy a few more pieces of campaign swag from other candidates, but not with the same excitement.
Maybe I’ll take more of an interest in Trump doing his thing after he loses, learn a bit about business and real estate. He’s going to be considerably less visible, though, which may help me beat my addiction. Then, some years from now, I’ll read the definitive book about the 2016 presidential campaign and learn some of the insider stuff that is currently hidden from my view. Right now, it is hard to imagine life without Trump’s candidacy, but I’ll always have my hat to remind me of the fun times and to make my friends do a double take when I join them for a game of baseball.