Donald Trump loves two things: money and attention, and throughout his career the real estate tycoon has shown a willingness to do some nearly anything in the pursuit of both. He has appeared in commercials for products as wide ranging as Serta mattresses to Oreo cookies, and in recent years has served as host for the popular reality competition show The Apprentice.
In one of his more bizarre moves, Trump once participated in a bet with fellow billionaire Vince McMahon over a WWE wrestling match, the result of which meant the loser would have to shave their head. Up to this point, Trump has been largely harmless, a pop culture fixture and the butt of a million toupee jokes. This was all before the presidency of Barack Obama.
Trump has toyed with the idea of running for president in the past, but in 2011 he has been extremely vocal about the prospect of a 2012 presidential run on the Republican party ticket. In his early, non-official campaigning, Trump has taken direct aim at President Obama, but nothing in the way of substantive policy disagreements. Trump has taken the low road and has gained mass media attention by appealing to the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party, the group responsible for perpetuating the claim that Obama’s presidency is illegitimate because they he is not a natural-born citizen of the United States.
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Despite his administration’s procurement of a certificate of live birth from the state of Hawaii, Obama detractors have held fast to this blatant falsehood, with Trump revitalizing this asinine debate over recent weeks as he has thrown his toupee, err, hat into the ring for the Republican party presidential nomination. Trump has made a grand show of his “birther” status, going so far as sending private investigators to Hawaii on “fact-finding” mission and accusing Obama’s grandparents of planting his birth announcement in order to receive welfare.
To his credit, though he would certainly be within his right to ignore Trump and all others of the “birther” ilk, Obama has addressed this issue, and roundly dismissed these claims for the fear-based tactics they are and shifted the focus of the debate away from his identity toward real policy issues, including unemployment and gas prices — things the Republicans, the Tea Party and Trump have failed to challenge.
However, the issue of surrounding Obama’s birth certificate has been one of particular concern of among African-Americans, as Melissa Harris-Perry has pointed out that the issue of citizenship in this country is always about race. By playing into this “birther” nonsense, Trump has planted himself in the company of new age racial fear-mongers.
That hasn’t been his only racial misstep on his campaign trial run. Just yesterday on the Fred Dicker radio show, Trump had this to say regarding the number of black people who voted for Obama in 2008: “I have a great relationship with the blacks, I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks. But unfortunately, it seems that, you know, the numbers you cite are very, very frightening numbers.”
When I heard that Trump claimed to have a great relationship with ‘the blacks’ I thought it was the name of some new band I’m not hip enough to listen to. Or perhaps ‘the blacks’ could have been referring to a spin-off sitcom based around the experiences of Lil’ Jon, Latoya Jackson, and Star Jones during their run on Celebrity Apprentice. But of course, that’s not what Trump meant at all, as this great relationship he purports to have is with black people, all of us apparently, though Trump prefers to use the zoological term.
I don’t intend to speak for all black people, but aside from the Vanessa Williams/Miss America fiasco, I can’t say that ‘The Donald’ is really on African-American’s radar, definitely not enough so to foster anything resembling a relationship. It looks as if he’s attempting to forge one now, but I think he may be starting off the wrong foot. Just a tad.
Perhaps more offensive than ‘the blacks’ was the suggestion that black people voted for Obama solely on the basis of race, which not only perpetuates the idea of black people as monolith but as a non-thinking monolith whose only concerns lie in a candidate’s skin color (and as if this has never been the case for any other group besides black people). If he were to secure the Republican nomination for president, Trump has ensured he would likely receive an even smaller percentage of the black vote than Senator John McCain.
Ultimately, Trump doesn’t care. He isn’t running for president; he’s driving up ratings for his television show. It isn’t a coincidence that the season finale for Celebrity Apprentice is slated for May 22 and Trump has said that he may announce in June whether he has decided to run or not. It’s all apart of a growing media saga, where the sole objective is to direct all eyes toward Trump and his endeavors, lining his pockets with more (eventually) tax-free revenue.
In that case, no matter which way the hair piece blows, Trump wins.