Understanding the Origin of Donald Trump


Republican presidential candidate Trump gestures and declares "You're fired!" at a rally in Manchester

There’s a scene in the original Frankenstein movie (1931; James Whale, director) when the monster (Boris Karloff) first becomes animated. Dr. Frankenstein is elated that his years of hard work have produced his goal — life from the parts of the dead.

When I’m watching Donald Trump make a stump speech and speak during the debates (Bill and I have watched six of the ten Republican debates so far) I find myself flashing on this scene.

At first it seemed like a joke. Trump announced his candidacy on June 16th last year, and politicos were certain he would be toast within months. The internet is loaded with essays from hundreds of incredibly bright people who predicted Trump’s failure. Reading them online (the pundits never question themselves) is hilarious — or heartbreaking, depending on your point of view.

But then summer passed, and autumn blew in. The late-night shows were delighted with the sideshow and easy jokes. It was a time of laughter and ridicule.

Trump was underestimated to such an extent that no one — on the right or the left — lifted a finger to stop him. His fellow Republican candidates refused to attack him because this would give him legitimacy. It’s hard to believe that a short time ago we were watching a crowded Republican field of sixteen men and one woman. Trump and his supporters have slashed and burned them to the ground, leaving behind an odd and perplexing quartet.

In late August, the Republican National Committee (RNC) forced their candidates to sign a Loyalty Oath affirming they would back the nominee. This was their tactic to prevent Trump from running a third party candidacy. That was their worry. In an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning, America” then-candidate Jeb Bush said on September 3rd that “of course” he would support Donald Trump if he was the Republican nominee.

And then winter set in…

And along with it the Iowa caucuses, in which Cruz barely succeeded, and Trump walked away with the New Hampshire primary. We watched Trump take South Carolina in a landslide, and then win Nevada, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana *, Hawaii, Michigan and Mississippi. Has it only been a period of months since Trump was seen as a Not Serious Candidate?

* Cruz received slightly more votes, but he and Trump received the same number of delegates — 18 each.

And who can stop him? Marco Rubio has been the biggest dud with Trump attacks (nobody seems to care what Rubio thinks.) Mitt Romney? How many stood behind Romney after he made his impassioned anti-Trump speech on March 3rd? Essentially, zero. Why?

Because Romney is hated by fellow Republicans. Why aren’t they rallying behind Ted Cruz, the only candidate to win primaries against Trump? Because Cruz is hated by the Republican establishment, too. See a pattern? When hatred and mean-spirited’ness join hands, no one trusts anyone. Is it so surprising that the anti-Trump campaign is in shambles?

Did Rubio really focus on the size of Trump’s hands and question Trump’s “size”? (yes) Did Trump really assure the American people “there’s no problem down there?” (yes) Did Trump really say he didn’t know what a White Supremacist was and delayed disavowing himself from racists? (yes) Did he really say that the U.S. military would do whatever he instructed, even if it was illegal? (yes) Did he really say he supported waterboarding and torture and savagery was “the way to go” for our foreign policy in the Middle East? Yes yes yes.

There doesn’t seem to be a low that’s too low…

The Republican Establishment scratches their heads as they watch Trump stomping over their preconceived ideas about how the political process should unfold. They blame Trump’s triumphs on a deeper and more ingrained fury in the Republican base than anyone at the RNC realized. They point the finger at voters who know little-to-nothing about the political scene and an American Reality Show mentality.

But really, when they look at Trump they should see what they have been creating for years — a creature that’s one part Fox News, one part Rush Limbaugh, one part George W. Bush, one part hateful rhetoric, one part wild-eyed fringe “low-information” voter… he is what American conservatives have been piecing together since the 1990s. In a way, no one should be surprised by the rise of Trump. His supporters are furious — yes — but their anger has been fueled by the savage language of conservative media.

The Republican Party and those on the Right are like Dr. Frankenstein,  open-mouthed and with their hands in the air, looking at Donald Trump with wonder, awe… and a kind of horror.

It’s early March. The Republican Convention takes place in July.  Nine long months separate us from the November general election. Donald Trump has broken through the walls of the castle. His havoc in the village has only just begun.


(Watching this movie clip with the above analogy in mind is darkly comic…)


5 thoughts on “Understanding the Origin of Donald Trump

  1. Yes, I shudder to think about it. But very cool that you go to writing to figure things like this out! I thought about this post later when I read your newer post about missing your best friend, and how he may have had this all laid out for you. From what I see, you did a lovely job on your own, too. 🙂


  2. I appreciate your overview and thoughts here, Bart. I think Trump is appalling and feel extremely embarrassed about what is happening in the eyes of the world. (This feels worse than electing Bush to a second term.)


    1. When I was in Colombia, the newspapers carried headlines about Trump. Though I couldn’t read the news stories, I could only imagine what was being written about the political process this election year. In the Amazon, the young couples from Europe asked us to explain Trump. It was clear they thought Americans had lost their minds. I found it difficult to line up my thoughts (for them) which caused me to write about it. (If I don’t know what I think, I start writing so I can find out.)


  3. Loved the post Bart … as a registered independent I’ve enjoyed the “show” so far this year but have stopped watching all the debates. I will say I have enjoyed Trump’s breaking down the walls of political correctness … we all have to start having real conversations again at some point and stop being fearful of speaking truth. Not saying this man is or is not, but sometimes when you need a festering wound that is covered over in a scab to be healed … it takes a courageous soul to open the wound and remember the “pus” comes out first. It is ugly right now I agree. But then … I think the democrats have some “pus” of their own to deal with too. I just keep praying for the healing to take place so we can all get back to being Americans again who love one another and will remember what common sense was.


    1. Thanks so much for your comments, Sierra. Like you, I look forward to a day when there are fewer divides and more unity between Americans. I tell my students about the phrase “I don’t vote the party, I vote for the person” — something I heard often when I was growing up. But now? When was the last time you heard someone say that and mean it?

      The term “political correctness” is complicated since it depends on what a person means. Too often, I think Trump means it’s suspect to use language that honors all people, and avoids the fundamental idea that pubic discourse needs to find nonjudgmental language to discuss/describe our differences. I don’t think that’s political correctness, it’s kindness… an idea that seems to have fallen out of favor when we talk about politics (regardless of where a person falls on the spectrum.)

      I love that you’re reading along and engaging with my thoughts. It means a lot to me.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s