Of all the world’s landings — of which there must be many — the classiest, most luxurious is Jacksonville’s. So when billionaire Donald Trump comes to Northeast Florida, naturally, that’s where he sets down his helicopter. The Landing, after all, is a perfect backdrop for a rally in support of a Donald Trump presidency, marrying the wisdom of someone who straps in with gold-plated seatbelts and a place built with the kind of foresight to anticipate people always wanting and needing a 10,000-square-foot Hooters.
Those who didn’t get to hear The Donald speak on Saturday (see: losers) missed the Republican candidate for President of the United States slam CNN, Obamacare, Jeb Bush’s energy, Ben Carson’s energy, stupid politicians, Michael Bloomberg, the financial stability of Jeb Bush’s campaign, Bloomberg media, Caroline Kennedy, 70 percent of the media, Caterpillar construction machinery, Boeing, China, Japan, Mexico, teleprompters, the [stock] market (sometimes it crashes), the Wall Street Journal, Marco Rubio’s unquenchable thirst, Common Core, talking heads (not the band, I assume), Pacs, Super Pacs, Super-duper Pacs, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, and The Des Moines Register — which, he said, was a “third-rate newspaper” after a particularly long tangent about why polls show him in second place in Iowa.
It wasn’t all shit-talking, though.
Trump used the word love quite liberally in his 80-minute speech — as in “I love polls,” “I love Blue Angels,” and “I love Jacksonville,” (where he informed the crowd he used to own a casino boat, which he sold and made “a lot of money”). Among the other people, places, and things that received praise from Trump: his tax plan, his high ratings, winning, his company, his resorts, his golf partner Tom Brady, his message, his confidence, The Great Wall of China, walls in general (“they work”), Carl Icahn, Hispanics in Miami, his memory, his diplomatic skills, women who faint when he speaks, the Trump National Doral, “the owner of this big monster” [Toney Sleiman], and Lenny Curry — who, though he’s been in London all week, Trump said had been wonderful to him.
And the place was packed. Though Trump’s estimate of 20,000 might have been a little high, certainly, there were many thousands in attendance. They were there because of the message, Trump said.
And what message was that?
“It’s an amazing message,” said the man born of exorbitant privilege. “You know what it is? It’s basically saying we’re gonna go out, we’re gonna work, we’re gonna get rid of all of these horrible restrictions. We are gonna take the country, we’re gonna make it dynamic. You’ve seen my tax plan.”
This kind of substance-lacking, sloppy speech is nothing new for Trump. Since he joined the race this summer, he’s been speaking in this manner. The Trump faithful, such as the man who stood in front of me at the rally, regard it as The Donald telling it like it is. (The same guy, who brought his teenage son and daughter to the rally, surveyed a crowd made up of an overwhelming majority of middle-aged and old, white people, looked to his left, saw a man with dark skin, and marveled aloud at the diversity, before explaining confirmation bias to his children. I’m kidding, of course, but only about the last part.)
Tough talk is nothing new. Remember John McCain’s “Straight Talk Express”? And Chris Christie? Talking tough makes up for the entirety of that guy’s appeal.
So why does Trump’s rhetoric — angry and devoid of substance — draw so many thousands? In virtually every city?
Look no further than the many Republicans Trump dedicated a good chunk of his speech laying waste to. This is the group whose political strategy during the last eight years has been the policy of no. They’ve demonized Obama and anyone willing to work with him. They’ve poisoned the democratic process in Congress, and consistently made government out to be the bad guy.
And after getting trounced in 2012, the Republicans were supposed to reach out to Hispanic voters. They were supposed reach out to women. They knew they needed more low-income voters to go their way. Instead, their attempts to vilify immigrants, roll back women’s rights to healthcare, and deny access to affordable healthcare for low-income individuals, while wealth-disparity grew ever wider, served only to push their voter block even further right. Along the way, they never offered alternatives and certainly never said they’d be willing to compromise with Democrats.
All this — along with their ties to huge corporations and their lobbies — has put the Republicans squarely in the crosshairs of the irate mob they’ve created. “Take the country back,” it seems, is a zero-sum proposition.
Which makes the story Trump told in Jacksonville about negotiations to acquire the property now known as Trump National Doral so amazing. In an attempt to show just how disagreeable he could be, Trump relayed how he challenged the agreed-upon selling price of $170 “meel-yun,” much to the chagrin of the sellers, who balked at Trump’s insistence on a lower price. According to Trump, he walked out on the negotiations, which led to the sellers agreeing to the sale at a lowered rate. Trump (and just about anyone who has ever bought a used car), is comfortable deploying “the walk out” and he wondered why Secretary of State John Kerry didn’t use such tactics when negotiating with Iran.
If you’re a Republican, you should be frightened. Not only because your party has little chance when the voter turnout is high — as it will be if Trump is the nominee (though not for reasons he might be hoping for). But because of how dangerous such a ridiculous person could be to international relations. Republicans need to fear the beast their party has created. He’s an uncompromising, vacuous bag of hot air. And he may soon be their nominee for President.