Today, for all the wrong reasons, American politics reached a milestone. Of course the event surrounds our favorite shock candidate. But there is nothing new about Donald Trump taking a stab at a reporter or diving headfirst into another easily avoidable controversy. At this stage in the game, Trump’s aggressive rants are about as surprising as Hillary’s pantsuits. We expect the controversy. That’s why we watch. And Trump knows this.
The big news of course is Trump telling FOX that he won’t be attending the final GOP debate. Ignoring the personal grudges and billionaire tantrums that led to the confrontation, as well as the fact that Trump’s campaign managers are well aware that their guy has nothing to gain and much to lose from another debate, let’s look at the underlying issue. Today a nontraditional, non-career-politician, Republican frontrunner told a major right-wing media outlet to stick it. And the only loser in this scuffle is FOX. How could this happen?
Trump being ridiculously rich is important but not the whole story. Trump being a rich businessman involved in politics while berating politicians is not even all that new. The fact that Trump is a frontrunner with a fandom extending well beyond the Republican Party, that he is both radical and untethered to the traditional conservative donor base, and most important, that his entertainment value is greater than the rest of the field combined, creates a perfect storm for some truly landmark weirdness, as we saw today.
Donald Trump represents the rise of the nontraditional candidate. Yes, he is a rich white male with some seriously political hair. But his myth, that he is too smart to be poor and too rich to be bought, has positioned him as the enemy of status quo politics. Everyone is a target. Every interview is a weapon. No matter what Trump says, the more extreme his message, the more honest he seems. No career politician would ever commit political suicide, over and over, on live television. Trump has turned political suicide into a badge of honor. And his disgust and anger are resonating with the electorate, and not just the ones you would expect.
The gravity of the angry political outsider, combined with a staggering fortune and an unapologetic (if not sociopathic) approach to the media, has created a candidate who can tank a debate simply by not showing up, whose refusal to participate is more important than the debate itself, and whose absence will cost FOX millions in lost revenue while his numbers continue to rise. Say what you want about political correctness. If the people always get the candidate they deserve, then it is clear that the American public is looking to pick a fight with Washington, D.C. And in “The Donald” they have found their champion. God help us all.