Or, is it three (or more)? The third one, not yet here, being the newly elected president of the United States. The first Donald Trump did get most everyone’s attention, and more important he probably gained, by his unruly and off the wall antics and comments, the support, which he still seems to have, of the jobless or threatened with job loss white conservative men.
What these white men heard was a presidential candidate who was going to tackle the very things that most troubled them, things such as the loss of their jobs to foreign workers, the flood of immigrants from Mexico taking their jobs at home, Muslim extremists being treated with kid gloves, a weakened military et al.
What these men didn’t hear was what many of the rest of us heard, a presidential candidate making disrespectful, often vulgar comments while revealing his own striking ignorance of national and international affairs, and all the time bad-mouthing the rival candidates for president as well as the country’s moderate and liberal establishment figures. No, that’s not true. These men, his supporters, probably heard all this too and liked what they heard. In fact the words of the Trump 1 didn’t at all turn them away because they were probably thinking, if not saying, the very same things themselves.
But then stepped onto the stage, Trump 2. That’s where we are now. And following yesterday’s election in NY everyone is starting to take if not him, at least his chances in the race, seriously, including Trump himself. In second place in the Republican field, of the three remaining candidates, is Ted Cruz some 300 convention pledged delegates behind Trump’s 845 out of the 1237 that will be needed. All this means that now the Donald Trump can no longer see himself as just the man of the Trump towers, casinos, and golfclubs, but as someone with a realistic chance of becoming the Republicans’ choice for president of the United States. That’s probably enough to persuade him to clean up his act.
So just who is Trump 2, assuming that he’s now intent on cleaning up behind him? Would an independent or a moderate be more apt to vote for this Trump than for Trump 1? Yes, I would say so, and that means that Trump will have to fashion a Trump 2 altogether different from Trump 1 if he would beat Hillary in the general election in November.
We met the full blown Trump 2 as he was giving his victory speech in the great hall of the Trump Tower in Manhattan following yesterday’s primary election. Here are some of the things he had to say to the many admirers crowded in about him on the main floor:
“Very nice, very nice, I have to say this to the people of New York who know me the best, very nice when they give us this kind of vote, it’s just incredible… I just want to thank everybody here… my family,… my amazing team. … a team of unity, as you know, and it’s evolving,…. The press does understand all that’s happening, they just don’t want to talk about it, and that’s OK. …
[At an earlier time Trump 1 would have bad mouthed the press for not talking about what’s happening. But with Trump 2 it’s quite enough to simply say, “that’s OK.”]
Trump: “New York State has problems like virtually every other state in the union. Our jobs are being sucked out of our states, they’re being taken out of our country and we’re not going to let it happen any more, we’re going to stop it….we are going to use our great business people to negotiate unbelievable trade deals so we bring our jobs back and we don’t let our companies go to Mexico…We’re going to keep the jobs here. … And we’re going to build our military bigger, better, stronger than ever before. [and as Trump 1 would have said, or rather did say, and often, he says again:] “Nobody is going to mess with us.”
He goes on to mention three other subjects that will be prominent throughout the campaign in his speeches on the stump — one, that he will take care of what he calls our “forgotten vets,” two, that he will repeal and replace ObamaCare, and three, that he will do away with Common Core, returning public education to the States, making education once again the responsibility of the people there on the ground, no longer that of the federal government.
Finally, Trump 2 is “going to solve” himself, the really big problems, the problems of the economy and job losses. Doing that, he says, is just being the guy in the “wheelhouse,” the wheelhouse being the part of the bridge that hold the ship’s steering wheel. So Trump by being “in the wheelhouse” means being in his areas of competency, jobs and the economy, much like the direction of the ship being within the competency of the captain.
His choice of words and expressions following his NY victory is new. Trump 1 is no longer. Now he is respectful, reasonable. Jake Tapper, the CNN anchor, describes just how much things have changed: “…we’ve been talking for the last couple of weeks about how Trump has become a more disciplined candidate, how he has been saying fewer things that get him off message and we’ve heard that new Trump this evening. He did not refer to “lying Ted,” he referred rather to Senator Cruz, over and over. Nor did he refer to John Kasich even by his first name. He called him Governor Kasich. In addition to expressing his gratitude to the people of New York he stuck to two basic messages: One being that the trade deals have been bad for the economy and the other being that the election system, or at least the Republican primary system, is rigged. The second message helps paint Ttrump as an outsider at war with the elites….And it will also help him should he get to the Republican convention in Cleveland without that magic 1,237 number of delegates needed. The Donald Trump you heard this evening, is the Donald Trump pivoting to become a general election candidate.”
Jake Tapper pretty much says it for me. I too came away saying that Trump 1 is no more. But I also noticed something else. Trump’s religion, if he has one, was no where to be seen. No mention of God, no God’s blessing on the good people of New York. And no mention at all of the favorite social and religious issues of the Evangelicals and the Tea Partiers, “religious freedom,” same sex marriage, no abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, a state’s right to display a Ten Commandments monument at the Capitol etc. No one mouthing words taken inappropriately from just one great literary work, the Bible.
Was this Trump’s coming out party, coming out as a member of the secular society, the one to which I belong? Probably not, and he would certainly say no if asked. But it did seem that way, that he was a man confronting the issues that the country faces as a man. And it did seem that that was enough, to be a man, that there was no need for religion.
Well, OK. All of what I’ve written is a kind of wishful thinking, how I’d like things to be. Could Trump 3 grow into the job? Nothing yet makes me think so. But then Ted Cruz has been put down, and that I know is good for the country.