Channel 4 sent Matt Frei on the campaign trail of controversial billionaire-come-tycoon-come-celebrity, Donald Trump, in the race for the Republican nomination and his bid for the White House. The title, The Mad World of Donald Trump, may sound like a cartoon about a duck, but this duck with a double comb-over is in running to stand for the presidency of arguably the most powerful nation in the world.
Donald Trump is so outrageous in all he says and does he is easily dismissed as a comical caricature of an extremist politician. The programme opens with clips of him appearing larger than life, grappling at a wrestling match and making fun of himself on Comedy Central. Does setting himself up to be so easily satirised actually work to his advantage? Can it be that encouraging sane, liberal people not to take him seriously ultimately gives him more leeway to win voters on the extreme right? Trump’s candidacy started as a novelty but the more ridiculous he becomes, the higher his profile rises. So, could it be that this self-fuelling PR machine could ultimately propel himself all the way to the presidential election… His critics said it best: he’s a “buffoon that has to be taken seriously”.
Trump’s USP is that he’s a business prodigy. Well, not really, seeing as he inherited all his wealth and four of his businesses have gone bankrupt and working class Americans, his voters, were the ones who had to bail him out. I haven’t watched The Apprentice USA, but surely these aren’t the credentials Trump looks for in the boardroom. Frei speaks to the editor of Forbes magazine who reveals they’ve been in a stalemate over Trump’s true net-worth for over thirty years.
The breakdown of a Trump rally is as follows: ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ music, creepy nine year old child-pageant cheerleaders and a routine bashing for the press – it’s standard practice to have an enemy in the room, and Muslims aren’t allowed. As Donald himself says ‘isn’t a Trump rally more fun?’ It might be more fun but none of it amounts to a big idea for running America. Trump’s agenda is so outlandish, it’s easy to forget he really is running for President. The rallying cry for Obama was ‘Hope and change, yes we can’ but at Trump’s rally Frei is drowned out by whoops of ‘We’re going to build a wall.’ That’s to keep Mexican people – and so we’re told drugs, crime and rape – out of the US.
Trump’s ability to racially offend is unrivalled. Most shockingly the Republican forerunner is calling for a ban on Muslims entering the US. Muslim activist Jibril Hough likened the hatred of the crowd when he was thrown out of the last Trump rally to being a black man in a Klan rally. Channel 4 has already secured access to members of active white supremacist groups in the Confederate south. Trump’s policy panders to racist groups on the wider fringes of American politics and whips up red-neck racist sentiment, whether he runs as president or not.
The other group that Trump has no respect for is women. During the first presidential debate when Fox News presenter Megyn Kelly grilled him about his misogynistic rants, he sparked outrage by implying that she was on her period. When faced with a rematch against ‘lightweight’ Kelly at Thursday’s debate, he was a no-show. And let’s not forget that he wants to sleep with his own daughter. The most sinister revelation was that in her sworn deposition his first wife Ivana accused him of rape. Despite this, he’s seemingly and disturbingly untouchable in the face of such allegations.
The common Trump voter is white, male, not college educated, and feel that they are being marginalised. They make Frei’s job easy as they don’t need to be asked twice to speak their mind. Worryingly, Frei tells us that the last time he saw voters so enthusiastic was for Obama in 2008. Trump is vulnerable as a Republican candidate as he doesn’t have any Christian values to speak of, but he’s been endorsed by Sarah Palin who is loved by the evangelicals. However, there is an issue with poorer people not voting, if you’re a Trump voter who doesn’t drive I wonder whether Donald will spend some of his billions on cabs.
The Mad World of Donald Trump had substance and Matt Frei was more than qualified for the job, as the former Washington correspondent for the BBC. Donald Trump is undeniably a gift to TV critics but Frei showed us the soberingly dark side beneath the Trump caricature. I know that if his big orange hands are ever hanging over the nuclear football, I will be joining Alex Salmond in the last place radioactivity reaches – Antarctica.