At a town hall style meeting in New Hampshire last Wednesday, Jeb Bush spoke about the importance of raising education standards and providing a path to legal status for immigrants in an attempt to win support from an important primary state. Meanwhile, a few miles down the road, Donald Trump greeted hundreds of supporters while rock music blared. He then proceeded to poke fun at his rival’s inferior turnout while repeating his stance on illegal immigration that includes a wall spanning the entire Mexican-American border, paid for by Mexico.
And this is not the only difference between the 2 top candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. One comes from a family of presidents and politicians; the other is seen as the anti-politician, the solution for those who say government should be run like a business. One presents himself as a reasonable voice seeking to gain support from every direction; the other is a divisive rock star who is unafraid to make enemies if it makes a splash. The mounting rivalry between Bush and Trump sheds light on the conflicting opinions of GOP supporters.
Since the very earliest stages of the presidential race, speculation surrounding Bush’s possible campaign consumed the attention of the media and voters alike. With massive funding and a conservative agenda, he seemed like the clear frontrunner. Yet Trump’s magnetic words gave a voice to the frustration many have with politics today, leading some to forsake more traditional ideas of the presidency in favor of a celebrity who casts aside political correctness and refuses to play by the rules.
It is easy to understand why Trump’s message is so attractive. Many voters see his voice as one that will rise above a gridlocked Congress and restore the stature of America as a leading nation. His refusal to back down or hide behind excuses when criticized by the media commands respect even from his opponents. The question is whether Trump’s grandiloquence will be enough to sustain his momentum until the election.
While Trump certainly is not lacking in harsh words for those he deems responsible for the problems of government, many are still waiting for him to explain where he stands on several issues. When asked about policy he often gives vague answers, assuring the public that when he does have a real answer, it will be a good one. Unsurprisingly, this is not enough to satisfy those still shopping for a candidate and many voters are beginning to wonder if he is any more than big talk.
Nevertheless, other candidates have taken notice and they too are trying to find a balance between policy and a healthy dose of pluck and moxie. Wednesday’s New Hampshire meeting gave Bush the opportunity to present himself as the more reasonable option with a more positive message, sans the rock music. But Bush is not the only one attempting to form a strategy for how to deal with Trump. The Fox News Republican debate showcased a circus of politicians desperately vying for the spotlight, from Rand Paul and Chris Christie’s heated exchange over privacy rights to Scott Walker’s hardline pro-life position.
One fact everyone can agree on is that Trump is having a shocking impact on the Republican Party and politics as a whole. And there is value to what he says. In a society that constantly cowers behind hashtags and proclaims tolerance as the highest virtue, Trump represents an old-fashioned voice reinvented for the modern world. Americans have always been naturally drawn to the voice that claims it can reestablish greatness throughout the nation. Perhaps, however, this voice belongs in the media, not the Oval Office.