Donald Trump, Where He Is Least Expected

A hybrid between Marine Le Pen and Bernard Tapie, the candidate for the U.S. presidential election remains at the top of the polls in the Republican camp.

Imagine that by a trick of synthetic biology one manages to combine Marine Le Pen and Bernard Tapie. And that, by a trick of genetic genius or augmented reality, one enhances their most salient character traits. One would approach, perhaps, a being made of flesh, bone and neurons: Donald Trump — an unthinkable figure in our gentle France, and one that no American commentator, until just recently, thought could become a serious candidate for the 2016 presidential election. But the animal remains obstinately at the top of the polls in the Republican camp, far ahead of Jeb Bush.

The points in common with Marine Le Pen’s strategy are blatant. Both of them ride on disaffection, and even popular rage, with regard to traditional politicians and the senior administration, on anxiety in the face of national decline and decline of the white race, on the designation of the same scapegoats: immigrants, foreign countries who steal our jobs, the ideology of economic liberalism, kleptocracy of the affluent who infiltrate the inner workings of power, and the champions of the politically correct, who have abandoned references to Christian moral values.

Donald Trump exaggerates even further than Marine Le Pen. Mexico floods us with its criminals and rapists, so we must build an impermeable wall between the two countries, paid for by the Mexicans. We must expel the 11 million or so illegal immigrants on American soil and deny citizenship to their children (a right guaranteed since 1868). We must prohibit businesses from outsourcing jobs abroad and impose tariffs of 25 percent on all Chinese products. In accordance with the playbook for the perfect demagogue, Trump also announced his intention to limit the top bracket of income tax to 15 percent and do away with the fiscal privileges from which financiers — who line their pockets — benefit.

Like Marine Le Pen, Donald Trump denies being racist, but in 1989, when five black and Latino teenagers were arrested for the rape of a white woman in Central Park, he paid for full-page ads in the New York papers to demand their execution (they were found innocent).

Like Tapie, Trump is a businessman who succeeded — even though he, like Tapie, failed a lot — and he is a swashbuckler, a creature of the media, with an outspokenness as vulgar as it is effective. But in the genre, he is a cut above the rest. His fortune is somewhere between $3 and $4 billion. He is a notorious hustler and a seasoned professional on TV shows. He made $200 million by playing himself on a reality TV show for 14 consecutive seasons. In August, during the first televised debate between Republican candidates, he broke all the records, without holding back from insulting the moderator.

That is another reason for his popularity, including among women. He gives the feeling of saying what he thinks, when he wants to, even if he is aware that he is shocking. During that debate, accused of having given money to Hillary Clinton, he replied: “I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me.” But a dimension breaks through, there, that is rarely emphasized. Donald Trump is a very intelligent man, who does not hesitate to also take positions that are the polar opposite of what one would expect of him. He had opposed the military intervention in Iraq, defended contraception programs, declared that Bill Clinton was the best of the last four presidents and that the economy works better when Democrats are in power. He purports to vilify “Obamacare,” but in a 2000 book, he had defended the idea of a third-party payer universal health protection system.

He weaves his web as an artist. In another book, published in 1987, he wrote, “I play to people’s fantasies. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.” Let’s not underestimate Donald Trump.

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