There are many Donald Trumps.
There is, for example, the Trump on display Sunday at the Richmond County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day brunch, a gathering of Staten Islanders raucously excited to see the businessman — standing on their chairs in the back of the room at Hilton Garden Inn to catch a glimpse, shouting “they’re killing us!” (the Chinese, economically), “brilliant!” (about Trump), chanting his name and refusing to sit down.
In front of this audience, Trump spoke as he so often has about the wall that Mexico will pay for to guard our “Swiss cheese” border, bashed the Chinese who were “ripping us off” and taking our jobs and money.
Then there is the Trump who was on display last week at the glitzy New York State Republican gala dinner in Manhattan, where he outlined his real estate dealings in NYC to the party’s establishment and skipped talk of China and the wall.
And then there is the Trump who called the amNewYork / Newsday editorial board on Friday: The Republican frontrunner calmly explaining that he was planning a shift in tone from the divisive rhetoric that had gotten him, electorally, so far.
Playing to the crowd
The transcript of Trump’s on the-record conversation can be found here. During the call, he said he had been forced to adopt a “tough tone” when he began his campaign to stand out in the large field of GOP candidates.
Something incredible happened when he used that tough tone: it “resonated,” with his audience, he says.
“The crowd is just in love with the message,” about illegal immigration, he said. “Probably more so than anything else I can talk about, including Obamacare.”
At a recent rally on Long Island, he said, “They wanted me to talk about immigration and how it’s affecting them, both from a danger standpoint and from the standpoint of jobs.”
This has been the case throughout the election cycle, and it was the case on Sunday in Staten Island.
“Both of my sons are still living at home because they can’t get jobs. Everything is rigged,” said Chris Diberardina, 50, outside the event.
Pat Mongelli, 28, a supporter who nabbed a selfie with Trump just before his appearance, announcing, “Staten Island, the Italians love you,” later explained why he felt many Italian-Americans were for Trump: “Italians love to work, we work hard, we don’t get anything easy. We don’t beg. We go out, we do what we have to do. We work for a living.”
Trump would make it easier to do so, he said.
Supporters like these are certain that Trump will bring them to the promised land, because he is “blunt,” said Vadin Polishchuk, 31, a first responder. Trump was “straightforward,” in his view. “I think he believes everything he says,” said Lee Weckherlen, 46.
The first rule of politics: Pander.
In part, Trump supporters hunger for a fairly unobjectionable goal: Making America great by improving economic conditions, making life a little more certain and comfortable.
The objectionable part of Trump’s rise has been the manner in which he says he’ll achieve that goal — at the expense of “others,” such as “illegals” or Muslims. They are the implicit antagonists in Trump’s pitch.
Such divisive rhetoric has helped power his rise so far. But Trump knows that as he looks towards a general election, he’ll have to moderate his words.
“I am making somewhat of a change because I think I’ve got the word out,” he told amNewYork.
If we take him at his word, then dog-whistle comments concerning walls, Mexicans in the United States illegally, and Muslims are simply a strategy to win the presidency.
It’s hardly breaking news that candidates sway in the winds of their presumptive constituents’ wishes. But the disparate versions of Trump, visible days before the New York primary, should remind his more disaffected supporters that he is not that different from all the other flip floppers.
He’s a politician like all the rest.
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