I don’t know if Donald Trump is the solution to this country’s problems, or if he’ll even win his party’s nomination, but whether he is the solution or isn’t, wins the nomination or doesn’t, neither is my point, anyway. At this moment in time, Trump’s unexpected success is revealing something about the electorate, and trying to figure out what that is has been keeping political pundits busy. It has certainly helped that Trump entered the race with a high profile, and the media’s attention to him has only increased that attention exponentially. Still, the media only took real notice of Trump when his poll numbers surprised everyone. Personally, I suspect there’s more to his early lead than what can be attributed to press coverage, and furthermore, I think it says more about us than it does about him or the power of the press.
There is something about Trump or his policies that is evidently resonating with enough people to have them flocking to his appearances and leading the Republican field at 35%. His apparent popularity could be a symptom of something else percolating out there, and whether we like him or not, the fact that he’s gained any kind of traction at all is, I think, a good sign for dog fanciers (and it’s not just because Trump has been an ardent supporter of purebred dogs and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show).
Stay with me on this.
Trump’s mantle as the “anti-political correctness candidate” is, I think, appealing to an awful lot of people, average folks who’ve grown weary of having to parse their speech for fear of antagonizing someone in the ever-expanding mine field of individuals easily offended, insulted, snubbed, slighted, marginalized, affronted or upset by how they’ve interpreted what someone said, rather than concentrate on what the speaker may have meant or actually said. Could it be that because someone in the political landscape is speaking his mind with all the subtlety of a ball peen hammer between the eyes, an electorate that wishes every politician would do the same is receptive to this “no holds barred” manner of campaigning? This isn’t to suggest that Trump hasn’t said outrageous things. Absolutely, he has. Trump has launched more than a few verbal stink bombs over the years, and they’ve angered most of the basic “food groups” of humanity. But guess what? He gets to do that in a country that cherishes free speech. Guess what else: It’s possible that plain speaking is what has lead to his high poll numbers.
Let’s put this in terms more relevant to dog fanciers. Putting aside the bad hair and “wide mouth frog disease” associated with Trump, wouldn’t it be lovely to have someone with the hutzpah and profile of a Donald Trump to speak up on behalf of purebred dog owners, breeders, and the sport itself, someone who would point out the hypocrisy of retail rescue, tell it like it is about “overpopulation, “and reveal the real agenda of animal rights groups?
Let’s be honest. “Presidential material” is not what most people probably thought of when Trump first entered the race, and most people don’t change their minds on a whim. They change their minds when they hear information they haven’t heard before. They change their minds when someone says out loud what they’ve been thinking to themselves for a while.
Please understand that I’m not endorsing or criticizing the substance of what Trump has been saying. What I am doing here is speculating out loud as to why Trump is doing as well as he is, at least so far. If blunt rhetoric is that reason, I think I “get it.”
How much would it change the national dialogue about responsible dog ownership if we had someone like Trump pulling back the curtain and exposing the staggering numbers of dogs being imported in the US to fill shelter demand, or blasting PETA for killing over 80% of pets it takes in, or exposing the fact that much of the charitable donations taken in by the Humane Society of the United States actually goes to lobbyists, not dogs, or even tackling an item on my own personal wish list: Finding proof that shelters and rescues have gotten into the breeding business to create “rescue dogs” for their empty cages.
I ‘get’ the appeal of someone who says, “to hell with political correctness.” Dog fanciers have been victimized by political correctness as much as anyone, if not more. These days, if you tell the wrong person that you bought your dog from a breeder, or worse, that you are a breeder, you’re lucky if all you get is a dirty look and cold shoulder. In a worst-case scenario, you could find animal control on your doorstep, have your dogs confiscated, be stalked on social media, or even be refused your own lost dog by a vigilante rescue group. Every one of the aforementioned, by the way, has happened to a law abiding, responsible breeder.
As I see it, Trump has tapped into a national frustration by verbalizing what many voters have been feeling; if it’s electorate anger that is fueling Trump’s campaign because people who are supposed to stand up for the “every man,” don’t, I “get it.” Trump said in a fiery takedown of politicians, “They’re all talk, they’re no action.” Haven’t some of us felt that way when a club officer, legislator, animal control officer, or AKC rep dismissed our suggestions or grievances?
I don’t know if Trump will be good for us in the long run, but for now, candidates of both political parties have to acknowledge, if not address, issues he has brought up. Voters will be quick to recognize lip service versus reasonable solutions versus wishful thinking, and if Trump forces his opponents to respond in a way that matches his own undiluted opinions, I just don’t see a downside to it.
I have no idea how the nominations and elections will turn out. Like many of us at this stage of the game, I’m a causal observer who’s not yet invested in any of the candidates. If Trump’s campaign “craters” long before the election (as some believe it will), I think he’ll still have played an important role by having given voters a taste of what unfiltered (read: ballsy) rhetoric looks like. At times, “Trump unleashed” has made me wince, cringe and roll my eyes, but as someone who’s had her fill of the “holier than thou” attitude leveled by passive-aggressive, “adopt-don’t-shop” rescue zealots, I think I prefer the arrow I see coming at me rather than the ones embedded in my back by someone convinced of their superior sensitivity because they rescued their dog and I didn’t.
Would Trump be faring as well if he sanded down some of his hard edges? I don’t know, but it occurs to me that for the last 15-20 years, most responsible dog fanciers have stayed quiet, minded their own business, done what they thought was right for their dogs, and quietly stayed out of the fray by figuring that as long as they played nice, nothing bad could happen to them.
How has that worked out for us?