Guest Column: Trump campaign incoherent, attention-seeking

Steffen Schmidt

Editor’s note: One of our focuses this semester is to engage students in conversations on politics to explain how political processes affect students’ lives. As part of that plan, we have asked Steffen Schmidt, a political science professor who has analyzed the actions of many politicians, to be a regular guest columnist. ______________________________________________________________

Donald Trump showed up in Mobile, Ala. this week. You’re a student. Should you care? Yes! What happens in Washington will deeply affect your personal life.

His advanced team had secured venues and kept upping the size — a hotel; 10,000 convention center; until he ended up in a very large stadium — the Ladd-Peebles Stadium, home field for the University of South Alabama Jaguars — with a significant crowd. His Boeing 757 flew over the stadium. Who else running for president has such a toy? Trump marched into the venue with white shoes, pants and red baseball cap to the tune of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.”

The crowd went nuts.

Trump had no coherent speech. In fact, it was an incoherent zigzagging journey across … whatever — but when he said “illegal immigration” the cheers went up.

“A woman in California: raped, sodomized and killed by an illegal immigrant,” Trump began his list. “A veteran.”

“Anchor Baby.”  

There was no script. There was no mind map. It was an amazing free association journey of hot button words.

“Stock market down. General Petraeus. The 14th Amendment. I was right. You can do something fast. You have 300,000 babies. You have to take care of them. These are the children born to ‘illegals.'”

Trumps list went on.

“I decided to run. I got an amazing reception,” Trump said.

Crowd cheers.

“We have a great politician here … Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions,” Trump said.

“Donald. Welcome to my hometown, Mobile, Ala.,” Sessions said.  

Wow! I was floored. Trump is getting endorsements. He’s drilling down to the grassroots to find a “local.” But was it an endorsement? Yes! Sessions is “an immigration hard-liner who has been counseling Trump and helped him develop his immigration policy paper,” according to the Washington Post.

“We’re leading in every poll. Every state, including Alabama. We’re leading in Florida.”

The crowd goes nuts again. A woman has the book “The Art of the Deal.”

“I love that book. Bring that here. Bring her here,” Trump said.

He grabbed the book and fished for a pen in his jacket. He signed the book.

“It’s my second favorite book.” “What’s my favorite book? The Bible!”

At the end of his speech it seemed to me that everyone was bored. Trump was talking mostly about himself and Trump’s business deals, stuff that no one could understand or follow.

As the event ended, I was wondering if this was his last big event. Or would angry voters, celebrity seekers, those who really hate illegal immigrants and the “silent majority” have Trump’s back no matter what?

It’s impossible to analyze. Trump is not merely a candidate; he’s a phenomenon.