The Republican primaries are a long ways away and a good reminder of this is that Donald Trump is leading in some polls. Trump has a special place in the primaries and it is, as far as I can tell, as a gadfly, a provocateur, someone whose raison d’etre is to provoke others. Of course, he is trying to enhance the visibility of his brand, that is his name, and win or lose in the primaries, it is still a winning position for him. It may be costing him business in some ways now, but in the long run, he knows that his name recognition is worth a fortune.
As in Greek tragedies, although more nuanced, Shakespeare always has a provocateur in his dramas, someone who could stir the protagonists into action. Whether they were mendacious or truth tellers, drunks or jesters, what they said often dictated a response of some form or another. In “Othello”, Iago’s innuendos and whispers are too much for the somewhat simple minded Othello. Falstaff, on the other hand, comes across as a buffoon, drunk and whoremaster whose words often appear foolish, but which often are truthful and on point.
Trump’s bloviations are largely aimed at the far right of the Republican Party. The Republicans, who empowered the far right in the election of Ronald Reagan, are reaping the results of that strategy today. George Bush was elected on it, but few Republicans seem capable of finding the same timbre that their predecessors took. It is a delicate balance, one that requires not a little mendacity, much like all political posturing, but in this case, the litmus test is social issues, and that will always be a sore spot as the evangelicals of the far right push for a no-compromise agenda.
The question remains as to just where Donald Trump fits into this puzzle. Is he helping or hindering the Republicans? I would say that he is helping. He is giving cover to many candidates at this point and he is also making it clear that the far right issues, such as immigration, need careful consideration, not a sound bite. The candidates that have the most chance of victory should be using their cover and looking for the correct timbre that can embody their message and appeal to the big tent of Republicans. Donald Trump should be making that clear to everyone. What’s a buffoon for, after all?