Over the past few days, some people have been surprised that I’ve written several critical pieces on the visit of President Donald Trump to Harrisburg, as he marked his 100th day in office.
TheBurg’s the nice guy on the block, right?
Actually, we’ve weighed in on politics and government from the very beginning and, as you may know, there’s often nothing more fraught than local politics. In my magazine column this month, I mention that, every election cycle, I get into “trouble,” as I begin to step on toes with my annoying opinions. And, as soon as Trump announced his visit to Harrisburg, deeming it a “campaign” stop, it became a local political story, as well.
Over the past few days, I’ve written two main pieces for TheBurg’s website about the Trump visit. They’re quite different, written for different reasons.
In the first, I suggested that Trump’s people did not choose wisely when deciding to come to Harrisburg to mark his Day 100. I found it odd that, seeking affirmation, he would visit a deep-blue city in an increasingly blue region.
I wrote that piece for two main reasons. First, I had been asked all week why I thought Trump selected Harrisburg, so decided to share my belief that his people likely didn’t understand where they were going—that Harrisburg seemed like a conveniently situated place in a state that had swung for Trump–and that was as far as their thinking went. But I also wanted the national media not to make the same mistake—to think that Harrisburg is the heart of Trump country, because it’s not. (For a totally different opinion on this, click here.)
And, in fact, yesterday, I exchanged a couple of emails with Marc Fisher, a Washington Post senior editor, about his story in the Sunday Post, which touched on exactly this issue. His response to me was:
“I had looked into the vote numbers and sought in the story not to make any sweeping statements about Harrisburg. But inevitably the name of the locale gets conflated to some degree with the larger region from which the crowd travels. I think the individual stories of Trump fans within my article demonstrate that the supporters came from many rural and suburban areas, not mainly from Harrisburg.”
Secondly, I wrote a satirical piece about Trump’s address. This was unplanned, but I wrote it spur-of-the-moment (maybe you can tell) after hearing his speech, which I found to be hateful, divisive and self-obsessed, far beneath the standards that we should expect of our president. Moreover, I was taken aback by the blind loyalty of some of his supporters, despite his constantly shifting logic, statements and policies.
I’ll be honest—I’m no Donald Trump fan, never have been. I grew up in the 1970s just outside of New York City, so have read and heard about him all my life—from his playboy/Roy Cohn/Studio 54 years to his many mistresses and marriages; from his high-wire builder and casino mogul days to his numerous bankruptcies; from his lurid chats with Howard Stern to his embarrassing appearance at a Comedy Central roast; from the books he didn’t actually write to the university he didn’t actually run; from his shameless branding to his reality show persona; from his sudden switch from mildly liberal, pro-choice plutocrat to spitting-mad conservative plutocrat. For 40 years, I’ve had a seat to the Donald Trump show and have enjoyed almost none of it.
When Trump declared for president—famously descending that golden escalator at Trump Tower—I thought to myself, “Another publicity stunt.” And, to this day, I believe that’s what it was supposed to be, another way for Donald Trump to direct the spotlight on Donald Trump. To attract attention in a large field of Republicans, he took the lowest road possible, demonizing entire groups of people while making wild promises (e.g. bringing back coal jobs, forcing Mexico to pay for the wall) he’ll never be able to keep. It was all strategy without sincerity, but it worked, which may be good for Trump (or maybe not), but, I believe, is terrible for the country.
In any case, Trump has now left the building (and the city). So, I’ll return to the tamer (not really) world of Harrisburg politics, where, after a rather quiet campaign, the mayoral candidates have begun swinging at one another in the manner to which we’re accustomed. I’ll have more on that later.
Author: Lawrance Binda