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Donald Trump's campaign mobilizing anger, hatred against status quo

By Harlan Ullman, Arnaud de Borchgrave Distinguished Columnist
Donald Trump's campaign mobilizing anger, hatred against status quo
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the 98th American Legion national convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Thursday. Photo by Ernest Coleman/UPI | License Photo

The visit of Donald Trump to Mexico and his extraordinarily clumsy speech on immigration may have reinforced his base. But if elected, he has set in place a non-declared war with Mexico.

This is not 1846 and the Mexican-American War we won. Nor is there a single chance in the world that Mexico would pay for this great wall Trump would build to seal the border with the south. America does have thousands of miles of sea coasts, as well as a longer border with Canada. What would Trump do with those?

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But the larger issue is what makes Donnie run? Why, despite all the nonsensical and often contradictory comments he makes, is Trump still competitive in the presidential sweepstakes? To many journalists, as well as outside observers, this question begs a good answer. Defeating 16 presidential aspirants in the primary, several of whom were far more qualified, with bluster, blather and insults was a remarkable feat. Now, in most polls, the gap is closing with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

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The answer is strikingly obvious, yet hidden in plain sight. Two of the most powerful human emotions are love and hate. Neither candidate is winning in the love category. The unfavorability ratings of both are at Guinness Book of Records levels.

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Clinton is disliked and in some cases hated, seen as untrustworthy, morally conflicted with competing interests and incapable of telling the truth. As bad, she is a Clinton and will never eradicate that stain and the memories of Bill. Trump, however, is the beneficiary of this hatred.

The reason why Trump so far is making this a race far closer than it should be is clear. Perhaps a majority and surely a large plurality of Americans are fearful and worried about the future for themselves, their children and grandchildren. The middle and lower classes are beset with the rising costs of healthcare, schooling, living and virtually every other economic category. Wages are not keeping pace. Working two jobs often is not enough to pay the bills.

Meanwhile, the 1 percent is getting richer. Hedge fund managers, Wall Street bankers, high technology CEOs and people with large stock portfolios are making tens, hundreds and even thousands of millions of dollars a year. To many, the system is rigged. And while the Clinton Foundation may not have broken a single law or broached any ethical standards, it is widely seen as a sign of this corruption.

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Fear translates into anger. This is as true on the battlefield as it is in kitchen tables across the nation. Anecdotally, millions of Americans are angered with the failure of government to govern. One example: Zika is on the march and Congress refuses to appropriate money to contain it. When the president is forced to rely on executive orders to bypass congressional gridlock, he is obviously assuming dictatorial and unconstitutional powers.

The success of Trump's entire campaign will be based on mobilizing this anger, hostility and in some cases hatred against the status quo and use it to overwhelm Clinton, the do-nothing-differently candidate. Hence, and this is the key point, IT MAKES NO DIFFERENCE WHAT TRUMP SAYS. Many Americans are neither listening to nor interested in the messages that are often incoherent and always contradictory. Flip-flopping does not adequately describe the quicksilver-like quality of what Trump says.

Trump supporters only care about the messenger. And to win, the messenger must harshen his attacks against "Lyin' Hillary;" question her physical and mental health and stamina; challenge the Clinton Foundation as the reincarnation of Tammany Hall corrupt Democratic politics of the late 19th century; and demand a special prosecutor for investigating the email scandal to send Hillary to jail.

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The ensuing six weeks to the election will no doubt see the nastiest political campaign since campaigns were recorded. The Willy Horton ad used against Gov. Michael Dukakis and the Lyndon Johnson "daisy" commercial ending with a mushroom cloud implying Sen. Barry Goldwater would start a nuclear war will be mild by comparison. Energizing and intensifying hatred will be the only means by which Trump can sufficiently tar Clinton to eek out a victory in November.

What can the Clinton campaign do? In some ways, she has a George H.W. Bush problem in reverse. How could a president with a 90 percent approval rating in late 1991 lose to a "womanizing, draft-dodging, pot smoking" opponent? Similarly, how can a candidate with Clinton's resume lose to totally flawed, likely incompetent, loud-mouthed buffoon with absolutely no experience in government?

In the tension between love and hate, when one of those emotions is at best tepid, the outcome is certain. In this case, tragically, hate can win out. Fear, manifested as anger, is powerful. Trump has tapped into this vein of seeming political electoral gold. But knowledgeable people will realize that vein will turn out to be fool's gold. And the nation will have to wait until 2020 until we get two candidates who deserve to be president by virtue of their character and disposition; experience and judgment.

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Harlan Ullman is UPI's Arnaud de Borchgrave Distinguished Columnist and serves as senior adviser for Supreme Allied Commander Europe, the Atlantic Council and Business Executives for National Security and chairs two private companies. His last book is "A Handful of Bullets: How the Murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand Still Menaces the Peace." His next book, due out next year, is "Anatomy of Failure: Why America Loses Wars It Starts."

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