The rise of P.T. Trump

The legendary huckster of the 1800s, P.T. Barnum once hired a man to walk around with an armload of bricks, stopping now and then to mysteriously stack them on street corners.

Today, maybe no one would notice. But back in pre-Jerry Springer times, crazy people were still interesting, so folks chased along to ask what he was up to. He refused to answer.  Each time his flock grew large enough, he would veer into Barnum’s museum with the crowd fishing out dimes to follow him, and Barnum grew steadily richer on their mindless curiosity.

Like him or hate him, Donald Trump is the heir apparent to Barnum’s peculiar brand of genius. This week he hijacked the 2012 presidential race, with a Barnum-like series of claims, assertions and indignant retorts. And, mind you, he did all this without even declaring his candidacy.

Many serious political analysts, at least privately, dismiss Trump as a clown. President Obama seemed to have him in mind when he referred to the so-called “Birther Movement” as a parade of “sideshows and carnival barkers.” And yet, in releasing copies of his original long-form birth certificate after all these months, the president also gave Trump an easy victory. “I got him to do something that nobody else could get him to do, and I’ve been given great credit for that!” Trump trumpeted.

Maybe Trump will be what the punditocracy expects — a comedic juggler to whip up the voters before the real circus stars appear. But he has already displayed that powerful populist skill of reducing complex policy arguments to a “Why can’t they see how simple this is?” approach. The angrier voters are with Washington, the more such polemics resonate.

Barnum, like Trump, was a New York businessman with a big mouth, bad hair and no shame. If a competing showman came up with an unbeatable attraction, Barnum would copy it and proclaim the original a fraud.

The only thing he seemed to fear was losing his grip on the American imagination because he knew then what Trump knows now: Success begins by just getting people to tag along, saying “I wonder where that guy is going?”

–CNN’s Tom Foreman is a regular on “AC360°”/www.ac360.com and “The Situation Room.”

Metro does not endorse the opinions of the author, or any opinions expressed on its pages. Opposing viewpoints are welcome. Send 300-word submissions to letters@metro.us.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Sprint and T-Mobile offer further price discounts

Sprint unveiled a plan on Thursday that gives subscribers access to unlimited data for $60 a month, the industry's cheapest unlimited data offering.

National

Hundreds pay it forward at Florida Starbucks in…

The spontaneous chain of kindness continued for about 11 hours, totaling 457 transactions by the time it ended.

National

Weather system east of Caribbean could turn into…

An area of low pressure located east of the Caribbean Sea has a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm in the next 48 hours, U.S. forecasters…

National

U.S. hospital to discharge doctor treated with experimental…

An American doctor who contracted Ebola treating victims of the deadly virus in Liberia has recovered and will be discharged on Thursday by the Atlanta hospital that treated him with…

Movies

Review: 'When the Game Stands Tall' is both…

The high school football saga "When the Game Stands Tall" fumbles around for a focus while Jim Caviezel offers the most low-key coach in history.

Movies

Girlfriend in a coma: Chloe Grace Moretz

Chloe Grace Moretz is the best cheerleader "If I Stay" could ask for. As the star of the film adaptation of the successful YA novel…

The Word

The Word: Summer lovin' for Zac Efron and…

Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance between…

The Word

The Word: The Zac Efron-Michelle Rodriguez summer fling…

  Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance…

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Jets storylines to watch

Metro looks at three Jets storylines to watch as they play the Giants Friday.

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Tech

Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…