When Donald John Trump announced his candidacy for the 2016 presidential election at the Trump Tower to an audience of about a thousand supporters on a blustery New York morning on June 16, 2015, no one could’ve anticipated the impact that he would have on this election cycle. No one (aside from Ann Coulter) could’ve even envisioned Mr. Trump winning the GOP presidential nomination. Unbeknownst to anyone at the time – even Mr. Trump himself -, there was a leadership void within the Republican Party that was crying out to be filled.
The billionaire’s no-nonsense style, outsider status, business savvy and keen political instincts drew in the support of blocks of politically frustrated middle class conservatives, tea partiers and Ron Paul’s orphaned paleolibertarians, who were all looking for a champion to lead them and give their struggle a voice. In the following months, these disparate groups of voters organically coalesced into a powerful coalition which has propelled Mr. Trump’s candidacy from the fringes of the race to the summit of the Republican nomination leaderboard with surprising, albeit controversial, ease.
And to think, the teetotaler wasn’t even certain about running as late early 2015. There were real fears that similar to the general elections of 1988, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012, Mr. Trump would not make a bid for the nomination despite giving indications that he might.
His giddying ascension in the polls has been met with incredulous wonder by the media and more established candidates who have long fallen to the wayside. His combative performances in the debates left his opponents tongue-tied, much to the delight of his supporters. His controversial off-the-cuff deliveries and political incorrectness are viewed proudly by his legion of followers. His war cry, Make America Great Again, has galvanized even the elderly to attend his lively rallies.
Mr. Trump’s in-your-face style has drawn a lot of flak from all corners, but only a fool would doubt that there is a method behind his apparent madness. As the former reality TV star has demonstrated repeatedly throughout his career, his audacity is always accompanied by a ferocious intelligence.
There is simply no denying that Mr. Trump has changed the face of American politics forever. And the prospect of a businessman being elected to the White House has rekindled century-old memories of the Roaring Twenties when entrepreneurs such as Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover occupied the Oval Office.
Mr. Trump’s nationalist populist brand of politics captured the imagination of the nation, and powered his victory in the Republican primaries. However, will the charismatic real estate tycoon be able to use an identical approach in his White House run, or will he pivot to the center and reign in his explosive personality? Will he be able to unite the party’s fractured base and win over the agitated social conservatives? Will Miley Cyrus move out of the country if Mr. Trump is elected?
Benjamin Weigel was born and raised in Bakersfield, California. He is a graduate of Bakersfield High School, from which he counts several notable athletes and politicians as fellow alumni. After graduation, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps, where he served for thirteen years. He was both stationed domestically and deployed overseas numerous times, including to Ramadi, Iraq, where he saw combat. He spent two years in the Air Force Reserve following his time in the Marines, then chose to end his military career entirely due to injuries sustained during his service. He is presently pursuing a bachelors' degree while working full time as a bus driver.
As a candidate, Weigel comes down slightly right of center, but he is not firmly bound to any particular ideology. He is extremely pro-military, arguing that the United States cannot afford to reduce its armed forces in light of threats from terrorists and hostile nations, and he criticizes elected leaders for comprising, in their majority, people who have never served. He also values the role which veterans play in civilian industry and praises efforts such as the Wounded Warrior project, while calling for further initiatives and denouncing the ignorance of businesses who do not understand what former military people have to offer. He calls for a balanced budget, saying this can be easily achieved and blaming the deficit on the government's improper allocation of existing tax revenues. While he considers illegal immigration to be a border security issue, he opposes existing proposals such as the construction of border walls, and he does not support amnesty.
Weigel advocates for strong civilian oversight of law enforcement agencies, as a check against incidents of police brutality and racism. He specifically rejects internal and intra-agency investigations, as he says that law enforcement share a common culture of mutual protection, and thus their efforts to police themselves are not reliable.
Running as an Independent, Weigel avoids taking strong positions on controversial issues, but where he does commit, he is more right-leaning than not – particularly in his support of the military. Still, it is the centrist who will most agree with his platform, with those strongly right or left likely feeling the depth of his positions to be lacking.