Somewhere along a star-spangled road we lost sight of Donald J. Trump's hands.
The damning thing is they were always there — waving, touching, groping, grabbing. But we didn't notice.
When Trump announced his bid for the White House on June 16, 2015, we paid little attention to the many ways those hands would rise and fall as he spoke. As he began the first of many promises to “Make America Great Again,” the real estate mogul made 29 references to the word "build," seven to "manufacturing,” and four references to his Mexican border "wall.”
The signs were clear: Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFormer New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver dead at 77 Biden, Democrats losing ground with independent and suburban voters: poll Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law MORE, America’s toucher, was setting the stage for the power of his construction-site experienced hands. And what he did and could do with them has intimately shaped the 2016 presidential race.
The hands of Trump have certainly played a darkly physical role in his campaign. As Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPoll: Trump leads 2024 Republican field with DeSantis in distant second The politics of 'mind control' No Hillary — the 'Third Way' is the wrong way MORE reiterated in the third presidential debate, they have not only mocked the disability of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, but also delighted in Trump’s suggestion of punching a protester at a February rally in Las Vegas.
They have played into a toxic display of masculinity and virility between Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPut partisan politics aside — The Child Tax Credit must be renewed immediately These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Lawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine MORE (R-FL) and Trump over their size — which Trump has repeatedly and aggressively defended — and raised up proto-fascistic symbolism amongst his supporters in Orlando.
Worse still, they have sunken to the lowest depths of depravity through the tapes and claims of his sexual assault against women. It is little wonder why Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter had already conferred the ignoble title of “short-fingered vulgarian” on Trump over 25 years ago.
But the physical crosses over into the metaphysical, and this is where Trump’s hands underscore the successes and ultimate failure of his campaign.
Because ultimately Trump’s campaign is tactile — a blind gnawing at the future from one moment to the next as he flips policy positions, refashions fact and history, and eschews careful vision. This is nowhere clearer than his (lack of) foreign policy on issues such as combatting ISIS, as well as the shaky economics behind his plans to manage the national budget and grow GDP.
Instead, Trump’s world celebrates basic opportunism where foresight, consistency, and ideological integrity are incidental.
To loyalists it is Trump’s hands that make, build, act, and do. This comfort overrides his many missteps and insulates him from even legitimate attack. As the "builder" of a multi-billion dollar real estate empire he is the industrious model to white, blue-collar workers whose own hands must ironically dig where he points.
Moreover, his embodiment of property and territory provides security for those who fear a America’s urban centers encroaching on its relatively isolated hinterland — a social conflict reminiscent of the Roaring Twenties.
We're hearing some BIG LEAGUE LIES about some TINY HANDS pic.twitter.com/FFmeZkRLb0— Trump Tiny Hands PAC (@TrumpHandsPAC) October 21, 2016
But most of all Trump indulges his supporters the seductive pull of living in the past and present — a visceral experience where there is “nothing to lose” and everything to gain. Trump’s hands are their own, clinging on to the flotsam and jetsam as the future’s lonely tide breaks change.
But as America’s toucher becomes a tentacled octopus — terrifyingly felt but unseen — more realize they cannot follow.
Those who would challenge Trump and his hands have focused on illuminating their horror. Through multiple media we have witnessed revelation upon revelation, even protest art laying the would-be emperor naked and bare for all to see.
Yet it is always by his own hand that Donald Trump ultimately undoes himself as he grows increasingly heavy-handed — attacking minorities, women, and veterans; threatening to imprison his contender; and attacking the integrity of the electoral system.
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And so he has spiraled into the cold, dark place from which even touch may not deliver him.
Spurned, America’s toucher is running out of things and people to touch.
Come Nov. 8, Americans will cast their votes. If things remain on course then Donald Trump (and his hands) will lose to Hillary Clinton’s vision. But even as that happens, we must not lose sight of the supporters left behind or the tactical politicians in Trump’s shadow with their thinly veiled ambitions for 2020.
Implicitly referencing the many-headed Hydra, former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe warned, “It is not enough to simply beat Trump. He must be destroyed thoroughly. His kind must not rise again”.
Bhorat is a political commentator, media and entertainment junkie, and technology futurist residing in Santa Monica, USA. He was one of the recipients of the Rhodes Scholarship for 2012. He can be found on Twitter @bhoraticle.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.