Monday

October 21st, 2019

Insight

Is Donald Trump a politician? An investigation

Philip Bump

By Philip Bump The Washington Post

Published March 30, 2016

 Is Donald Trump a politician? An investigation

What is a politician?

No, I mean literally. What is a politician? Who counts? Where's the line?

It is very much in vogue to not be a politician in politics. Donald Trump has mentioned the fact that he's not a politician on more than one occasion, telling CNN last summer that he's not a politician because "politicians are all talk and no action. I'm the opposite."

(Yes, that's fair, Donald. You are all action and there's never any talking whatsoever.)

But then, sometimes, he admits that he is a politician.

On "Meet the Press" last fall he told host Chuck Todd, "I'm not a politician, I'm a business guy. I mean, of course for the last three months I'm a politician."

The same split personality affects his tweeting, too. On Thursday, he retweeted "D Elmquist" saying that "[Trump] thank G0D is not a politician, but he's one heck of a fighter who will fight for us, the people." But then in January, he also retweeted @becker_berta saying that Trump "did what no other politician ever dared to do, attacked the media for all their lies."

So which is it? Is Trump a politician, or is he not? Does he have some cake or is he eating that cake?

I am of the opinion that clearly Donald Trump is a politician. Why? Well . . . because! He's running for office! He's been winning elections! I mean, that's what politicians do! But then I realized that I didn't really have any basis for feeling that way. Like the classic line about pornography, the grotesquerie that is a politician is just something you know when you see.

But different people see different things.

I decided to get semi-scientific. I used Google's automated survey system to poll 1,000 people about what they felt constituted a politician. I gave five options and asked people to identify which ones by themselves indicated that someone was a politician:

Holding elected office

Running for elected office

Speculating about running for office

Working for an elected official, or

None of the above.

And the results? (Keep in mind that people could offer multiple answers and that the order of the options was randomized.)

The big winner? None of the above.

Now this isn't entirely scientific, and some people simply click buttons to get past the survey. (Many responses come from people who have to answer the question before they can view content on the Internet.) Even excluding the people who answered in less than 10 seconds, the results were the same; a (smaller) plurality said that "none of the above" necessarily meant that someone is a politician.

That's baffling to me. Someone running for office isn't a politician? An elected official isn't a politician? How does that work?

With no other options to turn to, I looked to that staple of fifth-grade book reports everywhere. And so: Webster's dictionary defines politician as, "a person experienced in the art or science of government; especially: one actively engaged in conducting the business of a government."

Which is not helpful.

Or maybe it is. "Politician" is in the eye of the beholder. If Donald Trump's fans behold a guy who isn't a politician, who is he to complain? He'll just sit there quietly, acting, getting things done.

Previously:
03/29/16: California could hand Donald Trump the GOP nomination --- and then doom him on election night
03/28/16: Let's uproot the pernicious, unproven claim that Ted Cruz attacked Donald Trump's wife
03/24/16: Why Donald Trump is poised to win the nomination and lose the general election, in one poll
03/23/16: The Brussels attacks and the increasing isolationism of Donald Trump
03/21/16: Will the GOP really keep trying to Stop Trump for four more months? It'll be tough
03/10/16: The unravelling of a political messiah
03/08/16: Hillary's bogus electability argument
03/07/16: Donald Trump has not brought 'millions and millions' of people to the Republican Party
03/02/16: Trump cites his $100,000-a-year golf resort as proof of his efforts on equality
02/23/16: Ted Cruz isn't running a dirty campaign, but that perception just cost a staffer his job
02/22/16: How Donald Trump won South Carolina
02/19/16: Trump says he'll win independents and New York state, but the numbers don't
02/19/16: Does Trump have a ground game? We probably still won't know after South Carolina
02/17/16: The Bush family reinvented itself to dominate politics --- which is now Jeb's problem
01/27/16: The dead people of America really don't want Hillary Clinton to be president
01/21/16: Sarah Palin's son, and the link between combat duty and veteran violence
01/18/16: The dark undercurrent for Hillary Clinton in Sunday's Dem debate
11/23/15: Just so you know: The government already has a list of Muslims in the U.S.

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles