The VICE Guide to the 2016 Election

Explaining Donald Trump to the Rest of the World

We asked VICE's global editors for their most pressing questions about the reality TV real-estate mogul and current Republican presidential frontrunner.

by Kevin Lincoln
Aug 17 2015, 5:32pm

Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Donald Trump is a self-obsessed lunatic billionaire with a big unhinged mouth and hair that was airdropped onto his head. In other words, he's the most American thing to happen since McDonald's started serving apple pies in those little rectangular boxes. Understandably, the rest of the world has some questions about who the hell Donald Trump is, why he's running for president, and what the fuck is wrong with us for letting it all happen.

So, in the spirit of international cooperation, we asked 10 of VICE's global editors to send us their most pressing questions about the phenomenon that is Trump 2016. Below is our attempt at answering them.

More from VICE on Donald Trump:
The Real Reason Why Donald Trump Will Never Be President
Wait, What Would Happen If Donald Trump Actually Became President?
The Noisey Editorial Board Is Proud to Endorse Donald Trump for President
How Donald Trump Explains America

GERMANY: What's up with his hair?
Great question! When he was younger, the Donald —a nickname given to him by his former wife Ivana, accidentally, during a newspaper interview (like, she genuinely just called him "the Donald")—was widely regarded as handsome: tall, blond, and strong-featured, filling a decade of tabloid covers with his marriages to leggy blonds.

But as he got older, Trump's hair got... kind of weird. The real-estate mogul has been asked about his hair over the years, and he mostly dodges the question. On Twitter, he wrote, "As everybody knows, but the haters & losers refuse to acknowledge, I do not wear a 'wig.' My hair may not be perfect but it's mine."

In an interview with Playboy, Trump explained his daily hair routine: "I get up, take a shower, and wash my hair. Then I read the newspapers and watch the news on television, and slowly the hair dries. It takes about an hour. I don't use a blow-dryer. Once it's dry I comb it. Once I have it the way I like it—even though nobody else likes it—I spray it, and it's good for the day."

Donald Trump's hair is a good metaphor for Donald Trump: If he likes it, he doesn't care what anybody else thinks.

CANADA: Is he a rich version of Rob Ford?
Now, Canada: let's not get carried away. You guys elected Rob Ford. Like, you put him in public office. Trump isn't actually a politician. He's a reality television star, and his politics are more like performance art. Also, Trump is an American cultural icon based on the fact that he is rich—so he can't really be just the rich version of someone else. His whole shtick is that he isn't a regular guy: He's a rich guy who regular guys can look up to and admire, because they understand him. Rob Ford wants everyone to think he's just some schmo who happens to be mayor. Which, honestly, is pretty accurate.

Also, Rob Ford got videotaped smoking crack.

SWEDEN: Is it true that Donald Trump is completely independent from lobbyists because he's so rich?
Also a good question. One of the main justifications given for Donald Trump's presidential campaign is that he is independently wealthy, and therefore can't be bullied and bought by the lobbyists and campaign donors pulling the levers of the Washington machine.

Trump himself made this argument during the first Republican primary debate earlier this month, distilling how the American political system is rigged. "I gave to many [politicians] before this—before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody," he told the audience. "When they call I will give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them and they are there for me."

Trump also pointed out that he has donated to most of the other GOP candidates on stage. What he seemed to be saying to Republican voters was, "Yes, the system is fucked, but would you rather have a president who is part of that, or who has been on the outside and knows how the system can be gamed?"

Still, there are a couple of problems with Trump's wealth insofar as it affects his status as a politician. The first is that much of Trump's money is tied up in assets, rather than being liquid, and the money that is liquid he intends to spend on his campaign. It's also unclear how rich he actually is, though he's almost certainly not as rich as he claims to be.

And finally, Trump has never missed an opportunity to make more money in the past. I don't want to conjecture about the likelihood that Trump will be influenced by lobbyists, but let's just say that, if he's as tied up with the mob as veteran Trump reporter Wayne Barrett claims he is, then lobbyists seem like a step up.

UNITED KINGDOM: Which demographic does he appeal to?
Perhaps the most alarming thing about Trump's presidential campaign is his massive and apparently enduring popularity among conservative voters. For weeks, Trump has been leading the Republican primary polls, and the latest average from RealClearPolitics shows him with 22 percent support from GOP voters, nearly 12 points ahead of Jeb Bush, the next runner-up.

The question, then, is who are these people? According to polls—and our own conversations with Trump supporters—they are conservative voters who are fed up with politics as usual, and like the idea of an independently successful businessman running the country instead of another jowly good ol' boy senator or governor.

There are a lot of problems with this idea — for one thing, Trump isn't a very good businessman, just the world's greatest self-promoter. But it does help illustrate why Trump has gotten so much support, despite the fact that most people who aren't Republican voters—and some who are—think he is a clown.

HOLLAND: How did he originally make his money?
Real estate. Trump comes from a New York real-estate family that made bank developing land in Queens and Brooklyn. Trump took it to the next level, breaking into the Manhattan game in the 1970s. As his company—and reputation—grew, Trump added gambling and golf courses to his portfolio, with properties in Atlantic City and Florida.

But in the new millennium, following a handful of corporate bankruptcies, Trump has became less involved in the day-to-day wheelings and dealings of the business world. Instead, he started to make much of his money off the Trump brand, licensing his gold-plated name to buildings, suits, mattresses, beauty pageants, and, of course, The Apprentice and its spin-offs.

ROMANIA: How do his politics differ from the politics of the Bush family?
The Bush boys—we're talking George H. W., the father and former president; George W., the younger brother and former president; and Jeb, the current presidential candidate—are Republican Party stalwarts, consummate Washington insiders who've been circling conservative politics for decades. The Bushes hobnob, they make friends—and they know what to say.

Trump, on the other hand, sees himself as someone outside the political establishment and has been a constant source of consternation for the GOP Establishment since he started talking about President Obama's birth certificate in 2012.

The Bushes also tend to be somewhat moderate, as far as the Republicans go, especially on issues like immigration reform and education. Trump is further to the right, sounding the alarm on the national debt and the "border crisis" with rhetoric so inflated that it's hard to take him seriously. Trump also hates the Bushes, and takes every opportunity he finds to attack Jeb, his current Bush opponent, in interviews and on social media.

Put another way, if Jeb's the class president, Trump is the wild-eyed jock who stuffs the class president in a locker.

FRANCE: To us in France, all US politicians seem like Donald Trump. What's everyone's problem with this guy specifically?
This is funny, coming from the country that produced the National Front. Jean-Marie Le Pen makes Trump look appealing. Trump is openly racist, sexist, and ultraconservative, plus loud, bizarre, and quite possibly crazy, and while there are plenty of Republican politicians who fit some of these descriptions, very few nail them all. And Trump is far more entertaining than your average right-winger: There aren't a ton of politicians who have mastered Twitter the way the Donald has. He's like a parody of what people think about Republican politicians come to life.

SPAIN: Why does he have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?
Because he's a reality television star. He's also in the WWE Hall of Fame.

MEXICO: What do America's Latinos think of him?
Suffice it to say, as a group, Latinos are not huge fans of Donald Trump, at least since he started calling undocumented immigrants rapists and got into a war of words with Univision. When the Spanish-language television network polled Latino voters nationwide, it found that 80 percent were offended by Trump. It's been so bad that there's concern Trump is setting the entire GOP back with Latino voters, a demographic the party has been actively trying to court for years.

DENMARK: Is there a chance of him winning?

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