In the 35 years I’ve known New York, The Donald has never been far away. I recall being aware of his noisy presence right back to the early 80s years before he got into steaks, wine and politics. It is the city where he made his name and his fortune. His grandfather arrived in NYC from Germany in 1885 and stayed for six years before heading out West to strike gold running a guesthouse come brothel. The Donald was born in Queens and followed his father into real estate. If he could make it there, he could make it anywhere. Or something like that.
Although he’s strayed onto the national scene it’s his backyard. But the city displays little enthusiasm for its prodigal son. Both its major newspapers - the New York Times on the left and the Wall St Journal on the right despise him and are cross that their displeasure has done little to halt his advance. There is little their derision has done to halt his appeal to the disenfranchised deeply pissed off white, blue collar workers from great swathes of the Mid West and even South. Registered Republicans may well plump for Trump in New York but Hillary Clinton leads him 57-34 in the Empire State, according to a poll last week.
On Saturday I took a walk the whole length of Manhattan down Broadway from right up on 220th Street just below the Bronx to the Staten Island ferry at the bottom. My feet ached a lot by the end. I detected very little Trump enthusiasm en route especially in the deeply Dominican/Ecuadorian areas like Washington Heights, once Crack Central during the 80s. It is now recovering and slowly gentrifying, whatever Trump thinks about the inevitable link between drugs and Latinos. After hours of trudging South I went past the Donald’s black and gold Trump Tower, always tawdrily Playboy in its taste, now looking a bit tired.
We in Europe can all have a jolly good snigger at Trump’s vulgarity. He makes us feel snootily superior. But the truth is we’ve been here ourselves before with Silvio Berlusconi. The pair have an awful lot in common: a successful history in business, boundless, swaggering self-confidence and pots of money to buy their way into power.
You don’t get many business people who make it to the top in politics. One would like to think we’d benefit if a few more did. But these two give business a pretty bad name. Trump is a loud-mouthed bully who used TV very skilfully in his advance. They both say they think Vladimir Putin is a great guy. They both despise the political establishment which they write off as worn-out, corrupt and letting down the common man. They are straight-talking anti-politician business guys who know how the real world works.
And there is more. Nothing appears ever to stick to either of them. However grim and beyond the pale their behaviour - the Italian consorting with teenage prostitutes, the American boasting about the size of his manhood and expressing a desire to punch his opponents whom he describes as snakes.
To celebrate finishing the 15 mile hike I took the Staten Island ferry past both the statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The latter was where migrants to the United States were held on arrival. Twelve million passed through before it shut in 1954. One assumes The Donald would not have opened it in the first place and kept his own grandfather out behind a sea wall which he would have paid for himself.
It’s all rather alarming. As the NYT columnist Thomas L Friedman writes: ‘Trump’s meteoric rise is lesson No 1 on leadership: Most voters do not listen through their ears. They listen through their stomachs. If a leader can connect with them on a gut level, their response is: "Don’t bother me with the details. I trust your instincts."’ The problem currently is that technocratic, detail-heavy Hillary Clinton appears to be speaking to few guts.