We are in the midst of a fascinating time in the American political landscape.
Caucuses are now starting to shape the structure for the election of President Barack Obama’s successor in November, and it’s proving to be a tug-of-war between “establishment” and non-political candidates. The greatest evidence of this sea change of American politics has been the unprecedented rise and success of Donald J. Trump.
Trump has strong-armed his way to the top of the GOP polls with a strongly worded campaign highlighting the ills of American culture and promising to “Make America Great Again.”
Like him or not, it’s a rather brilliant campaign strategy; far-right voters have had to “deal with” eight years of Barack Obama, and they’ve had enough. He’s tapped into their anger without any semblance of political correctness, giving him the look of a unique candidate that can achieve more than, say, Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio.
Of course, with this lack of political correctness or concern for “appropriate” discourse comes a litany of insults, threats and ego-maniacal bloviation that alienates him from opponents but fuels his supporters and their ambitions. “He speaks his mind,” says every article that quotes a Trump supporter.
It took awhile, but Trump shifted his target to the Cubs’ ownership group, the Ricketts family, earlier this week with an aggressive yet vague threat.
I hear the Rickets family, who own the Chicago Cubs, are secretly spending $'s against me. They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2016
There’s a lot to unpack here, right away Trump’s use of the word “secretly.”
Marlene Ricketts contributed roughly $3 million toward the Our Principles political action committee — a renowned anti-Trump PAC — which was revealed by the New York Times two days before Trump’s threat. While the identity was held secret for some time, contributors almost never remain anonymous for eternity, and Marlene Ricketts had to expect this would become public sooner rather than later.
The Ricketts family are no strangers to spending on political ideology. NPR did a story on their frequent and plentiful political spending back in September 2014. Last summer, Todd Ricketts co-chaired Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s fundraising drive in what would become his failed bid for the presidency.
Indeed, the interests of the family do seem rooted in hard-line conservatism, with the exception of Laura Ricketts who seems to identify more on the other side of the spectrum. And these are not, nor have they ever been, hidden from the public. Since the family took ownership of the Cubs in 2009, they have taken pride in having few secrets.
“The fact is, whether it’s my mom, or my dad on his Ending Spending stuff, or my sister on marriage equality issues, or my brothers and what they do or what we do with the team, we are pretty much are an open book,” Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts told media Wednesday.
“We stand up for what we believe in. We support the causes we think are important. That is what America should be. That is who we are.”
Tom also noted that if there were skeletons in the family closet, the media would have picked up on them by now, and it’s hard to imagine being in the spotlight for seven years with dirt sitting there, untouched by inquiring minds.
From a public relations standpoint this is probably the best answer Tom could have given in regards to Trump’s threatening tweet. It’s believable, it can be traced in their past political activity and above all else, he’s right about one thing: America should be about standing up for causes an individual finds important.
The fact is, in the American political system, Marlene Ricketts has the freedom to donate however much money she wants to whoever she wants, and she can vote for whoever she wants. Trump’s threatening bluster has worked in many ways, but when applied to the basic tenet of American democracy, to a family that has been as transparent as they come professionally and politically, it’s a non-starter.
The way this campaign cycle is going, we may be nearing a point where we accept Donald Trump as the GOP nominee in the 2016 General Election. And this brief butting of heads will be merely a footnote on what is proving to be a unique and historic campaign cycle.