Biography of Donald J. Trump

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Donald Trump, 2016 Presidential Candidate. Andrew Walker - Getty Images

Donald Trump is an American businessman, professional celebrity, and politician who is seeking to become the 45th president of the United States. He is running as a Republican.

Personal Life

Donald John Trump was born in New York City on June 14, 1946. If elected to the presidency in 2016, Trump would become the oldest president (70 years old) to take office. Trump is currently married to Melania (Knauss) Trump, an immigrant supermodel from Slovenia who became a naturalized American after their marriage in 2005.

Melania gave birth to Barron Trump in March, 2006.

Trump's previous marriages were frequent front-page fodder for tabloid magazines. Trump married Czech model Ivana Zelnickova in 1977 and together they had three children: Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka. The couple divorced in 1991 following a much-publicized affair with his soon-to-be-spouse, Marla Maples. Trump and Maples married in December of 1993, two months after she gave birth to daughter Tiffany. 

Donald J. Trump is mostly known for his real-estate properties, selling his famous name to be placed on a variety of products (buildings, meat, water bottles), and as a reality television star and host of the long-running Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice. Trump currently resides in both Manhattan, New York and Palm Beach, Florida.

Education

In 1968, Trump graduated with a B.A. in Economics from Wharton, the business school of the University of Pennsylvania.

History in Politics

Unlike most candidates for president and eventual elected presidents, Trump has very little electoral experience.

His political affiliation has jumped around over the years. Since the 1980s Trump has changed political affiliation several times. He has been registered as a Republican, Democrat, Independent, and Reform Party member on and off.

Until 2010, Trump had primarily donated to Democratic candidates and causes, and occasionally to more liberal Republicans. Running as a Republican in 2016, Trump explained away these donations as a prudent businessman simply greasing the wheels of candidates for political favors. In a debate during the Republican primary, Trump claimed donations to Hillary Clinton were to get him to attend his third wedding. Though Trump primarily donated to Democrats like Harry Reid and opposed the conservative sweep candidates of 2010, Trump would change his affiliation and donation patterns ahead of the 2012 election. He would later claim to be a Tea Party Republican.

In 1999, Trump joined the Reform Party and contemplated running for the nomination after two Republican-spoiling runs by Ross Perot. He announced an exploratory run, but ultimately decided against a full-fledged campaign, citing a lack of organization by the Reform Party. In 2001, he would return to the Democratic Party and supported John Kerry in 2004.

In 2012, Trump flirted with running for the Republican nomination and gained a bit of notoriety when he became a leading birther conspiracy theorist. But Trump was heavily ridiculed by conservative media outlets as being buffoonish and lacking seriousness.

Trump carried on the birther shtick for weeks and eventually claimed that private investigators he sent to Hawaii had found very interesting information about Barack Obama. Trump claimed he would release the information at the right time, but years later has yet to do so. In 2016, he would also question the eligibility of Canadian-born Ted Cruz and Miami-born Marco Rubio, both the children of at least one Cuban immigrant.  Trump eventually ruled out a run and he signed on for another season of The Apprentice.

2016 Presidential Run

In June, 2015, Donald Trump announced he would be running for the 2016 nomination for President as a Republican. There, Trump announced his slogan would be "Make America Great Again," a phrase that would later be emblazoned on millions of gaudy red hats and other campaign apparel.

Trump's rise in Republican politics started with his flirtation in 2012 when he made headlines questioning Obama's birth and citizenship. Many tea party activists enjoyed Trump's abrasive style and politically incorrect statements aimed at President Obama.

Later, he would become a fixture of conservative grassroots events. New financial support from Trump to organizations like the American Conservative Union allegedly led to high-profile speaking gigs at the Conservative Political Action Conference, also known as CPAC. Such slots are typically reserved for high-profile conservative leaders, politicians, and media personalities. Given that Trump was none of those, a high-profile speaking slot for the mostly liberal and frequent Republican-foe often seemed misplaced. Nonetheless, the events gave Trump some credibility within grassroots conservative circles. Accuracy in Media reports that in 2013 Trump donated $75,000 to the CPAC sponsors the same year he was offered a posh speaking gig and was deemed "an American Patriot" by the hosting organization.

It took the perfect storm to aid Trump's rise from punchline to Republican front-runner. First, Trump was widely helped by a large field that saw donors and endorsers waiting out the storm. Jeb Bush mounted a $100M campaign and was early on viewed as the "establishment" front-runner. His entrance in the race froze a lot of potential support for many of the other dozen or so legitimate candidates. Angst towards another Bush in the White House fueled much of the rebellion by activists, and Trump was willing to play the part of the anti-establishment candidate.

Conservative media, including clickbait websites and talk radio, were thrilled with Trump's antics and gladly played them up for clicks. Many conservatives who would later come to strongly oppose Trump enjoyed his take-down of the GOP early on. Even entities aligned with other candidates sought to play up the Trump spectacle as he was a big draw for ratings and clicks. They expected he would later fade, but that turned out not to be the case.

In the end, many of these entertainers, like radio host Laura Ingraham, got caught up in the populist wave and stuck with Trump despite all of the negative moments and general lack of knowledge of any issue.

Trump was also greatly aided by the mainstream media. He had little need for raising money or self-funding because he was given so much free airtime, far more than any other candidate. A study estimated that Trump was given close to $2B in free advertising by media outlets covering rally after rally live on-air, and singularly obsessing over the Trump campaign.

Finally, his main competitor for the anti-establishment lane, Senator Ted Cruz, conceded the spotlight to Trump, hoping he would battle the establishment and expecting he would eventually fade. But as the months wore on it became evident Trump was not leaving the race, and the many supporters who previously-aligned with Cruz were now backing Trump. Some high-profile Trump supporters include Sarah Palin and US Senator Jeff Sessions (AL).

Positions

The political positions of Donald Trump are fluid, often changing from one day to the next and, sometimes, one sentence to the next. This is likely because Trump is running less as a conservative ideologue and more as an anti-establishment populist. Here, we will highlight those positions that he has stuck with the longest.

Economy - Trump has claimed a desire to prevent American companies from moving operations or producing goods oversees. He has floated the idea of placing tariffs on many imported goods. However, most of the Trump family clothing and accessory portfolio features products made outside of the United States. Trump opposes entitlement reform (Social Security) and will fix the programs by Making America Great Again or such.

Energy/Environment - Trump now opposes cap-and-trade policies and considers global warming a hoax, changes from previous positions where he once signed a letter acknowledging both. He supports coal and also came out in favor of Iowa ethanol mandates, perhaps hoping to win the votes of Iowans.

Education - Trump opposes Common Core and supports private schools and school choice. This is one of the few issues he has been consistent on throughout the years.

Criminal Justice - Trump is now in favor of gun rights and has backed away from previous positions on gun control. Trump is also a big proponent of the War on Drugs, but supports medical marijuana legalization.

Health Care -  In his 2000 exploration, Trump called for universal healthcare. In 2015, he again gave a thumbs up to countries that implemented socialized medicine, but later said he opposes Obamacare. In a 2016 debate, Trump stated that the ill would be taken care of and he would get rid of "the lines" around the states, but has generally failed to elaborate.

Social issues - Trump now claims to be pro-life, after previously having supported partial-birth abortion procedures. He stated he changed his mind when a friend of his contemplated an abortion, but when the child was born and turned out pretty cool, he changed his mind. He still supports federal funding for abortion providers. On gay marriage, Trump claims to be for traditional marriage but has stated that we have to be realistic.

Foreign Policy - Trump has very poorly-formed views on foreign policy and is often out of his league and drops contradictory statements. He has stated he will learn about these issues if he becomes President. However, he has praised brutal dictators for showing strong leadership and has retroactively come out against the Iraq War.

Immigration - Donald Trump is best known for his strong - and controversial - stance on illegal immigration. Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump made promises to build a wall on the Mexican border (and make Mexico pay for it). His position on what to do with illegal immigrants already in the country has been somewhat more nuanced. Like many other issues, Trump has often contradicted himself on what he would do and how he would do it. His most consistent message has been in favor of "touchback amnesty," and Trump would deport those here and then allow "the good ones" to re-enter the country legally on an expedited basis.

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Hawkins, Marcus. "Biography of Donald J. Trump." ThoughtCo, Mar. 22, 2016, thoughtco.com/biography-of-donald-j-trump-4009705. Hawkins, Marcus. (2016, March 22). Biography of Donald J. Trump. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/biography-of-donald-j-trump-4009705 Hawkins, Marcus. "Biography of Donald J. Trump." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/biography-of-donald-j-trump-4009705 (accessed October 19, 2017).