I am thoroughly confused by Donald Trump. It is clear enough what he is doing. Far less clear is why he is doing it.
Trump is appealing to the racist, nativist component of the Republican base, and his popularity in recent polling indicates that it is a distressingly large group. If his goal is to be taken as a serious contender for the Republican nomination rather than just a billionaire buffoon, he has been successful. If his goal is to become President of the United States, his perception of the American public is considerably more negative than my own.
Trump, a real estate developer, almost certainly is a net winner from illegal immigration. His contractors and subcontractors can offer him lower bids if some of their workers are illegals earning low or even sub-minimum wages. He is rich enough to be immune from the kinds of "criminals" who may sneak across the Mexican border, just like everybody else in his social set. Is he guided by some twisted sense of "social responsibility?" Doubtful.
He may be an asshole, but I find it hard to believe he is a complete idiot. He must know he is hurting the Republican brand by shouting out the ugly thoughts his competitors are content to merely imply, so party loyalty doesn't come into his calculations. Is he a secret, Machiavellian Democrat, working to help Hillary Clinton (who accepted his donations in previous elections)? Again, doubtful.
Some suggest he just enjoys publicity, attention, and doesn't especially care how he gets it. I call that the "mental illness model" of Donald Trump, and cannot entirely discount it, but I suspect the Trump candidacy goes beyond that.
Trump, who is as rich as he says he is, can afford to place large wagers against long odds — and the odds against him becoming President of the United States are very long indeed. Just the same, if enough Americans are sufficiently hateful, fearful, and knuckle-draggingly angry to vote for a pompous bag of wind like Trump, he just might win.
What would Trump do if he became the next "Leader of the Free World?" Has he thought it out that far?