Debating Donald Trump is like boxing with smoke. You may have the facts on your side, but for this Republican presidential candidate, facts are mostly beside the point.
Take, for example, his recent slap at President Barack Obama's legacy. Americans won't elect another black president for a long time, Trump said in an interview on ABC News Sunday, because of Obama's "poor standard."
"I think that he has set a very poor standard," Trump said. "I think that he has set a very low bar and I think it's a shame for the African-American people."
On income levels and unemployment, Obama "has done nothing for African-Americans" he continued. "They are worse now than just about ever."
Well, it didn't take PolitiFact.com long to shoot down Trump's assertions as "false." Black unemployment, for example, "improved significantly" from 12.7 percent when Obama entered office to 9.5 percent this June. Just imagine, Obama's supporters would say, what he could have done with a cooperative Congress.
Yet the TV interview question came from a gloomy assertion Trump made on Twitter last November. "Sadly, because President Obama has done such a poor job as president," Trump tweeted, "you won't see another black president for generations!"
Oh? Does Trump really think America's voters — who, by the way, elected Obama twice with more than 50 percent of the popular vote — would be that racist? Probably not. But to his support base, there's no need to let a shortage of facts get in the way of a sharp poke at Obama.
Yet Trump expects strong support from voters of color who the Republican establishment fears he will push away. "I think that I will win the African-American vote," he said, "and I think I will win the Hispanic vote."
That makes one of us, Don.
A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday, for example, found 75 percent of Hispanics polled in Nevada viewed Trump negatively — and 61 percent viewed him "very negatively."
Some 55 percent thought his references to immigrants as rapists and criminals was "insulting and racist."
Yet even in that poll of Hispanic voters, 14 percent said that Trump showed "guts to say exactly what was on his mind about an important problem (illegal immigration) we need to deal with."
Now we're getting to the true significance of Trump's surge to the lead in a field of candidates that is as crowded as a public school classroom in a low-income neighborhood.
What excites voters at this stage is not that Trump has much of a chance to win the nomination — he merely holds the largest minority of votes. Rather, it's that he serves as a public megaphone for a segment of the electorate that wants their frustrations to be heard.
That's why details don't matter when the Donald is "trumpsplaining." That's my term for his relentless tendency to jump without a hint of self-doubt right into explaining things that obviously are completely outside of his personal experience.
"Trumpsplaining" is like "mansplaining," a term that some feminist bloggers apply to the act of explaining something to someone, typically a man to a woman, without any thought to whether the person hearing the explanation already knows more about the topic than the explainer does.
"Trumpsplaining," like everything else in Trump's hype-inflated galaxy, is the biggest ("Huge! Huge!"), boldest and most condescending tone-deaf mansplaining that any narcissistic ego ever produced.
Trumpsplaining describes how Trump came to Chicago in June and preached to my colleagues on the Chicago Tribune's editorial board — which knows a thing or two about Chicago — about how "Crime in Chicago is out of control and I will tell you, outside of Chicago, it's a huge negative and a huge talking point, a huge negative for Chicago."
Huge, huge! Gee, thanks, Don. We'll get right on that.
Ultimately, I don't expect Trump to see the inside of the White House unless it's with a tour group. But for now, he expresses the frustration of voters who think the system has failed and that the "change" promised by Obama isn't the change they want. Who cares whether he has the facts right? He's saying what they feel.
Reach Clarence Page at firstname.lastname@example.org