He who stands to inherit the world: why Donald Trump Jr could be the next president
Bold, brash and belligerent. Donald Trump was the man to shake up Washington, build a wall and render political correctness obsolete. Regardless of what you think of him, he is unlike almost any politician who has gone before him.
However, while most pundits are preoccupied with the man himself, others’ attention has turned to his son, Donald Trump Jr. A more mellow version of his father, he is astute, thoroughly educated and a shrewd businessman. But his Instagram profile, with its action-packed shots of hunting, fishing and adventuring on a billionaire’s budget, show that he is not lacking in personality either.
He’s built up a loyal following of hunters, NRA members and every home-baked flavour of outdoorsy, family-focussed republican in between. Known to his friends as "Don Jr", he already sounds like the head of a family and, fittingly, he’s been running the family business since “the big guy” - as he calls him - left for the White House.
Embroiled in the alleged election meddling that preceded his father’s ascent to the presidency, Trump Jr has still managed to maintain a fatherly image and has a growing fanbase. He has more followers on Instagram than there are people in Montana (where he can regularly be found shooting wildlife) and his popularity is continuing to grow.
Furthermore, he’s proven himself as an effective political fundraiser - winning the affection of America’s fiscal elite. With the backing of various Republican politicians, he has been the star attraction at fundraisers commanding thousands of dollars for a ticket.
However, he has another community of backers whom one might assume would be at loggerheads with the Trump family. “There are a lot of posers on the path to political office,” states conservationist and CEO of 106 Reforestation Mike Siaperas. “He’s not that. He’s the real deal.”
Siaperas isn’t talking about Bernie Sanders or even Barack Obama. He’s talking about Donald Trump Jr. “My whole work has been based on conservation the past five to 10 years,” he explains, “and Don Jr was gracious enough to come and see the work I have done.”
“And as far as I am concerned, Don Jr is probably the best thing that has ever happened to conservation and wildlife in the past 100 years. Everything about him is genuine. He’s an amazing gentleman.”
It’s this image of an outdoorsman who cares for Mother Earth which may well bridge the gap between Trump supporters and environmentalists. “I know there’s a perception of him out there in different ways,” Siaperas muses, “but he’s by far, probably the most important single man in the United States for conservation and wildlife.”
However, in a world of corporate social responsibility, popularity polls and perceived value, it’s no surprise that Trump Jr would want to pull the wool over our eyes. Mike Siaperas does not wear billowing multi-coloured trousers and carry a hacky-sack everywhere he goes. Nor does he have dreadlocks or a strong interest in pantheism. He’s a businessman whose primary interest is his medical software company.
In reality, grassroots environmentalists such as Greenpeace would likely find themselves unable to work with Trump Jr due to the cataclysmic environmental impact of his father’s presidency. Having pulled out of the Paris climate agreement, dismantled the Clean Power Plan, rolled back the Waters of the United States rule, thrown open the doors to Alaskan drilling and, of course, denied that global warming is real, the president isn’t exactly popular with environmentalists.
While there are many contradictions to be highlighted, perhaps there is one rule to learn from this. For the Trump family, perhaps, if you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. This would appear to explain the concurrent emphasis on conservation and denial of climate change.
“When it comes to Don Jr, a lot of what we look at has to do with how the Trump campaign, the Trump Organization and the Trump administration tend to all overlap, and he seems to be at the centre of a lot of that,” said Jordan Libowitz of legal watchdog Crew (Citizens for responsibility and ethics in Washington).
“He seems to be running the Trump Organization, and that makes you question what kind of firewall there is between him and his father. They might claim there is one, but there doesn’t seem to be much of one at all.”
“During his last visit [to India] newspapers all around the country had front page adverts in which they offered for a down payment, a chance to meet with him and have dinner with him,” Libowitz explains. “So access to Don Jr is certainly available for the right price - that raises the question whether there is by proxy access to the president.”
Furthermore, for all his trolling of liberals on social media, Trump Jr’s poise and political posturing make him a viable presidential candidate. The notion that he is a serious contender is regularly reinforced by his fans’ speculation.
When he posed with Robert J O’Neill, the former US Navy Seal who (amid much controversy) claimed to have fired the shot that killed Osama bin Laden, they were billed as the 2024 election dream team.
Asked if he thought Trump Jr wanted to run for office, Siaperas responded: “Yeah, that’s his goal. I don’t have those conversations with him, but from my standpoint, if he ever decided to do that, that would be the most important vote I ever cast in my lifetime.”
In the meantime, Trump Jr fans will have to wait. He is not only running a billion-dollar business but also going through a divorce - which is likely to affect his “family man” image. Of course, image is what this is all about.
From the Instagram profile to the work with conservationists, it’s a carefully-cultivated persona and with such a focus on perception, his quest for authenticity does come across as vain. But it’s this need for popularity which makes him a likely political candidate. However, only time will tell if Don Jr really could take his father’s seat in the Oval Office.