The Important Reason Why We Need To Talk About Trump's Hair

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Editor's note: Sally Kohn is an activist, lawyer, and political commentator. The views expressed here are her own.

For all the hullabaloo made about Hillary Clinton’s clothes, Bernie Sanders’ teeth, and Carly Fiorina’s face — the most glaring stylistic, physical feature of the 2016 election has gone largely ignored. Until now.

This week, Gawker posted a 3,500 word essay analyzing Donald Trump’s hair, making the argument that his coif is actually a $60,000 weave. How else could it apparently move, in seemingly one singular unit, when brushed by the wing of a bald eagle? You can’t make this stuff up.

Of course, anyone who thought that the pivot toward the general election would lead the media and voters to finally focus on substance probably lost hope somewhere around the fifth paragraph, when Trump’s hair-care ritual was cited in excruciating detail. He washes it, lets it air dry, and then combs it, though the Rolling Stone passage Gawker excerpted in full uses 107 words to describe just that.

The issue isn’t Trump’s hair, but the lies he keeps trying to hide in it.

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When he first entered the race last year, everyone (myself included) was making snide jokes about his hair, as well as snide jokes about his candidacy. But after he clinched the delegates he needed to win the Republican nomination, nothing about Trump is funny anymore.

Sensible people also might have laughed at his insistence that he is an expert on Russia because he hosted a Miss Universe pageant there, or that he’s still not sure whether or not President Obama was born in the United States. But as Trump said more and more outlandish things and only continued to rise in the polls, it stopped being funny.

This guy could actually be president. He could try to summarily roundup, detain, and deport 11 million undocumented Americans. He could try to ban 30% of the world’s population from entering our country solely because of their religion. He could try to pull out of NATO and decide to disobey environmental treaties. Suddenly, joking about Trump’s hair seems petty in the face of such consequential and dangerous recklessness.

Now we can focus on the real issues, right? But alas, here I am — two months before the conventions — and I'm still talking about hair.

To be sure, the media hasn't focused too much on the relative hair issues of other candidates, either. Clinton, after all, has a famous patch of follicles herself — having initially joined Twitter with a bio that noted she’s a “hair icon.” Sanders' mane can be as rebellious as his supporters.

I would like to hope that perhaps, just perhaps, the lack of attention to these things marks a slight improvement in our culture — that we implicitly recognize dissecting a woman's appearance would be sexist, and therefore to be on the safe side, we should avoid any commentary about candidates' personal appearance altogether. Trump might deride this as political correctness. I call it progress. Now we can focus on the real issues, right?

But alas, here I am — two months before the conventions — and I'm still talking about hair. And, if I’m being honest, enjoying it. We all have our contradictions.

Joking about Donald Trump’s hair seems petty in the face of such consequential and dangerous recklessness.

Since you read this far, though, I’m going to delight you with a special treat — some actual substance on the candidates and their positions. Did you know that Trump has promised to revive the coal mining industry, despite the fact that energy economists agree coal jobs were lost not because of environmental regulations, but because of the free-market forces within the energy market?

Did you know that Trump has pledged to end “gun-free zones” in schools? Did you know that Trump has said wages in the United States are “too high” and he wants to abolish the federal minimum wage? Did you know that in 2015 alone, the fact-checking resource PolitiFact reviewed 77 of Trump’s statements and rated 76% either mostly false, false, or “Pants on Fire”?

The issue isn’t Trump’s hair, but the lies he keeps trying to hide in it.

That said, what I suspect is at work here is the power of Trump’s “don’t give a damn” attitude. While Clinton has continued to call her use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state a "mistake," Trump has boasted that he’s pretty much never apologized in his entire life.
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Trump's penchant for being an imperfect oaf makes him oddly resistant to criticism.

Trump has said and done dozens of outrageous things in just the span of a few months, let alone across his entire career. But he refuses to apologize, so the mini scandals quickly fade with the public’s own waning attention span. By the same token, how can we mock Trump’s hair when he so often mocks it himself? His penchant for being an imperfect oaf makes him oddly resistant to criticism.

Meanwhile, Clinton is perhaps dogged by her mistakes because she admits them. It’s possible that one of the more lasting impacts of Trump’s candidacy may be less conciliatory attitudes in politics across the board. The fact that this might be eroding our democracy doesn’t seem to bother Trump or his supporters.

Whatever the concern, whatever the criticism, whatever the offensive thing he said, or the scandal he provoked, Trump just washes it off and waits for it to air dry. And we just marvel in horror of it all.
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