Zombies don’t stop. They keep coming at you. And that’s the way I see Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.

To the dismay of establishment Republicans, the relentless Trump keeps coming at the electorate. The Donald is still the leader of the pack, even though he has lost a few points in the major polls.

Conventional wisdom had him flaming out rapidly, but so far, he just keeps coming.

Trump’s fans like him because he is as predictable as Spam, the canned meat so beloved in Hawaii. With Spam, you know the pink sponge that is supposedly an animal product will always be greasy, salty and delicious.

A lonely Donald Trump campaign sign on the Big Island.
A lonely Donald Trump campaign sign on the Big Island. Courtesy of Dylan Nonaka

Trump, like Spam, is always predictable in his carefully orchestrated unpredictability; his followers can count on him to say outrageous things.

New Yorker magazine writer Evan Osnos says, “Over the years, Trump honed a performer’s ear for the needs of his audience.”

Trump, as the often-quoted star of the 14-season reality show “The Apprentice,” has learned what to say to get attention.

“He is very careless with his remarks, not as respectful as we like our candidates here to be.” — Pat Saiki, former Republican congresswoman

“Donald Trump is the presidential candidate that reality TV made. An electorate trained in voting contestants on and off shows like ‘American Idol’ wants to keep him around because he makes things interesting. Instead of any plausible policy stance, Mr. Trump has built his campaign around an entertaining TV persona,” writes reality television producer Seth Grossman.

Trump knows his seemingly off-the-cuff comments generate headlines and win him points with voters who are furious at the Republican Party and fed up with government in general.

But the billionaire developer has failed to capture meaningful traction here in Hawaii.

Maybe its because voter rage is not a salient factor in Hawaii. We might be too far away from the Beltway for people to burn with anger at the dysfunctional Congress.

Maybe because so many people here are employed by government, there is less Sturm und Drang even about local political goof-ups and political betrayal.

Take the political crony capitalism that has turned Kakaako into a haven for rich investors instead of the neighborhood for working people that a well-meaning group of policymakers originally envisioned. You don’t see anyone going to the barricades about that.

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C.
Donald Trump has achieved at least this in Hawaii: He has us talking about Republicans. Gage Skidmore/Flickr.com

But back to Trump.

Former Hawaii GOP executive director Dylan Nonaka says everyone he runs across in Kona, where he now lives, wants to talk about Trump, “even my Democrat friends from high school.”

Nonaka says it’s just talk about Trump, not serious voter interest.

“I keep thinking Trump will go away at some point, but he doesn’t. He talks like people wish all politicians would talk. Trump is a very interesting phenomenon,” says Nonaka.

Bill Clinton summed up this Trump fascination in much the same way in an interview with Stephen Colbert on the “The Late Show.” 

Clinton says Trump is popular “because he is a master brander and he is the most interesting character out there and because he says something that overrides ideological differences.”

“There is a macho appeal to saying, ‘I am sick of nothing happening. I am going to make something happen. Vote for me.’”

Of course, it has always been difficult for even more conventional Republican candidates to generate interest in Hawaii, never mind someone as aberrant as Trump.

Only two times since statehood have Republicans carried the presidential vote here: Richard Nixon in 1972 and Ronald Reagan in 1984. And that was when Nixon and Reagan were winning overwhelmingly across the U.S.

But if you put aside the fact that Hawaii is a diehard Democratic state, voters still would never cozy up to Trump because what he says is often alien to the values that locals cherish.

Although Trump swears he is not a racist, some of what he says has a racist ring to it, such as his proposal to build a 2,000-mile wall to stop Mexico “from sending people here that have lots of problems.”  He says, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Former Hawaii GOP executive director Dylan Nonaka says everyone he runs across in Kona, where he now lives, wants to talk about Trump, “even my Democrat friends from high school.”

My friend Cynthia Ning, the associate director of the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Hawaii, says such talk “doesn’t play well in multi-cultural Hawaii.”

And then there is Trump’s look-at-me behavior, his braggadocio, his constant boasting about his wealth and success.

In Hawaii, a politician wins points with humility. Even if it is faked humility.

And there’s Trump’s narcissism. It is all about Trump. He’s all over himself. The crazy Mexico-U.S. barricade, he says, ought to be called “The Trump Wall.”

A Washington political operative I know who loves local politics, says, “For Hawaii it is not the style to be bombastic. Maybe for entertainment purposes, but not for the highest position in the land.”

Hawaii State Republican Party Chairman Fritz Rohlfing dittos this same view of Trump.

“I think Trump is a showman but doesn’t have the fundamentals of a serious candidate. He lack political experience; he’s never held any elected political office and he lacks the even temperament that’s important for a president of the United States,” says Rohlfing.

My favorite Punahou School physical education teacher, former Republican Congresswoman Pat Saiki, says of Trump, “He is very careless with his remarks, not as respectful as we like our candidates here to be.”

Some political watchers say even though Trump is a highly successful player, the day will come when he and the other instruments of protest such as Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina will exit the stage.

New York Times political columnist Frank Bruni says in his Oct. 11 column, “I still don’t believe that any of them will be the nominee. Each has too many peculiarities and too big a potential to crash and burn. And Carson seems to be on the verge of doing that right now.”

Bruni wonders if the GOP’s anointed presidential candidate might eventually turn out to be Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who has the middle finger-slinging brattiness of Trump but a cooler head and proven political experience.

Bruni says, “Cruz is more like Trump, outrageous and unyielding … and in a radio interview on Thursday, he (Cruz)  predicted that he’d inherit Trump’s supporters because he’s ‘stood up to Washington’  and ‘taken on the leaders’ of his own party.’”

We’ll see. But the fact remains that Trump will never be considered as anything more than an interesting character in Hawaii.

He has failed to gain even an ounce of the kind of serious political support you see in places like Texas where groups of voters actually love Trump.

Nonaka says he has seen only one Trump sign on the Big Island, sitting largely unseen on a lonely country road in Captain Cook.

State GOP chairman Rolfing says, “Trump has certainly broken the mold for a Republican candidate and that’s generated a lot conversation here about other Republican presidential party hopefuls. That’s a positive.”

Trump is making the “R” word something to discuss aloud in Hawaii.

And for those of us who wish for a lively two-party system here, any interest in the R word, however slight, is a good thing.

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