[This piece was originally published on the original Home Yesterday in July, 2015.]
UPDATE: Almost a full additional month of Trump’s unadulterated foolishness has failed to weaken, even slightly, his grip on Republican primary voters. With a commanding lead — more than double his closest competitor’s support — the Trump Monster now has Republicans thinking about Plan B — as in, what if this guy actually wins? Educated, reasonable, establishment Republican figures like George Will, Charles Cooke, and David Freddoso have all launched serious attacks on Trump, but their readerships have only shouted the louder “Give us Trump!”
So what happens? Will the Republican party, as Will demands, purge Trump and his supporters from the GOP? Will the “collective insanity” Cooke pointed out come to an end? Or will the so-called Party of Lincoln ride their circus elephant into the wilderness for a generation? Or is there no good choice at all? Patrick Buchanan, no stranger to insurgent Republican politics put it simply: “if the GOP has no room for Trump’s followers, it has no future. For there simply aren’t that many chamber-of-commerce and country-club Republicans.”
Republicans are now standing by to be destroyed by their own creation.
“Had I right, for my own benefit, to inflict this curse upon everlasting generations? I had before been moved by the sophisms of the being I had created; I had been struck senseless by his fiendish threats: but now, for the first time, the wickedness of my promise burst upon me . . .” – Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
We cannot avoid the subject of Donald Trump, even if we want to. Unleashed upon the Nation and rampaging across it day by day, he imposes himself upon us from every newspaper, every radio, and every accursed screen. Nothing will protect us from the spectacle of Trump, until football season mercifully releases us.
Many have already pointed out that Trump will not be President – his colossally embarrassing behavior across business, politics, and finance more than disqualifies him. But onward he marches and now, he leads the race for the Republican Presidential nomination. In fact, some surveys show he has more than double the support of any other candidate from Republican primary voters, despite being in a sixteen-candidate field.
Even those lofty numbers show only that Trump commands a small minority of the electorate, but he does command it absolutely – and it is loud. Trump’s plurality among primary voters is a minority of a minority that has somehow swallowed the entire Republican Party. What happened? Trump would have been laughed out of politics in any previous cycle, (indeed, he was). So what has changed?
Trump’s shtick includes three basic moves: 1) Absurd proclamations about his abilities (“I will build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it,” “I’m the most successful person ever to run for the presidency”; 2) Bombastic commentary on everyone who is not Trump (“John McCain is not a war hero,” “The Wall-Street Journal is losing money,” “no one trusts Anderson Cooper”; 3) Personal insults toward anyone who publicly disagrees with him (“Jeb Bush only cares about illegal immigration because his wife is from Mexico,” “Rick Perry bought glasses to make himself seem smart”).
From insulting millions of
Mexican-Americans by labelling them rapists, to attacking McCain’s service in a Hanoi POW camp, Trump displays his arrogance, bombast, and nastiness as though they were his newest hotel, casino, or golf course. Those qualities are “what he brings to the table.” Simply put, he has distilled the essence of the present-day Republican Party, bottled it, slapped the Trump label on it, and now he’s pouring it all over our heads.
Some of Trump’s ideas and methods – like appeals to nativism and racism – have been part of the GOP playbook for years, dating to the Lee Atwater era and earlier. But unlike so-called “sophisticated” candidates, like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, who have learned to keep those messages in the subtext, Trump puts them right out front. Naturally, people the Republican Party has conditioned to respond to these messages love it – “finally someone who is actually saying what Bush only seems to say!” They created this monster and now it has turned on them – by giving an unguarded voice to their real constituency.
Decades of the Mark Levins (Obama is “Mussolini”), the Rush Limbaughs (“Women should not be allowed on juries”), and the Ann Coulters (“If we take away women’s right to vote, we’d never have to worry about another Democrat President”) have prepared the way for the Trump phenomenon – the perfect candidate whose virtue is in his viciousness. The less he knows, the more he’s admired in what’s left of the “Grand Old Party.” The lower he sinks into hate – he attacked an American POW for being captured – the higher they sing his praises over on InfoWars.
So we’re now treated to the comical spectacle of Rick Perry calling Trump a “false prophet” who “appeal[s] to anger, division, and resentment.” Those three concepts have been cornerstones of Republican strategy for half a century. From the silent majority to welfare queens to Willie Horton to Karl Rove to the Swift Boaters to Sarah Palin to the birthers and now, back to the silent majority – Trump is the true prophet of Perry’s benighted Party.
Watching the horrified Republican Party leadership, the humiliated candidates, the panicked donors – you can’t help but think that they have all brought this upon themselves. Donald Trump may not be the candidate the GOP wants, but he is the candidate it deserves. Like many faltering businesses before them, Republicans set themselves up for a hostile takeover by Trump Enterprises, and those all end up the same way: in bankruptcy.