Like Jonathan S. Tobin at Commentary, I have little doubt that TrumpMania will soon fade away. There has always been a willingness among a part of the electorate to get behind an angry outsider, but when push comes to shove, even those voters opt for a candidate they can trust. Trump simply isn’t that guy. Tobin’s third argument, which I consider to be the most important one, is as follows:
Third, the assumption on the part of some that a public that has been watching Trump on TV for years already knows all it cares to learn about the man is equally unfounded. I doubt that most of those on the right applauding his outrageous act are aware of Trump’s long history of backing for liberal causes and even his financial support for Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaigns and their family charity that operates as a political slush fund for the former first couple. Will that matter? Trump thinks not, but he shouldn’t be so sure. Trump has been subjected to intense scrutiny as a celebrity, but he has yet to learn that the gossip page items that actually help a TV star will hurt a presidential wannabe.
Another good argument:
Fourth, as I noted last week, the basic culture of American democracy is something that is designed to trip up demagogues. This wouldn’t be the first case of populism run amuck in American history and there are some obvious examples of outlier figures having a major impact on the outcome of elections. A charismatic figure like William Jennings Bryan may not have offered any more of a coherent approach to governance than Trump in the 1890s, but the force of his rhetoric captured the Democratic Party for a generation. And, as John noted, Trump may turn out to be the second coming of Ross Perot with equally disastrous implications for Republicans as that Third Party candidate that effectively handed the country over to the Clintons. Americans many not always see through charlatans running for office, but underestimating their ability to smell a fraud is a sucker’s bet.
It’s very simple. When it boils down to it, Trump is not actually conservative. He has, all throughout his life, supported Democrats. Two of the most important recipients of his support (financial and otherwise) are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. There’s no chance in hell that the conservative base will let him get away with that. Of course there are some who argue that Ronald Reagan “was originally a Democrat as well,” but that comparison doesn’t hold. Reagan broke quite visibly with the Democrats and attacked them ruthlessly. Trump has done no such thing — nor will he. The only people he’s attacking are fellow Republicans. For some reason or another, Democrats like Clinton have little to fear from him. This may be due to his past and continued support for liberal policies. Reagan had a “political conversion.” Trump hasn’t. That will be his undoing. That and his lack of knowledge and understanding of politics.
But something has me worried, as I’ll explain on the next page.
What does have me worried, sadly, aren’t Trump’s antics and his increasing popularity, but the GOP’s reaction to it. They’re panicking and seem to lack self-control. What’s worse is that they aren’t just attacking him, but the people who currently back him; those are the same folks they will desperately need next year November if they want to beat Hillary. And what do Republicans do? Right: they’re doing their best to alienate them and turn them into their own worst enemies.
If the GOP had any common sense at all, they’d now rally around a true conservative candidate. I’m personally in favor of Ted Cruz, but there are other candidates who fit the bill as well. Turn one, two or three of them into main contenders and Trump is finished; he can’t possibly compete with the likes of Cruz, Rick Perry, or even Scott Walker. That’s how you destroy Trump’s momentum: show voters you share their concerns by supporting sensible conservative candidates who can actually win.
Sadly, the GOP’s establishment does the opposite. Instead of rallying around a conservative, they seem to support the moderate (or even progressive) Jeb Bush — a guy no part of the conservative base can relate to. At the same time, they attack Trump’s supporters by implying they’re bigots and idiots.
Because of this strategy (or actually a lack thereof) the GOP could very well be headed towards a major clash with the conservative base. Cruz and Perry supporters aren’t going to get behind Bush — not now, not ever. And let’s not even mention Trump supporters who consider Jeb! nothing more or less than the devil himself. The result, then, of the GOP’s reaction to TrumpMania could very well be that they’ll lose the presidential elections again. Not because Trump may run as a third-party candidate (who knows), but because they’ve lost their own base.