04 September 2015

Triumph of the Trump

Republicans are starting to confront the awful reality -- Donald Trump could actually win their party's nomination for the Presidency.  Since Trump's rise to frontrunner status in July, many have comforted themselves with reminders of previous election cycles where, this early in the game, some implausible candidate who ultimately flamed out similarly led in the polls.  But none of those previous situations really resembled the current one, and none featured a candidate who really resembled Trump.  Also, the rise of the WARTs (White Angry Racist Teabaggers*) as the core of the base means that today's Republican party is no longer comparable to its pre-2009 incarnation(s).  Trump's lead remains solid across all polls.

Brian Beutler explains why the situation is so unlike 2012, when various wackos surged in the polls but ultimately collapsed, leaving the safe, establishment-backed Romney to win the nomination.  This time the WARTs have coalesced behind one candidate while the "moderates" are divided among many.  Thanks to Citizens United, weak candidates can stay in the race with the backing of just one or two rich individuals, so the field will not be winnowed quickly and the non-Trump vote will remain divided.  Trump's support seems immune to the kind of problems that sank fringe candidates in 2012 -- he's already survived gaffes that would have destroyed an ordinary politician, and he certainly won't run out of money.

Anti-Trumpers are left clutching at straws like Trump's Hugh Hewitt interview, where he stumbled badly on foreign-policy knowledge, but there's no sign that it will make a dent with his followers.  How many of them know or care who Qasem Soleimani is?  They're already tired of "elitist" assertions that actual knowledge is somehow superior to incoherent fury.  They want a leader who can express and embody their tedious rage, and Trump fits the bill.

None of the other candidates can match Trump's charisma, iconoclasm, or chutzpah.  He makes them all look small and dull -- fatal to a contender for the Presidency.

Yes, Trump has signed the pledge not to run as a third candidate if he loses the nomination.  Supposedly this means he's given up his leverage, and the party leadership can now attack him by fair means or foul, even changing the rules if needed, to deny him the nomination without fear that he'll go rogue and torpedo their nominee.  But he hasn't really given up much.  How confident can they be that he'll keep his word?  The fear of an independent Trump run is still there.  By making an empty show of loyalty, he's actually strengthened his position by appearing reasonable.  The party will keep treating him with kid gloves while he feels no obligation to reciprocate.

It's not a done deal -- nothing is, at this point -- but we have to be prepared for the possibility that The Donald will actually be the Republican nominee facing Hillary (or Bernie or Joe).  That would turn this election into an incredibly high-stakes game.  As a know-nothing vulgar populist who has risen to prominence by openly (not in code, as Republicans normally do) whipping up the xenophobia and nativism of the most ignorant and angry element of the population, Trump is an alarmingly Mussolini-like figure, confronting American democracy with a test like that which was faced (and mostly flubbed) by European democracy in the twenties and thirties.  While our institutions are far more robust, the vast military power of our country would make such a leader a horrific danger to the world, even if he stayed within Constitutional limits.  And there are simply too many unknowns about Trump.  We can't roll the dice with the most powerful office on Earth.

Thought 2012 was a nail-biter?  Just wait.

[*Term found here.  I don't know who originated it.]


Anonymous Zosimus the Heathen said...

Stupid question: is that thing on Trump's head the world's worst combover, or the world's worst toupee? I've never really been able to figure out what it is (perhaps because I come from a part of the world where I have the luxury of not having to think about this joker too much (although that might change if the nightmare scenario of a Trump presidency actually comes to pass)).

Seeing what's become of the Republican party depresses me, actually, as I understand that it once accomplished great things (such as the abolition of slavery), and not every Republican president (or aspiring president) was a complete raving lunatic. I also don't think it bodes well for a democracy when one of its major parties becomes so extreme and disconnected from reality, as all the other party has to do to win elections from then on is say, "Hey, at least we're not those guys!" The same thing seems to be happening here, albeit to a lesser extent - every time our version of the Republicans, the (ironically named) Liberal Party gets into power now, they seem intent on introducing an extreme neoliberal agenda (basically, libertarianism without any of that ideology's redeeming qualities). We really can't trust them any more.

04 September, 2015 07:33  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Zosimus: I think that thing on his head is some sort of evil mind-control tribble from outer space. Kim Jong Un has one too, of a rival species.

It's unfortunate that a lot of the Republican opinion leadership has chosen to chivvy their base down the path of reality-denial and paranoia. It makes them easy to rally against the enemy, but now the leaders can't control how they define "the enemy" any more. They've put their party in a position where a charismatic authoritarian like Trump can lead it over a cliff. Let's just hope he doesn't take the country, and the world, down with him.

04 September, 2015 17:53  
Blogger Les Carpenter said...

I have difficulty believing a candidate who has managed to alienate hispanics, women, and blacks has a chance winning the presidency.

Trump is both a narcissist and demagogue, He could pose a serious threat; if a majority of the electorate loses its mind. I don't see that happening. Maybe wishful thinking?

07 September, 2015 19:44  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

RN: I don't believe he could win the general election either. It's true that one recent poll shows him doing so, but no other poll has -- likely it's just an outlier. Also, Trump's utterances have given Hillary plenty of material to take him down. The general public is not so crazy as the Republican primary electorate which has been giving Trump these startling support levels.

07 September, 2015 21:27  

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