GOP’s Trump problem won’t be easily resolved
I would wager that I despise politics just about as much as you do. Whatever your political affiliation, we would probably agree that the system is broken, that politicians on both sides of the aisle are too beholden to special interests, and that all too often, we end up voting against someone far more passionately than we ever vote for someone. Maybe that is just a different way of saying that we usually vote for the lesser of two evils.
Another thing that we might agree on is that politics is much too often the Theater of the Absurd, in which candidates — many of whom are extravagantly wealthy — are rebranded as “common folk” to appeal to the electorate. Without question, the vast majority of political ads we see these days are attack ads, ad hominem attacks on the character of the opponent, but on those occasions when we do get a glimpse of the candidate, the staging will be very studied and precise, calculated in such a way to convey the same message: he or she is just one of us.
Politics has operated on this level for as long as I can remember, which is why the current campaign is, on many levels, groundbreaking. As of today, the frontrunner in the polls in the GOP race is none other than Donald Trump, whose presence and popularity just might result in a full scale civil war in the party before this campaign is over. Trump plays by nobody’s rules but his own, which was abundantly evident in his treatment of debate moderator Megyn Kelly of Fox News, both during and after the debate last week, when he sent more than 30 tweets between the hours of 2:30-4:30 a.m. of varying degrees of nastiness.
In the debate, Kelly asked Trump about derogatory comments he has made about women in the past, and Trump scolded her, characterizing her question as “off base” and “ridiculous.”
After the debate, it got worse.
“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes,” Trump told CNN’s Don Lemon. “Blood coming out of her wherever.”
That was enough to get him “disinvited” from the next big event on the Republican campaign calendar, something called “The Redstate Gathering,” in Atlanta. A lot of conservatives are understandably outraged by Trump’s misogynistic remarks about Kelly — is there any better way to prove that a question about your history of making misogynistic remarks is ridiculous than making a brand NEW misogynistic remark that perhaps tops them all in its ridiculousness? “Blood coming out of her wherever”? Really?
It would be bad enough to say that about any woman, but saying it about Kelly in particular presents a tremendous problem for the party, due to Trump’s popularity with voters and Fox News’ popularity with Republicans. Even among my conservative Facebook friends, there is already a very sharp divide between those who feel that Trump was “set up,” even “ambushed” by Kelly and those who are not buying what Trump is selling, even though it has a distinctly familiar odor. To wit, if you are not making it these days, it is not your fault. It is those foreigners, coming and taking our jobs. It is those drug-addicted, rapists coming over from Mexico.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you,” Trump said during his presidential announcement speech. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Of course, Trump is just borrowing a page from the GOP playbook. Blame those who have nothing, while paying no attention to the one percenters who have and control everything. Because Trump, who is a billionaire, is in that one percent, of course. But more than that, he is also a celebrity, which combined with his enormous wealth, makes him the closest thing we have in America to royalty.
As the campaign wears on and the debates continue, the old guard Republican candidates will continue to chip away at Trump’s conservative credentials. After all, this is a man who said that George W. Bush was “the worst president in the history of the country.” He has been on the record as supporting a woman’s right to have an abortion, as well as a ban on assault weapons. These are traditionally red meat issues for the Republicans, and it staggers the imagination that anyone could win a single primary with that kind of track record, even if he eventually flip flops on every one of those issues.
But Trump says and does what he wants. For some people, that’s part of his charm. For others, he is just a cartoonish blowhard. But for Republicans, he is a serious problem they’ll eventually have to solve if they have any hope at all of regaining the White House in 2016.
Whatever happens, it will be excellent theater.