A conundrum indeed! It is time for the political establishment to acknowledge that Donald Trump is here to stay, to understand why he has not imploded, and to embrace the positives while mitigating the negatives. That involves a bit of humble pie, summoning up respect for his followers, and making commitments as the voice of the voters is about to be heard in Iowa and New Hampshire. Let's try.
- Trump has shown that there is an opportunity to play offense. For at least a decade Republicans have been on the defensive, accepting the Democratic mantra that demographics is destiny, the Hispanics and other minorities would soon become a majority, that they would vote liberal, and the only path for Republicans was to do as little as possible to offend them. Trump has shown that there is still a lot of political capacity in the traditional white middle class.
- Trump can make a credible case that he can self-fund, or at least not become beholden to the evil forces of money in politics. He owes little to the lobbyists or the political establishment.
- Trump is a consummate marketer - the best by far on the stage in 2016. He understands the hot buttons of the electorate; he can attract and satisfy a large audience; he has had a successful career as a television personality.
- Trump expands the national profile of the Republican Party. Ratings for the debates are a multiple of past cycles and the Democrats. The public is seeing Republican ideas, a mix of Republican ethnicities and genders. Public perceptions of Republicans are being formed by direct observation rather than being filtered by a liberal media.
- Trump is crushing the liberal concept of Political Correctness that has increasingly limited discussion for the past few decades - on campuses and in the public square; making it impossible for society to seek balanced compromises on subjects from climate change, to immigration, to abortion, to health care.
- Trump has management experience, but is not tainted by the cesspool of Washington. Many would like a governor with government experience, but at least he understands selling, budgeting, and managing people. Rookie senators have not worked out so well.
- He is an optimist.
- Trump really has no ideological core. He has donated more to Democrats than to Republicans, and is a Republican of political convenience. He has been a practitioner of political corruption. He has been for a single payer healthcare system. He is for Donald Trump.
- His limited understanding of international affairs does not impede his willingness to speak decisively. He thinks that he understands Putin because they were both interviewed (continents away) on the same television program. By now he gets the Sunni - Shia divide, but doesn't know who the Kurds are. He will talk about increasing military spending, but doesn't know that the "nuclear triad" refers to missiles on aircraft, in silos, and on submarines. The observer should pay close attention to his pace of learning - and whether he sees the need to learn.
- There are two questions - who would be the best president, and who can beat Hillary Clinton. The first doesn't matter if the answer is a clear "No" on the second. Of the Republicans, current polling shows Rubio beating Clinton by 1.3%, Cruz being a toss-up, Trump losing by 4.8%, and most of the rest losing by one or two per cent. Perhaps the Republicans will do better as their field consolidates; perhaps Hillary's extreme numbers on likability and trustworthiness will doom her against anybody. But Trump has a clear ceiling on his potential and is the least likely to win at this point. (Proponents claim that Hillary is so flawed that she will lose to anybody, that Trump will decimate her in debates, and that his marketing expertise is still under-rated. It is a risk.)
- When Trump insulted John McCain for being captured in Viet Nam it served as a warning that he relished the "You're Fired" line from The Apprentice, and that he would be insulting anybody if it gave him short term advantage. Bullying is a big part of his schtick - and it comes naturally.
- In terms of the American political setting there is a short term answer and a long term answer. When Pete Wilson used Proposition 187, targeted against use of state-funded services by illegal immigrants, to turn out support and win reelection in 1994, he earned four years in the governors mansion, but he poisoned the state for Republicans for at least a generation.
These are serious times with the hangover from 7 years of Obama, an economy which has disappointed a large portion of the lower and middle class; a hostile Middle East; nuclear proliferation; and a resurgent Russia. It is a perfect setting for a demagogue, and we have one. It is also a unique opportunity for a Republican transformation with control of the House, a majority in the Senate, control of most state governments , and a workable Supreme Court. This is the prize that conservatives should look to - and Trump minimizes the opportunity.
This week's video was smuggled out of a November Republican National Committee meeting. (Adults only)
www.RightinSanFrancisco.com - 1/8/15