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“No Political Makeover Can Save Donald Trump”: Trump Will Never Be Able To Button It Up

Donald Trump is about to get a makeover.

Paul Manafort — who is effectively Trump’s new campaign manager — told a group of knob-turners at the Republican National Committee late last week that the version of Trump seen during the primary was just a cynical act. Now the act is going to change. “[W]hat’s important for you to understand: That he gets it, and that the part he’s been playing is evolving,” said Manafort.

Surely the very important people at this meeting had to be peeled from the back wall after hearing this. Blown away! An act? You mean that when Trump constantly tells audiences that he will change when he becomes the nominee, that he can become “politically correct” as president, he was… telling the truth? You mean to say that a guy who simultaneously promises an enormous border wall to repel Mexican rapists and a permissive touch-back amnesty might have been pulling a few legs along the way?

Still, as unsurprising as this is, don’t believe the supposed import of this makeover talk. Trump will never be able to button it up. Not totally. Even as Manafort was promising Republicans that Trump would come around with a much more establishment-friendly message and campaign, Trump himself was changing his position on questions of transgendered access to bathrooms. On Thursday morning, to the liberal press, he said transgendered people should be able to use whatever bathrooms they want. Later, talking to Sean Hannity on Fox News, he defaulted to a states-rights position on the issue. He still couldn’t help but add, “But they are losing business, and they are having people come out against.” In other words, hey North Carolina, you should have the right to do something I obviously think is stupid.

Trump is never going to stop being Trump. And his campaign cannot succeed by flip-flopping now. You may have noticed that throughout the primaries, Trump often seemed to be trying to have it both ways. He could demand the border fence one day, and then say “I love the Mexican people” the next. He could call America’s major trade deals bad, and then immediately say, “I believe in free trade.” To close observers, it just sounded incoherent. But nobody is going to forget his signature positions. Just because he’ll start saying “I love Mexicans” more doesn’t make the footage of him saying “Somebody is doing the raping” go away.

That footage — and plenty more — will be featured prominently in ads from Hillary Clinton and progressive super PACs. It will be used to make upwardly mobile suburban white people — the backbone of the Republican Party — deeply uncomfortable with Trump’s candidacy.

Oh, and then there will be the footage of him saying several years ago on national television that he’s “very pro-choice” and wouldn’t restrict abortion in any way.

Or that he is for gun control. Here’s Trump in 2000: “I support the ban on assault weapons and I support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.”

Say goodbye to two of the major activist groups who dutifully fill up the treasuries of GOP-allied direct mail operations, and who volunteer to go door to door during election time.

In a way, Trump followed the exact opposite ethic of his former nemesis. Jeb Bush said that a Republican candidate should be willing to lose the Republican primary in order to win the general election. Dutifully, Bush lost the primary. Trump has done the opposite — he was willing to lose the general election to win the primary. He used every trick he had for generating free media, and whipping up the intense support of about one-third of the Republican electorate in the primary contests. It just so happens that he did this in a way that cost him the chance of ever winning over the enthusiastic support of the rest of the party apparatus, and any chance of winning a normal general election campaign.

Becoming an establishment creature now would dispirit many of Trump’s core supporters. It would wreck any momentum his candidacy had at renovating the Republican Party’s stale ideology. Trump will have worse problems than even Mitt Romney did in trying to explain the convenient evolution of his views. Trump’s unreliability extends even to his own stunts. Months ago he skipped a Fox News debate to raise $6 million for veterans. They haven’t seen the money.

Trump cannot succeed in a general election without an unforeseeable intervention from beyond our normal politics — think a sudden economic crash, a terrorist attack, or the likelihood of war. A little campaign makeover certainly won’t change what is now the most well-defined and lustily disliked campaign in modern memory. The Trump reboot will not make Trump viable. It just makes his new campaign manager viable. This is nothing more than another layer of orange-hued makeup on an orange-hued corpse of a campaign.

 

By: Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week, April 25, 2016

April 26, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Establishment, Political Correctness | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Trump Upends Coalition”: How The Bathroom Controversy Exposes Rifts In The Increasingly Fragile Republican Coalition

It wouldn’t be an election without a good dose of culture-war sexual politics, and now Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are arguing about bathrooms. Specifically, the question of the law that North Carolina passed — mandating that transgender people use not the bathroom of their identity but of the sex written on their birth certificate — is now a part of the presidential campaign. When Trump was asked about it yesterday, he gave a perfectly sensible answer — but it was the wrong one. And in doing so, he highlighted just how fragile his impending nomination makes the complicated Republican coalition.

Here’s how it went down:

Trump said there was little controversy before the law was passed, and the measure has done nothing but hurt North Carolina economically. Businesses including American Airlines, Facebook and Google have condemned the measure, and the National Basketball Association hinted it might relocate next year’s all-star game from Charlotte.

“You leave it the way it is. There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble,” Trump said on NBC’s “Today” show Thursday. “And the problem with what happened in North Carolina is the strife and the economic. … I mean, the economic punishment they’re taking.”

Trump’s comments were met with fierce opposition from Cruz, who defended the law last week.

Cruz seems positively giddy to be able to talk about this issue. He describes the idea of transgender women using women’s rooms as, “Men should be able to go into the girls’ bathroom if they want to.” You’ll notice the contrast of “men” and “girls,” used so that you’ll think this is some sort of issue about pedophiles preying on children. To emphasize the point, he concludes, “Grown adult men — strangers — should not be alone in a bathroom with little girls.”

I won’t even bother refuting that rancid fear-mongering, except to say that the legislators in North Carolina were unable to cite a single case where a transgender woman assaulted someone in a bathroom in North Carolina, let alone any “little girls.”

But now Trump is gingerly walking back his statement, saying that the question should be decided at the local level, which is the best he can do to make Republican culture warriors less suspicious of him. And that’s where we get to the nature of the GOP coalition, which Trump doesn’t quite seem to grasp.

There was always an implicit bargain within that coalition, one that said that even if various kinds of conservatives had different priorities, they would sign on to each other’s agendas. The supply-siders would say that unfettered gun rights are deeply important, even if most of them don’t actually own guns. The antiabortion crusaders would say that military spending should always be increased. The neoconservatives would praise tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s a circle of interdependence and common cause, and to a great degree, they all came to believe in each other’s positions, even if they didn’t agree on what the top priority for the party should be.

But Trump has upended this bargain, partly because he has nothing resembling a coherent ideology, but also because he doesn’t appreciate the need to keep the coalition together. There are some issues, such as guns, where Trump has adopted the standard Republican position (without a trace of evident sincerity). But on others, he has been willing to anger parts of the Republican coalition. Perhaps it’s because of a careful calculation about what will play well in the general election, but I suspect it’s more impulsive — since Trump didn’t rise through Republican politics, he doesn’t have an intuitive sense of what’s important to which conservatives and what will make them angry.

So when a question he hasn’t thought about comes up, he just gives an answer that seems right for him at that moment. Then what often happens is that people who understand what Republicans think about that issue — reporters and Republicans themselves — say, “What?!?,” somebody clues Trump in to why his allies are mad, and within a day or two he comes back and clarifies what he meant to say, which winds up being something more palatable to the party. This has happened multiple times.

On issues that touch on sex, Trump’s impulses often seem basically libertarian (there are those New York values!), and as he tries to shift them so they can work within the GOP, he winds up ticking people off and going through multiple iterations before he can come up with the appropriate answer. So he says the wrong thing on transgender people, and he says that women should be punished for having abortions (which runs counter to the “We’re taking away your reproductive rights for your own good because you just don’t know any better” stance of the pro-life movement) but also says that there should be exceptions for rape and incest, which the hard-core pro-lifers don’t like either.

The bathroom issue highlights how Red America and Blue America are moving farther and farther apart. If you live in a state controlled by Republicans, your state legislature and your governor will ensure that gay people aren’t protected from discrimination, make abortions almost impossible to obtain, slash social services, undermine unions, make sure you can take your gun to church and generally do what they can to turn your state into a paradise of “traditional” values and right-wing economics. If you live in a Democratic state, your representatives are probably busy raising the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana, expanding government-provided health care and child care, protecting people from discrimination and generally doing all the things the people in red states find horrifying.

Presidential candidates from either party can come from either kind of state, but if you cross over — if you’re a blue-state Republican or a red-state Democrat — you have to assure your voters that you believe deep in your heart that their kind of state embodies all the proper values. Trump doesn’t do that, or at least he doesn’t do it often enough.

For those who are already behind him, it doesn’t really matter. His supporters don’t have specific issues that are absolute deal-breakers, in large part because his campaign is built on personality. Cruz, on the other hand, has a campaign built on ideology. And when there’s a chance to pick up a culture-war baton like this one, he isn’t going to let it pass.

Does that mean that once Trump is the nominee, the social conservatives who really care about the culture war aren’t going to vote for him? Might they just sit the election out? We don’t know yet. What we do know is that they’re the ones who are most likely to get the short end of the stick from the GOP nominee, even as Republicans at the state level work like mad to advance the right’s social agenda.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, April 22, 2016

April 26, 2016 Posted by | Culture Wars, Donald Trump, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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