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“Will Trump Go Away If He Loses?”: You Cannot Keep The Baby Without The Bathwater

A very interesting argument has broken out over an unusual political question: If Donald Trump loses in November, can he be pushed aside while Republicans find ways to appeal to his core supporters?

Party gadfly David Frum seems to assume Trump will go away quietly:

[O]nce safely excluded from the presidency, Donald Trump will no longer matter. His voters, however, will. There is no conservative future without them.

Frum, to his credit, was warning Republicans for years that the GOP’s indifference to the actual views of its actual voters on the economy and immigration would eventually become a critical problem. He was right. So he has some credibility in seeking to craft a policy agenda and message that scratches the itch Trump scratched with so much excessive force.

But that doesn’t mean Trump won’t have anything to say about it.

Jeet Heer isn’t a Republican but makes a good point in responding to Frum that you cannot keep the baby without the bathwater when it comes to Trump’s fans:

[W]ill Trump really cease to matter in November? After all, no human being loves the spotlight more, and he’s chased after media attention since he was a young man. Being the nominee of a major party is a dream job for him, because it means people will hang on his every word. Even if he loses badly in November, Trump will likely cling to his status as the strangest “party elder” ever—and convert it into new, attention-grabbing and lucrative projects.

Fortunately for Republicans, the old tradition of referring to the immediate past presidential nominee as the “titular head” of the party has fallen into disuse. But presidential nominees rarely just go away. Perhaps the most self-atomizing recent major-party nominee was Democrat Michael Dukakis. But his demise after 1988 was not strictly attributable to his loss of what most Democrats considered a winnable general-election race against George H.W. Bush; his last two years as governor of Massachusetts also made a terrible mockery of his claims of an economic and fiscal “miracle.” And, besides, nobody thought of Dukakis as ideologically distinctive or as leading any sort of political “movement.”

The bottom line is that the same media tactics that improbably made Trump a viable presidential candidate in the first place will help him stay relevant even after a general-election loss, unless (a) it is of catastrophic dimensions and (b) cannot be blamed on tepid party Establishment support for the nominee.

If Trump loses so badly that he does indeed become irrelevant, then people like Frum will have another problem: competing with those who want to dismiss the whole Trump phenomenon as a freak event with no real implications for the Republican future. And yes, such people will be thick on the ground, attributing the loss to Trump’s abandonment of strict conservative orthodoxy on the very issues Frum thinks were responsible for the GOP alienation of its white working-class base from the get-go. There will be show trials and witch hunts aimed not just at Donald Trump and his most conspicuous supporters and enablers, but also at people like Frum — and more broadly, the Reformicon tribe of which he is often regarded as a key member — who think Trump was revealing important shortcomings of the orthodoxy many others will be trying to restore.

So, ironically, and even tragically, #NeverTrumper David Frum may discover that Trump will not only still be around, but could wind up on his side of the intra-party barricades.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 6, 2016

July 7, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Do You Believe Trump Is Qualified?: The 2016 Question Mitch McConnell Doesn’t Want To Answer

In the new Washington Post/ABC News poll, an almost ridiculous 64% of Americans  – nearly two-thirds of the country – said Donald Trump is not qualified to be president of the United States. That number is unheard of in modern history, and it creates a hurdle the Republican amateur will struggle to clear.

But before Trump can somehow try to convince the American mainstream he’s capable and fully prepared to lead the free world, he’ll first have to persuade the Republicans who are already supporting him.

On ABC’s “This Week” yesterday, host George Stephanopoulos asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in reference to Trump and the poll results, “Do you believe he’s qualified?” The GOP leader responded, “Well, look, I – I think there’s no question that he’s made a number of mistakes over the last few weeks. I think they’re beginning to right the ship. It’s a long time until November.”

It led to a rather striking exchange.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I didn’t hear you say whether you thought he was qualified.

MCCONNELL: Look, I’ll leave that to the American people to decide…. The American people will be able to make that decision in the fall.

In theory, this should be the easiest question in the world for a politician – is your party’s presumptive presidential nominee qualified for the Oval Office – and yet, Mitch McConnell just couldn’t bring himself to lie about this on national television. If the senator said, “No, he isn’t,” then McConnell would have no choice but to withdraw his endorsement. If the Majority Leader said, “Sure, I think he is,” it would have been painfully obvious that McConnell didn’t believe his own rhetoric. So instead, we were treated to an awkward evasion about the most basic of election tests.

Watching McConnell squirm was a reminder that, for all of their various troubles, this is a problem Democrats simply don’t have. Hillary Clinton is running on a lifetime of public service, including experience as a former two-term senator and a former Secretary of State. No one feels the need to ask Dems whether they believe she’s prepared for the job because the answer is so obvious.

Even Bernie Sanders, at one of the more contentious moments in the race for the Democratic nomination, said “of course” Clinton is qualified to be president.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), in his first national television interview after breaking his word about his re-election plans, struggled with similar questions from host John Dickerson.

DICKERSON: The presidency on national security issues sometimes comes down to one person by themselves in a room alone, no matter how much advice they have gotten. On those tough decisions, whether it’s about the nuclear codes or about the other kinds of decisions a single president can make, do you think that Donald Trump has better character and judgment in those alone situations than Hillary Clinton?

RUBIO: So, that’s the challenge Donald has over the next two, three months.

DICKERSON: Well, what does Senator Rubio think?

RUBIO: Well, but there’s a campaign. So, that’s what I’m going to watch now.

The senator knows the answer. He knows we know the answer. But partisanship won’t allow for candor.

It’s kind of sad to watch, actually.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 27, 2016

June 28, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , | 2 Comments

“Is Losing The Election Part Of Trump’s Plan?”: The Republican Party Has Provided The Vehicle For Trump’s Joy Ride

What’s Donald Trump really up to? Is he using the election of 2016 to enrich himself, with no intention of assuming the burdens of the presidency? Many wonder. If that’s the plan, he’s going about it the right way.

This may sound like political science fiction, but think. Success in such terms would entail two things: commanding maximum public attention and offending vast numbers of voters he would need to actually get elected. That’s what he’s been doing.

The two work together.

Vanity Fair reported speculation that the Trump endgame may involve establishing a family-run “mini-media conglomerate” — a kind of CNN or Fox News. Trump is already a media phenomenon with an enthusiastic audience. His campaign, meanwhile, has been featuring his wife, his children and a son-in-law as prominent co-stars.

The article said that Trump is sore about providing so much free content to the aforementioned media outlets without his getting a cut of the profits. (So much free airtime would be a source of joy for the conventional politician seeing election as the goal.)

Trump already controls a TV production company. Making the leap to Trump News Network, or whatever it might be called, would not seem so outlandish. The bigger the audience Trump builds dominating the news cycles, the more advertisers will pay for his product. And maintaining that high level of attention requires continually saying inflammatory things that turn off the larger electorate.

Suspicions began growing early on that Trump’s candidacy is a brand-building scheme and little more. Recall how every ludicrous thing out of his mouth — mocking John McCain for becoming a prisoner of war, smearing Latinos and savaging fellow Republicans — was deemed a campaign killer. His candidacy had to collapse. But it didn’t. Trump won more and more support from the so-called Republican base despite (or because of) his vulgarity and disregard for conservative principles that were never widely popular to begin with.

When Trump became the presumptive nominee, the political sophisticates assumed he’d clean up his act and behave in a dignified, presidential manner. He’s done neither.

The Republican Party unwittingly created the conditions for a Trump candidacy. Its leaders have sat quietly for decades as a right-wing media — run by personalities flogging their own wares — normalized crazy political rhetoric. They probably figured that come Election Day, they could easily herd the fired-up base to the proper stalls. And they misread its strong support for Social Security, Medicare and other government programs.

That Trump has almost no campaign funds fits the theory he’s not in it to win it. His people insisted he’s never needed that kind of money. His arresting personality would do the job. Then came the sinking poll numbers.

Trump raised $5.4 million last month and spent over a million of it at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, on private jet service provided by his Tag Air and at other family-owned enterprises. He put in $2.2 million of his own money, but that was just a loan.

Trump’s dumping of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski can be interpreted as a logical response to evidence that he’s wearing thin among likely voters. But there’s no taking anything at face value in the Trumpian house of funny mirrors. It may reflect the family’s concern that it’s losing audience share.

The Republican Party has provided the vehicle for Trump’s joy ride. If at the end he returns a smoking wreck to the counter, not his problem. He’ll be fine, he keeps telling us.

For party leaders, another story. They will need much time for reflection, starting with how they got so royally set up.

 

By: Froma Harrop; The National Memo, June 23, 2016

June 26, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, General Election 2016, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Wrath Of The Conned”: The Divergent Nomination Outcomes Of 2016 Aren’t An Accident

Maybe we need a new cliché: It ain’t over until Carly Fiorina sings. Anyway, it really is over — definitively on the Democratic side, with high probability on the Republican side. And the results couldn’t be more different.

Think about where we were a year ago. At the time, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush were widely seen as the front-runners for their parties’ nods. If there was any dissent from the commentariat, it came from those suggesting that Mr. Bush might be supplanted by a fresher, but still establishment, face, like Marco Rubio.

And now here we are. But why did Mrs. Clinton, despite the most negative media coverage of any candidate in this cycle — yes, worse than Donald Trump’s — go the distance, while the G.O.P. establishment went down to humiliating defeat?

Personalities surely played a role; say what you like (or dislike) about Mrs. Clinton, but she’s resilient under pressure, a character trait notably lacking on the other side. But basically it comes down to fundamental differences between the parties and how they serve their supporters.

Both parties make promises to their bases. But while the Democratic establishment more or less tries to make good on those promises, the Republican establishment has essentially been playing bait-and-switch for decades. And voters finally rebelled against the con.

First, about the Democrats: Their party defines itself as the protector of the poor and the middle class, and especially of nonwhite voters. Does it fall short of fulfilling this mission much of the time? Are its leaders sometimes too close to big-money donors? Of course. Still, if you look at the record of the Obama years, you see real action on behalf of the party’s goals.

Above all, you have the Affordable Care Act, which has given about 20 million Americans health insurance, with the gains biggest for the poor, minorities and low-wage workers. That’s what you call delivering for the base — and it’s surely one reason nonwhite voters have overwhelmingly favored Mrs. Clinton over a challenger who sometimes seemed to dismiss that achievement.

And this was paid for largely with higher taxes on the rich, with average tax rates on very high incomes rising by about six percentage points since 2008.

Maybe you think Democrats could and should have done more, but what the party establishment says and what it does are at least roughly aligned.

Things are very different among Republicans. Their party has historically won elections by appealing to racial enmity and cultural anxiety, but its actual policy agenda is dedicated to serving the interests of the 1 percent, above all through tax cuts for the rich — which even Republican voters don’t support, while they truly loathe elite ideas like privatizing Social Security and Medicare.

What Donald Trump has been doing is telling the base that it can order à la carte. He has, in effect, been telling aggrieved white men that they can feed their anger without being forced to swallow supply-side economics, too. Yes, his actual policy proposals still involve huge tax cuts for the rich, but his supporters don’t know that — and it’s possible that he doesn’t, either. Details aren’t his thing.

Establishment Republicans have tried to counter his appeal by shouting, with growing hysteria, that he isn’t a true conservative. And they’re right, at least as they define conservatism. But their own voters don’t care.

If there’s a puzzle here, it’s why this didn’t happen sooner. One possible explanation is the decadence of the G.O.P. establishment, which has become ingrown and lost touch. Apparatchiks who have spent their whole careers inside the bubble of right-wing think tanks and partisan media may suffer from the delusion that their ideology is actually popular with real people. And this has left them hapless in the face of a Trumpian challenge.

Probably more important, however, is the collision between demography and Obama derangement. The elite knows that the party must broaden its appeal as the electorate grows more diverse — in fact, that was the conclusion of the G.O.P.’s 2013 post-mortem. But the base, its hostility amped up to 11 after seven years of an African-American president (who the establishment has done its best to demonize) is having none of it.

The point, in any case, is that the divergent nomination outcomes of 2016 aren’t an accident. The Democratic establishment has won because it has, however imperfectly, tried to serve its supporters. The Republican establishment has been routed because it has been playing a con game on its supporters all along, and they’ve finally had enough.

And yes, Mr. Trump is playing a con game of his own, and they’ll eventually figure that out, too. But it won’t happen right away, and in any case it won’t help the party establishment. Sad!

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 29, 2016

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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