What They Whisper in Private
With no off switch, possessing neither tact, nor diplomacy; temperance or forbearance, the Trump candidacy is the worst thing that could happen to the GOP. For Trump to secure the Republican nomination would disastrous for the party. For him to win the White House would be calamitous for the nation. Ironically, there would be no one to blame for either outcome but the GOP.
To be sure the Republican base loves him. They believe him to be tenacious, a straight shooter; a no BS kind of guy. “He is speaks his mind, tells it like it is and says what everyone else is thinking”, it argues. We see things differently.
Donald Trump is a political demagogue who exploits social frustration, stokes resentment and foments division. He is a name calling “gangsta” well practiced in the arts of spreading fertilizer and personal invectives. He is neither brave nor honest and does not articulate what everyone else is thinking.
We clearly have problems with our immigration system. But not all agree that Mexicans crossing the boarder whether legally or illegally are criminals and rapists. And smearing an entire class of people is hardly an act of courage. It is instead an example of playing the race card, something the right allegedly abhors.
Moreover, for Trump to question the heroism of John McCain a veteran who spent years as a prisoner of war is hypocrisy of the lowest order. Via a number of deferments he avoided service; the last time because his foot hurt.
The only thing more plebeian is his disclosing the personal cell number of political opponent Senator Lindsey Graham and then encouraging his followers to harass said Senator with unsolicited phone calls. In short, “the Donald” is a hot mess, cursed with a level of conceit, impudence and self absorption that Narcissus would envy.
Lately, some party leaders have spoken up. Senator Graham called him “uniformed”, a “jackass” and a “wrecking ball on the verge of dismantling the Republican Party.” Former Texas Governor Rick Perry called Trump a “cancer on conservatism”. And newspapers like the Des Moines Register have called on him to drop out of the race.
Yet, among the GOP base, Trump leads the crowded field of Republican candidates. This is both the Trump quandary and the Republican problem.
The GOP can ill afford to offend its base of elderly whites, religious conservatives and the Tea Party. Said base is adamant and political active. They want what they want when they want it and vote in unison.
However, this group is relatively small and given the ravages of time and current demographic shifts the base is shrinking. In order to maintain its political relevancy, mush less win the White House, the GOP must appeal to a more diverse group of constituents. And it must do so without alienating those already in its corner. Trump is anathema to this purpose.
Hispanics are not likely to vote for anyone who labels them criminals and rapists. And given Trump’s “birther antics” not to mention his oft stated contempt for the first Black president, the same applies to African Americans even those who agree with his immigration stance. Interesting enough, the GOP bears sole responsibility for this sad state of affairs.
This wrecking ball of privilege, this purveyor of over the top insanity, this cancer of conflict and division was both sired and nurtured by party leaders. Trump had Graham’s cell number because the Senator sought his favor. And Trumps low opinion of Mexican immigrants is no different than that of Representative Steven King who said that Mexican immigrants have calves the size of cantaloupes because they are drug mules hauling drugs across the boarder.
It is also noteworthy that for all its outrage over the McCain slight, the party took no umbrage when Republican agents swift-boated John Kerry, an attack wholly embraced by Jeb Bush. Nor did they complain when Republican Joe Walsh questioned the service of Tammy Duckworth who lost both her legs in battle or when yet another party member belittled Max Cleland’s military service. GOP outrage over Trump’s anti McCain comments therefore rings hollow.
In summary, from absurd comments about sexual assault (legitimate versus illegitimate rape and/or “a rape victim cannot become pregnant because a women’s body has a way of shutting that thing down”), to Ben Carson’s assertion that homosexuality is a choice as evidenced by our prison system, to mutually exclusive allegations that President Obama is a socialist/communist/Nazi/Christian radical/Muslim radical/Kenyan born and raised terrorist, the GOP often appears delusional. “The Donald” only serves to cement the phrase Republican clown car.
But Donald Trump does far more than damage the GOP Brand, make the party look bad, alienate potential Republican constituents or drown out more credible GOP candidates. What distresses party leadership the most is that the Trump candidacy exposes the dark side of Republican politics.
What Trump says in public, the party whispers in private. The GOP would do well to deal with this problem lest the whisper becomes a shout.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum