Republicans are beginning to panic, and with good reason: As the weeks go by, Donald Trump is still the absolute leader in all state and national polls toward becoming the conservative party’s candidate for United States president. Trump’s strength has defied all predictions. There is no precedent that can explain the phenomenon in all its complexity. Were these different times and circumstances, a fraction of the nonsense he has uttered would have been enough to squash the dreams of glory of any politician. Instead, Trump seems immune to the laws of political gravity. As I mentioned months ago, for now, Trump is still going strong. The voices that insisted on making fun of the presumed “clown” are now ominously silent: Their perplexity has reached new heights.
Besides his strength in the polls, there are a number of factors that will make it difficult for Trump to vanish from the political scene. I can think of two.
The first factor is luck. Ever since he announced his presidential aspirations, Trump has had amazing luck. As destiny would have it, during crucial moments of his campaign, reality has ended up aligning itself with his extreme rhetoric. Here are a couple of examples. Just a couple of months after Trump began his racist rant against Hispanics, an undocumented person named Juan Francisco Lopez murdered a woman in cold blood on a dock in San Francisco. It was a completely bizarre event: All statistical analyses available show that Trump is wrong in denigrating the immigrant community, which exhibits crime statistics that are lower than those from people born in the United States. Precisely because of this, Lopez’s moment of madness was a huge strike of luck; a particularly dramatic murder, it represented the justification for Trump’s narrative of exclusion. Trump responded with an “I told you so,” and jumped up in the polls.
Months later, just when Trump insisted on highlighting the dangers of the Islamic State, the massacre in Paris occurred. Trump responded with yet another “I told you so,” and climbed up in the polls again.
Of course, the height of Trump’s (gloomy) luck has been the San Bernardino massacre, which occurred right when Trump was insisting on the mad idea of instituting a proto-Fascist means of controlling the Muslim population in the United States. And though this time Trump’s response was more cautious (an oxymoron), the result in the polls was the same. It’s incredible, but true: These horrific times have proven to be the best ally of Trump’s improbable candidacy.
The other factor that worries Republicans is that Trump has managed to own a role that is absolutely crucial within the conservative party — that of the strong man in matters of foreign policy and security. Historically, the Republican Party’s strength has been its ability to appeal to the war paranoia of a large part of its electorate. Some time ago, in fact, it was fashionable to call it the “Daddy Party,” the party that knows how to deal with the threats that, particularly after 9/11, torment the American psyche. In a recent Gallup poll, 52 percent of respondents said they trusted a Republican leadership to protect the country against international terrorism. Only 36 percent chose the Democrats, a significant difference. Hence, the crucial importance of what Trump has achieved, to be perceived, if you will, as a daddy within the daddy party, draws him closer and closer to becoming the presidential candidate. And Trump’s advantage with regard to this subject is impressive, to say the least: Forty-six percent of Republicans identify him as the candidate who is best prepared to deal with the threat posed by the Islamic State group. Second place goes to Sen. Ted Cruz … with 15 percent!
If Trump manages to consolidate himself as that very strong man, and reality keeps on helping him along the way with yet another round of atrocities, it will be very hard for another candidate to wrench the nomination away from him.
Republicans have reason to be worried — very worried.