An arsonist is ahead in the Republican primary elections. And all the fire extinguishers are broken.
Will Donald Trump win the Republican primary? His mid-February triumph in New Hampshire shows it can no longer be denied that it’s highly possible this hooligan — who absolutely drips contempt for his rivals — may well finish in first place. It’s truly hard to figure out what’s going on in conservative, frustrated and, above all, white America. It apparently hasn’t damaged him in the least that he advocates barring Muslims from entering the United States and wants to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, not to mention calling for the return of torture methods like waterboarding and even worse.
There’s a lot of talk about “The Establishment” that lost control of the Republican primaries. By that, we mean the civil-conservative elites and leading representatives of the business and financial worlds that don’t see Washington as their enemy but largely as the guarantor of their interests — with the proviso, of course, that they at times must make compromises and don’t always get to eat the whole cake. Politicians of this “Establishment” — personified by the Bush family — adjust to social trends but pull the emergency brake when needed. Immediately after the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11, George W. Bush visited a mosque to emphasize that true Islam wasn’t the enemy.
And it’s not only Trump. Of the half dozen remaining Republican candidates out of an original field double that size, almost all of them cast themselves as outsiders. Ted Cruz, who won in Iowa, energetically campaigns “against Washington,” while supported by conservative evangelicals, and according to his father Rafael — a professional preacher — with divine blessings. Ted Cruz has managed to make himself extremely unpopular with his Senate colleagues by claiming they lack ideological purity in their opposition to Barack Obama. A joke making the rounds in Washington asks why so many Republicans dislike Cruz the moment they meet him. The answer: It saves time.
Jeb, son of one president, brother of another, and the very personification of “The Establishment” is almost completely drowned out by Trump’s barrage of insults. In New Hampshire, 90-year-old Barbara Bush campaigned for her son with her walker. She says Jeb “does not brag like some people we know,” and that “he’s almost too polite. I don’t advise him, but if I gave him advice I would say, ‘Why don’t you interrupt like other people do?’” Trump responded sending Jeb a tweet saying, “Jeb — mom can’t help you with ISIS, the Chinese or with Putin.” Bush came out at 11 percent in New Hampshire. The budding painter George W. Bush laid aside his paints and canvases long enough to open the week campaigning for Jeb in South Carolina, saying he understands that Americans are angry and frustrated, but that they didn’t need to have someone in the White House who fueled the anger and frustration even more.
Trump Vilifies Bush
At the Saturday debate, one week prior to voting in the South Carolina primary election on Feb. 20, Trump opened his head-on attack against the Bush dynasty. Red-faced and referring to the Iraq war, he charged, “They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction, and there were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.” Then came the most monstrous accusation of all in the eyes of most Republicans — that America was not made safer under George W. Bush. “When you talk about George Bush — I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time.” That’s almost as sacrilegious as Trump’s remark that he didn’t regard Sen. John McCain as a hero for surviving captivity and torture in Vietnam, sarcastically quipping, “I like people that weren’t captured.”
The New Yorker magazine addressed the subject of who Trump’s fans were several months ago: a loose alliance of those who consider themselves victims of a changing world. Trump apparently gives many of them the feeling of standing alongside a winner. This, of course, is a friendship of contradictions, since many of Donald’s fans are in reality people who — according to Trump’s standards — are losers. In spite of that, the candidate is sure of his people. Even if he were to shoot someone dead on Manhattan’s 5th Avenue, he says, he wouldn’t lose a single vote.
He enjoys the campaign. It’s all about him and not about his platform or programs. In his constantly mentioned book, “The Art of the Deal,” Trump explained back in 1987 how advertising and marketing function: One key to success is cockiness because it nourishes dreams, he wrote. Many people may not have grandiose plans themselves, but they can become passionate about those who do have them. And that’s where a little exaggeration never hurts.
People want to believe that something is the greatest, the funniest or the most spectacular — what he calls “truthful hyperbole,” an innocent and supposedly highly effective form of exaggeration. He has also seen that the media is always looking for a good story: the more sensational the better.
Mexico Gets the Bill
Trump never goes into any detail. He simply says, “I will be the greatest jobs president that God has ever created” and insists Mexico will have to pay for the fence he intends to build on the U.S.-Mexican border. He will negotiate better trade agreements with China. He finds complex international alliances unnecessary in foreign policy: He wants the United States to have the most powerful military on earth and has frequently criticized the stationing of U.S. forces in Korea, which he feels doesn’t benefit the United States. He says America’s costly Middle East policy destabilized the whole region.
Because of his uninformed statements, the man is a nightmare for the think tanks as well. Thomas Wright, foreign policy expert at The Brookings Institution, feels Trump would try to destroy the world order created after World War II. And The National Review magazine, for decades the official organ of respectable conservatism, published an anti-Trump edition saying, “There are understandable reasons for his eminence, and he has shown impressive gut-level skill as a campaigner. But he is not deserving of conservative support in the caucuses and primaries. Trump is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones.”
That sort of indignation, however, comes too late. Strong-man Trump is only harvesting the bounty sown by the Republican establishment for years, or at least since the beginning of Barack Obama’s administration seven years ago, when leading Republicans openly declared their complete and total opposition to anything the president wanted — and just at the right time, so-called tea party groups began mobilizing right-wing and predominantly white people in opposition to supposed government plans to confiscate guns from the American public, establish “death panels” as part of health care reform, and in ultimately destroying America completely. Even when Trump began his campaign with the claim that Mexican immigrants consisted largely of drug dealers, rapists and criminals, the Republican Party’s leadership was conspicuously silent.
Trump didn’t need to organize large voter turnout efforts, since relatively few Americans participate in primary elections. According to RealClearPolitics.com, Mitt Romney won the 2012 Republican primary election with a total of only 10 million votes being cast.
Meanwhile, the Democrats are busy asking themselves whether they want to take political baby steps, or do they want a political revolution. And who is the most electable, Hillary or Bernie? There hasn’t been this much insecurity in a long time. There are questions with no answers: How will the Republican establishment react if Trump wins the primaries? How will Democrats react if Sanders wins? And in the event Trump crashes in the primary vote, he just recently threatened again to run as an independent …