What is it about Donald Trump that makes people who earn their daily bread in Republican politics so crazy? It’s worse than the Zika Virus. Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, William Galston, former adviser in the Clinton White House and resident scholar at the liberal Brookings Institute writes the following:
“Some leading Republicans have quietly told me that they would break ranks if Mr. Trump wins their party’s nomination. A few have said so publicly. Unless a viable alternative emerges soon, every Republican will face the same dilemma.”
Galston is a Democrat writing for the Wall Street Journal. Of course Galston will do what he can to sow discord in Republican ranks. The Wall Street Journal – a generally conservative leaning paper – is the country’s leading organ in favor of Open Borders and thus hostile to Trump. But this is not an isolated hit-piece.
TDS Spreads – Republican Elites Most Effected
Earlier this week Bill Kristol, writing in the pages of The Weekly Standard, asked: “Trump Lied. Will his candidacy die?” Kristol is no fan of Trump’s and is upset that Trump attacked the Bush Administration’s basis for the Iraq War. I was a full-throated supporter of the war back in 2003 and continue to believe that Bush won the war and Obama lost the peace. But no one wants to re-litigate the basis for the war right now, so I could have answered Kristol’s question for him. No, Trump’s comments won’t undermine, let alone end, his candidacy.
In fact, Kristol, who is heavily identified with the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party and is thus heavily invested in the history of the Iraq War and the Bush Family brand of conservatism more broadly, should have known better. He should have understood Trump’s attack for what it really was – and what rank and file Republican voters watching the debate instinctively knew. It was a bare-knuckled political attack during a debate – a shiv between Jeb!’s ribs designed to score points and fluster his opponent. It was not an invitation to a deep policy debate. Trump is a street-fighter not an Oxford debater and he’s trying to win an election.
But is hasn’t just been Kristol. South Carolina’s own Senator Lindsay Graham had these kind words to say about Mr. Trump while talking with Alisyn Camerota on CNN:
“He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party. He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for.… He’s the ISIL man of the year.”
Will that matter in the South Caroline primary on Saturday? About as much as Kristol’s criticism.
Pete Wehner, who worked in both Bush White Houses, writes in the New York Times that he will not support Trump if he becomes the Republican nominee. Why, you ask?
“If this scenario comes to pass, many Republicans will find themselves in a situation they once thought unimaginable: refusing to support the nominee of their party because it is the best thing that they can do for their party and their country.”
Jeb! has steadfastly refused to commit to supporting Trump if he becomes the Republican nominee for President. Remember that the RNC required Trump to sign a pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee early in the primary cycle. Apparently that door only swings one way.
GOP consultant Rick Wilson famously said, “They’re still going to have to go out and put a bullet in Donald Trump…and that’s a fact.”
Kaisch Campaign Co-Chair Pat Brady said, “You’ve got to take him out with a head shot.”
Isn’t the argument that Trump is the one who is an uncivil hothead who can’t be trusted with power? What’s with all of the shooting analogies from fellow Republicans.
And, of course, National Review devoted an entire issue to being “Against Trump.”
There is principled, respectful opposition to Trump as a candidate. This seems to come most strongly from Cruz supporters. But then again, Republican insiders don’t much like Cruz either – and the feeling is largely mutual. But it’s those same insiders, the people who make their living from Republican politics that seem most susceptible to Trump Derangement Syndrome.
Money Or Fear?
Trump doesn’t play the game the way the insiders say you have to play it. People outside of politics – meaning real people with jobs and families and lives – you know, actual voters – don’t fully appreciate that politics is a business. And it’s just like any other business except that everyone says they aren’t in it for the money. I’m not talking about the candidates. Most Republican candidates for public office pursue that office for the right reasons. But the industry that supports those candidates exists to make money. Nothing wrong with that, but let’s remember how people are getting their bread buttered when we hear them speak.
These are the consultants, managers, staffers, writers, marketers, admen, pollsters, etc. And Trump hires precious few of them and most of the ones he hires come from the business world – they are Trump people – and not from the political world. What is worse from their perspective, is that Trump threatens to shut down the gravy train. He is a change agent not just in politics but in the business of politics.
The same group of people and companies that have been paid untold millions of dollars to lose the popular vote in 5 out of the last 6 presidential elections, the people who raked in big bucks to elect Presidents McCain and Romney are having their professional lunch eaten for them by someone they consider an amateur. Trump’s success changes the business – he’s showing how a smart, media-savvy candidate can run a national campaign without them and without a huge budget. Try and take food away from a dog and see what happens. It’s no wonder TDS hits them so hard.
Of course there’s another angle. Not only is Trump taking food off their tables, he’s beating the consultants at their own game. And it’s supposed to be their game – where they set the rules and where they and only they are supposed to have the special knowledge to run a campaign and get elected. By holding the keys to the kingdom they were able to get rich. Maybe that was true at some point, but the world has changed. Technology has changed. Candidates don’t need gatekeepers or handlers – in fact this year the more scripted the candidate they worse they perform.
Just look at the Democrats. Hilary is a cyborg candidate decades in the making. She has an answer and a 200-page policy proposal for every question anyone cares to ask (unless it’s about Bill’s sexual perfidy). But Bernie is beating the pantsuit off of her. He’s nuts but at least he seems real. And voters are jaded. They (we!) can see through the scripts and the evasive non-answers that politicians love to give.
We’re in a moment that is tailor-made for candidates like Trump and Sanders – a moment that may last. This inflection point marks a change in the way the business of politics is done – which creates fear on the part of the people in that business. So when those same people lash out, perhaps we should not be too surprised. But nor should we take their criticisms too seriously.
Connect with Chris Buskirk on Twitter at: @TheChrisBuskirk