Ah you loved me as a loser, but now you're worried that I just might win
You know the way to stop me, but you don't have the discipline
How many nights I prayed for this, to let my work begin
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
-- First We Take Manhattan (Leonard Cohen)
Politico took a survey of Republican Insiders and asked them (anonymously, of course) if we'd reached "Peak Trump." The answer (for 75%) was "Uh, yes. At least . . . we hope so." Right now that's all anyone can do: Trump is currently unstoppable by any force known to man. It is generally considered that something will happen to him on the way to the nomination--something 'has to'--but it's not clear what that will be right now and it's not clear how much damage he'll do before something gets him.Which of the Kubler-Ross stages is "a third party candidate will save us"?— Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) July 24, 2015
So what do you do?
Noah Rothman, writing in Commentary, suggested a consolidated top-down frontal assault to push him out. This would include the RNC, the other candidates, and other power-brokers. It was tried. It hasn't worked. Matt Lewis, writing in The Daily Beast, thinks it's down to Rush Limbaugh to "smother" Donald Trump. Limbaugh, though, is more interested in a somewhat nuanced defense of Donald Trump (as an object lesson in not letting The Media dictate the outrage-apology cycle that haunts the GOP)--not knee-capping him.
Lindsey Graham tried mockery. Rick Perry tried calling him a cancer.
Trump's numbers, thus far, have kept going up.
What To Do?The Omnivore figures he's at least as good a PR-Crisis consultant as Carlos Danger so he's going to tell you what has to be done. Listen up, GOP.
First: What Won't WorkLet's get a few things out of the way first--the "obvious things"--that won't work to make Donald Trump exit the race.
1. No One Will Save YouYou must get it out of your head that populist conservative talkshow hosts are going to bring the hammer down on The Donald. This is because until their listeners want to hear it, it won't be popular and they're not going to say it. It's also because Trump is tapped into a vein of popular thought (that Conservatives always lose, always are demonized, always apologize) that these same popular figures draw from as well. They are the original creators of Donald Trump's message. They're not going to tie the tourniquet around their own necks.
2. You Will Not Convince People Trump Is A DemocratOh, honey, The Omnivore knows it's unfair--it always is, isn't it? There there. People just aren't buying that the Confederate Battle Flag is a Democrat flag. They aren't even buying that it's heritage-not-hate! They didn't buy that it was Obama's government shutdown for the shutdown. Heck--they didn't even buy it was Obama's DHS shutdown even though Ted Cruz made it clear it was Obama's. People are just dumb.
Of course Trump gave to Hillary--that's a fact, jack. Shouldn't it resonate? Well, yes--but you have to use that pen-light amnesia thing from Men In Black to make everyone forget Mitt Romney standing on the stage with Trump during the 2012 elections. You also need to make Google get rid of that photo of The Donald with a smiling Rick Perry! Of course it's photo-shopped. Look, the shadows don't even line up!
|Must Be Faked: Perry With a Noted DEMOCRAT??|
3. That He 'Can't Win' vs. Hillary Isn't EnoughLook guys, the polling said Mitt Romney couldn't win against Obama and we all still supported him for the nomination (I'm talking to the professional GOP-class, not the base). If polling shows Trump tanking vs. Hillary, why wasn't that argument valid back in 2012? The polling also shows Cruz and Carson losing: Tell them to drop out too.
Nope--the term 'electable' is a dirty one for The Base right now and you should know why (McCain, Romney, for starters).
So What Do You Do?Right now you have two working positions. The first is hopeful. The second is traumatic.
Option 1: Do NothingTrump's popularity in the polls may have peaked--we won't know for a few more days--but whether it has or hasn't, the operational position is the same: Let The Donald Trump All Over The Primaries. Attacking him feeds his ego and gives him credibility with his supporters. Cut it out. Try to ignore him--but also treat him like any other candidate. No one is saying Ted Cruz is a cancer on the Republican party even though he stands for a lot of the same things and even endorsed Trump.
The level of RNC outrage over his McCain statement eclipsed the level of RNC outrage over his Mexicans-are-Rapist statements: Hispanics were pretty tuned into that. You can't herd cats--you can't coordinate messaging--and right now in a hot over-full primary powerful candidates all have a lot of perverse incentives.
Just back away. Declare neutrality. Let the voters decide.
Ahhh . . . but what about brand damage? What about Trump shutting out Marco Rubio? What if you think Walker ain't ready so it better be Jeb? What if you want to give Ted Cruz a fighting chance and with Trump going around he doesn't have the oxygen.
What if you think Trump just might win?
Option 2: Self DestructThis is the bad one--but it's the one that will yield the best results. In this case the Republican Party breaks off from its base and becomes a new thing entirely--composed of the people right now who think Jeb and Rubio might be good (and Kaisch)--and consider Walker possibly good--but maybe not-ready to be President. These are people who were (if not publicly) skeptical of Sarah Palin.
Why do this? Well, here's a picture for you:
|What YOU Think A Confederate Flag Rally Looks Like|
|On The Other Hand . . . (That's the Nazi/KKK Confed Flag)|
|That Second 'Barack Obama' Line? That's YOU. Everyone Else Is At The Top.|
Still not convinced? Well you got all the way here--so not surprising.
This is from the most recent Pew Poll:
The takeaway here is two-fold: Firstly that GOP favorability has tanked in this poll--and secondly that on each issue there was a substantial shift between February of 2015 and July of 2015. The Omnivore has a theory about why this is (note: Gallup shows a similar trend).
The problem is that the GOP is cornered by its base. The Base are the people who, right now are voting for Trump--Trump isn't the disease: he's the symptom. He's the only guy with nothing to lose who can time-after-time tell them what they want to hear--what they have been led to want to hear. It isn't just his never-backing-down: it's also his innate rudeness. He picked McCain as a target--and picked him well. The Base finds McCain the first point in a line of de-evolution that led to two terms of Obama. You couldn't say enough bad things about him.
The Base hates Lindsey Graham. They hate Planned Parenthood. Trump hasn't gone after Ted Cruz. He's barely wasted time on Rick Perry. Trump is a guided weapon by the base. That's why no approach other than letting the fire burn out or detaching them from the party will work. Matthew Continetti, writing at the Free Beacon (Free Bacon!) nails it here:
Our political commentary is confused because it conceives of the Republican Party as a top-down entity. It’s not. There are two Republican parties, an elite party of the corporate upper crust and meritocratic winners that sits atop a mass party of whites without college degrees whose worldviews and experiences and ambitions could not be more different from their social and economic betters. The former party enjoys the votes of the latter one, but those votes are not guaranteed. What so worries the GOP about Donald Trump is that he, like Ross Perot, has the resources and ego to rend the two parties apart. If history repeats itself, it will be because the Republican elite was so preoccupied with its own economic and ideological commitments that it failed to pay attention the needs and desires of millions of its voters. So the demagogue rises. The party splits. And the Clintons win.Exactly. But the problem is that these non-college Republican whites are now weaponized. Their views are cast in automatic diametric opposition to what they perceive as "the mainstream." This is toxic. It's toxic because there is no sustainable policy or strategy that comes out of it. There can be no repeal of Obamacare so we must have theater. Obama is already bombing ISIS--to destroy them will require boots on the ground--so the candidates must hint at that--without saying it--which looks cowardly. The Confederate Flag is, yes, a symbol of rebellion against the Federal Government--and a lot of these voters appreciate it as such.
It was also the flag of the slave-owning south and as such, it is an imperfect symbol of defiance. It was resurrected in the 40's explicitly to oppose integration and civil rights. Reasonable Republicans know it is tarnished. However, it must still be defended anyway: the GOP cannot wholesale disavow it as this would "break" their Base. They must put up with flag-rallies, some of which are run by literal white supremacists, without nuclear condemnation of them. These play on TV and look, well, bad.
Ted Cruz just now gave a speech on the Senate floor attacking the GOP for operating just like the Democrats. He's Trump-lite: combative--a charging rhino (not a RINO!). The base loved him for it--but even he can't go where Trump does: He doesn't have 10bn to spend. On the other hand, he enacted a toxic strategy that would have eventually lost and done tons more damage if he was allowed to call the shots. He's not the guy you want running the show.Extraordinary scene on as Cruz accuses McConnell of being a liar. Very rare to have such internal GOP on GOP violence laid bare on flr— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) July 24, 2015
So What Do You Do?You prepare to lose this cycle--yes, even to Hillary. The idea is to remove the toxins from the party. This will mean carving out a more moderate chunk--it will mean embracing a form of socialized health-care--a true alternative to Obamacare--maybe fixing some of it--but achieving an end-state that is more like Canada than 1950's America.
It will mean embracing diversity--immigration--and African Americans. It will mean doing so in ways that would not go far enough for Ta Nishi Coates--but would at least appeal to him. It will mean recognizing that institutional racism exists--and has been perpetrated by the US Government. It would mean recognizing evolution and climate change.
It will mean recognizing that in the future people who work in the wedding industry will have to serve gay customers. It will mean giving up on the "defense of marriage" all-together.
It might mean some form of gun-control--even if that leads to a slippery slope--even if it makes people enraged.
It'll mean losing in the short-run--but if Donald Trump doesn't suffer a Herman Cain-like polling collapse that'll mean losing too. This provides a recovery plan.