Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Dignity of Donald Trump

Allegedly From A White Power Website. That's Putin's Body

First, Some Perspective

If you ask people who aren't paying much attention to politics what's going on in politics in general right now, the answers (based on headlines, snippets of things heard on cable news, and reading the odd 'think piece' from time to time) looks like this:
Business As Usual

Yeah, Trump is leading (or something) but really he's just another one of those Republican-candidate things where he does good for a while and then we get another one. And another. Isn't that "Oops Guy" back in the race?

Here's what Trump's polling graph really looks like:

As for Hillary? Isn't she losing? The country doesn't trust her. She's going to jail soon for some kind of email thing. Also, Biden's running now, isn't he? (He isn't). It's all Sanders now, right? Here's the latest Quinnipiac word-cloud for Hillary:

These are words used to describe her in one of the latest polls. She's done, right? And if she isn't jailed, at least she's losing, right?

Here's the polling aggregate from RCP today:
Well, uh, she's losing to Sanders (by a little) in New Hampshire. Seriously, Hillary isn't just super-dominant in the Democrat primary. She even (somehow?) beats the top-tier GOP candidates.

What gives?

If you think that's confusing, look at this:

The GOP Runner Up

Yeah, yeah, that big classy red line is Trump. We all know. We get it. What's that attractive-looking light blue line though? Right beneath it. Bush, right? No. It's Ben Carson. Dr. Ben Carson is the GOP Runner-Up. He leads Jeb by about 4pts--a substantial lead.

Just to recall, Carson has never held elected office and doesn't have great political instincts (thus far). What he has done (notably) in the past few weeks is:
So why's Carson pulling second place? Because he's generally likable? So's Marco Rubio. Because he's really, really conservative? So's Ted Cruz. Because he's black? Rubio is Latino. Cruz is Canadian (ka-zing!). Seriously?

Because He's The Safe Rebel

From The Washington Times:

“He’s the safe rebel,” said Michael McKenna, a GOP strategist and pollster.
This is actually a bit understated. Here is Erick Erickson writing on the current state of the GOP. He doesn't mention Carson--but the implications are there:

The Republican Party has most often come to power at times of crisis, starting with slavery. But in the great moral crisis now, the Republican Party finds itself infested with charlatans, conmen, louts and Donald Trump. The Republican Party of 2015 more often than not responds to the fierce urgency of now with palms outstretched, waiting for the highest bidder to purchase its policy positions, while running from any fight that might get it criticized by a Washington press corps increasingly composed of former leftwing activists masquerading as objective journalists. 
But there is more to this than meets the eye. More and more polling shows the biggest group of voters who hate the Republican Party are the Republicans' own conservative voters. In growing numbers, they have driven down the popularity ratings of Congress. Instead of trying to recover popularity with their base, the Republicans have convinced the Chamber of Commerce to spend millions of dollars defeating conservative Republican "troublemakers" in the 2016 primary cycle. Why join the base when the GOP thinks it can beat its base?
GOP Pollster Frank Luntz came to a similar conclusion that left him "weak kneed." He took Trump voters and tried to shake their commitment by showing them the various sins Trump has committed against conservatives, women, etc. None of it worked:
“You guys understand how significant this is?” Luntz asked reporters, according to Time. “This is real. I’m having trouble processing it. Like, my legs are shaking.” 
I want to put the Republican leadership behind this mirror and let them see. They need to wake up. They don’t realize how the grassroots have abandoned them,” Luntz continued. “Donald Trump is punishment to a Republican elite that wasn’t listening to their grassroots.”
The Omnivore asserts that this view is more or less correct.

What's Going On

What's going on is pretty obvious: the GOP messaging machine has been selling the idea that Republican leadership has been selling out the base for years. This, despite (a) Republican leadership not controlling the White House--which is really, really important when advancing an agenda, (b) lack of a filibuster proof majority in the Senate--in an environment of unprecedented partisan bloc-voting (i.e. peeling off Democrats or Republicans is nigh impossible), and (c) a slate of unrealistic expectations from their voters (Repeal Obamacare! Just vote against it).

In other words, instead of recognizing that the GOP leadership in politics were kind of doing the best they could--instead the narrative that was sold to voters was that the GOP leadership was betraying them. Dead-end tactics like government shutdowns were sold as reasonable battle-plans ("It's just a slow-down!" or "Defaulting on the Debt Ceiling won't really hurt us.").

This was sold to Republicans by talk radio juggernauts, Fox News, and a variety of even shakier Internet outlets (World Net Daily,News Max, and so on). What's been created is a fake civil war--a war that no thought could actually "go hot."

The reason that no one was worried about the GOP base defecting was because there was nowhere for them to go. Third Party runs would just hand the White House to Hillary. Even Jeb would be better than that (if you don't think his policy would be any better, at least you wouldn't have to live with smug Democrats for another 4 years).

This is like the bank's thinking in 2007: If we sell a guy a house--and he can't pay for it--we get the house. And hey! Houses always go up in value! It's a win-win (for us). Sell the dude the house. SELL ALL THE DUDES HOUSES.

This is the strategy that works until you sell everyone a house they can't afford. Then it doesn't.

The GOP didn't foresee a candidate who was self-supporting and so antithetical to the GOPe that he actually was an alternative to the Republican party--while being, kinda--a Republican.

Consider this: the GOP's so-called "entertainment wing" (Talk Radio and TV GOP super-stars) has, instead of circling the wagons for 'real candidate' (like maybe Ted Cruz or Scott Walker), have thrown in--to a large degree--with Donald Trump:
For weeks, some of the biggest names in conservative talk radio — Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, and Savage — have praised Trump and his bashing of the politically correct left and Republican establishment. 
But the conservative talkers are also pushing his rhetoric on immigration and his vow to revoke birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants — and delivering that content straight to their millions of listeners.
Talk radio occupies a special place in the GOP ideological food chain. These personalities have deep influence over their listeners. They have a great degree of trust:
“I liken the bond between hosts and their listeners to a friendship,” said Brian Rosenwald, a University of Pennsylvania professor who has studied conservative talk radio. “Politically, the result of this bond is that when hosts talk to listeners about a candidate or bill it’s like having your brother-in-law or best friend tell you about the candidate or bill.
Don't these guys--luminaries of the conservative movement--care about the Republican party? Don't they realize what they're doing? Maybe--in fact--probably:
It’s hard to tell whether the hosts actually really like Trump, whose conservative bona fides fall apart the minute the discussion goes beyond immigration, or whether they’re more concerned with pleasing their audience and with keeping the focus on the immigration debate that fires up the base. Trump, after all, has supported many positions antithetical to conservative orthodoxy over the years — universal health care, a pro-choice approach to abortion (since reversed), banning assault weapons, and so forth.
The Omnivore thinks it's pretty clear: Trump is the product they've been selling for years. If they were to repudiate him--well, they might lose that credibility. Erick Erickson, above, tried to smack Trump by disinviting him from his RedState confab. Trump called him a loser and kept right on truckin'.

It's likely that Erickson expected his authority on the right to have a little more impact on the billionaire than it did. Other people--paying close attention--are learning from that lesson. Media outlets and pundits can't play Kingmaker any more. Trump--and the GOP Base--simply seems to be stronger.
“Fealty to Trump demands the broadcasters fully buy in to the Trump Reality Distortion Field, or be cast into the outer darkness,” Wilson said. “I mean, this isn’t a new observation, but Fox News is no longer conservative enough in their eyes. I heard a Newsmax promo this week that said, ‘Tune in to Newsmax TV to get the real story from Ted Cruz… without the Fox News filter.’”

Trump: Restoring Dignity

Sarah Palin interviewed Trump on a small right-wing news station and got 12 million viewers crashing their servers.

If you don't think Palin's endorsement of Trump counts for much, you don't understand anything. The narrative that has been following Hillary on the right isn't just that she's a corrupt liar--it has been that:

  1. She is in ill health and can't run for President
  2. She will be back-stabbed by Obama and forced out of the race
  3. She will decide not to run because her negatives and scandals are so huge
  4. Stuff will come out about Benghazi that will disqualify her
  5. Stuff will come out about her email scandals that will imprison her
  6. Her credibility is so ruined that Biden or Al Gore will have to step in to rescue the party
As we saw, above, this isn't happening yet. It may not happen at all--but the narrative persists because it is necessary. For the GOP Base voter--who has twice seen Obama elected--the idea of a Hillary coronation followed by a Hillary administration is a personal affront. Leaving the merits of such an administration aside, a Hillary election would be a huge narcissistic injury--a bold statement that "YOU DON'T MATTER."

Picking the person most likely to beat Hillary--Jeb Bush--would, in fact, inflict a similar (if lesser) wound. It did with Romney and McCain (and the compounded indignity that neither of them won the general election just made it worse).

Donald Trump's no-apology (and insult everyone) approach restores a sense of dignity to his supporters (remember the "Not a Cuckservative" thing--that's mostly about not backing down--ever). Ben Carson has also--not coincidentally--run on a no-more-political-correctness approach. Voting Trump or Carson is a smack in the face to all the liberals who've told you "You can't say that" or "you're a racist" or "you're a sexist" and so on. 

Today--for a party that has been told it has been betrayed--that its values don't matter--that it is irrelevant--these candidates are an answer--and a potent one.

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