Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Why Has No One Tried To Stop Trump??

Trump Is The Honey Badger
After his victory in Nevada, people are now well aware that if not inevitable, Trump is, at this point, the likely nominee. He's also, as currently polled, likely to get his clock-cleaned by Hillary in the general (as opposed to, say, Rubio, who currently beats Clinton). The head-to-head matchups mean almost nothing at this point but they can be taken as evidence that if people consider Hillary the worst-case-scenario (and most--but not all--Republican voters do) they are ignoring some key data points about what might avoid that disaster.

It's also being said that "the time to stop Trump is now--but really, it was 'now' about three weeks ago--and say 3 months would have been best."

These think-pieces usually ask why the establishment has done so little to stop him?

There are some theories:

No One Thought They Had To

A beautifully attractive theory is that political strategists, listening to political scientists, bought into the conventional wisdom that Trump would evaporate, somehow, on his own. In this view the Party figured that what with Trump's lack of political credentials, endorsements, high unfavorables, and, frankly, wild and wildly shifting policy views, simply assumed he'd collapse and were content to stand back and let it happen.

Why It Works: Well, it's true. While the stats guys speak in probabilities, there was quite a lot of political thinkers more or less assuring us he'd go nowhere (Larry Sabato, well respected, created a Top-Tier-of-Candidates-Who-Can't-Win for Trump and Carson. They were right about Carson).

Why It Doesn't: If this was actually a considered belief rather than an excuse for doing nothing, there would have been a threshold, long before now, when they took extreme action.

The Lanes Theory

Similar to the above--but differently stated--is the theory that the GOP strategists formalized themselves and their candidates into "lanes" (an Outsider Lane, an Establishment Lane, an Evangelical Lane)--and set about trying to "Win their lane first." In this theory, the strategy called for everyone to "do nothing" until they'd won their lane and now everyone is losing the actual election.

Why It Works: Rubio, Bush, Christie, and Kasich indeed vied for the Establishment Lane--Rubio has won it. Evangelicals also had their lane (Huckabee, Santorm, and, erm Scott Walker, believe it or not). No one won it. We saw three complete Outsiders do well until one failed to catch fire, one shot himself in the foot, and one is leading.

Why It Doesn't: Other than Ted, who had the hug-it-out-and-take-his-delegates solution for Trump, everyone else realized that they had to beat him at some point. There were attacks. They just sucked.

They Tried and Failed

Vox makes the case that the establishment DID launch an all-out assault on Trump and just failed to kill him. What's that? You don't remember it? How about the first Fox debate with a slew of pointed, aggressive, Trump-Killing questions coming out Megyn Kelly? The NRO, an establishment magazine, published an entire AGAINST TRUMP article (knowing it would cause them headaches--it did: they were kicked off the next GOP Debate). The Party--moreso than the Democrats--have trained their outrage machines on him (War on Women--Kelly, Dissing Vets--McCain, Obamacare--his statements, Abortion--Erickson, etc.).

Why It Works: They tried and failed.

Why It Doesn't: While they did try, they did not try in a coordinated fashion. Now, it's true that Rince Pribus can't legitimately coordinate multiple super-pac strikes--but if he can't do that then is it fair to say The Party has not really tried to take out Trump?

Why They Haven't Stopped Trump

There are two factors that describe why Trump has not been stopped by the party. These are:

  1. They Don't Have Good Anti-Trump Weapons
  2. It Would Break The Party

They Lack Levers of Power To Pull Against Him

The Party has money, contacts (all over), and the Establishment is, like, almost every politician in office (excluding Ted Cruz, and the Freedom Caucus). The problem is that none of these just shoot-down a candidate automatically. For the RNC to run anti-Trump ads would be playing with fire and would be declaring war on their own base.

The other problem is that shadow-coordination of lines of attack that have not been tried has issues. When you call Trump-voters stupid you are alienating the 30+% of the party backing him and the 65% or so who consider him plausible. Accusing him of being a mafioso, for example, is also the kind of thing you'd better be able to prove if you are a Republican Party mouth-piece.

The final thing the Party can't do along this lines is attack him as a Republican. You can say he won't be able to deport 11MM illegal immigrants. You cannot say it's a stupid/evil thing to do. This is because he's within (at least on immigration) the Republican umbrella. Of course Democrats, in the general, will not be so restrained.

It Would Break The Party

This brings us to the real problem that people in the Republican establishment really don't want to face: Trump's Support is not from alien invaders (legal or otherwise)--it's from Republicans. It's from a lot of Republicans. Recently conservative talking-head Erick Erickson tweeted that he'd never though he'd need security from people within his own party--but now Trump-supporters are threatening him.

That's bad.

Someone in the Tweet-Responses noted: Those were voters Ted Cruz was counting on. Same with Scott Walker, actually.

The problem with The Party just, oh, declaring Trump ineligible and taking him off the ballots is that this would destroy the party. The 30% that want him would have to leave. It would be tacit admission that they cannot beat him. It would not just fracture the party but break it to pieces.

This, ultimately, is the problem with any consolidated attack on Trump: it means you can't beat him fairly. It means you have lost in the marketplace of ideas. It means The Party no longer stands for what its members want--but what its leaders want. While that's fine to a degree, the problem is that when you try to change the rules mid-way, it means you lost.


  1. The Federalist piece today ('I'll take Hillary Clinton Over Donald Trump') is fascinating, but I wonder if their thesis gets it backwards. Instead of Trump killing the GOP, might he actually be a vehicle for modernizing its message, positions, and platform in a way that connects with the wants and needs of an _expanded_ base, and not just a narrow evangelical constituency? I wonder if the GOPe is pissed off more at not having control, rather than on what is going on (a candidate who is connecting in a big way with a wide swath of America).

    1. About 20% of Trump supporters say that Lincoln should not have freed the slaves. I don't think he's a modernizing influence.


    2. To be fair: cartoonish Oompa-Loompa though he may be, Trump hasn't caused that. He's just emboldened bigots and antediluvian troglodytes to emerge from their caves and openly say what their respective tribes have been thinking for the past century and a half. He may yet serve as an indirect modernizing influence in the same way that Millard Fillmore did for the Whig party in the 1850s.

      That said, it seems equally likely that what rises from the ashes of the Republican Party will be something close to outright Nazism. I guess we'll see.

      -- Ω

    3. I'm bringing my popcorn--DELICIOUS, NAZI POPCORN!!