The Strange Allure of Donald Trump
Trump’s rise is inextricably tied to his ability to offend and provoke the two groups Republicans hate most: the media, and sell-out Republicans.
So The Donald has taken another bullet, and it seems, for now, to have once again bounced right off of him. This well-aimed shot was of course fired by The Daily Beast’s Tim Mak and Brandy Zadrozny, who wrote about that ugly episode from 20-plus years ago when Trump “violated” his then-wife, Ivana. It was a great story, and it may well have finished off a typical politician.
But Trump isn’t a typical politician. It helped him that Ivana issued a statement defending him, and his idiot lawyer’s insane comments in the story helped shift the media’s scattered focus of outrage from Trump to him, for saying that marital rape is by definition impossible. But there’s more to this story than damage control, of either the fleet-footed or lead-footed variety, and it should worry Republicans a lot. Trump is benefiting from the widespread dissatisfaction among rank-and-file Republicans with their own leaders. Put another way, Trump is where he is in the polls because most Republicans don’t like Republicans.
Consider the last six-plus years from the point of view of your average conservative out there somewhere in America. All you’ve seen is defeat after defeat. Now if you’re a liberal you may not feel like you’ve been racking up the victories, but think of this from the conservative point of view, and I think you’ll see what I mean.
First, Barack Obama won, which was bad enough—from this average conservative’s point of view, a win that, for many of the voters Trump has attracted, was itself the product of a conspiracy that took in Acorn, the media, retired birth registrars in the state of Hawaii, and numerous others. Then he started passing things—big-government stimulus, free-market choking banking “reform,” and most of all the health care bill. Then a movement arose with which you could fully identify, the Tea Party, and you and those like you sent dozens of Tea Party people to Washington. And they’ve managed to cut a little spending here and there, but not such that anyone would really notice, or the moochers would really suffer. And somewhere in there, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner agreed to a tax increase on rich people.
Then Obama won reelection, the product of another vast conspiracy that your Republican leaders proved unable to thwart. Then someone you actually like, Ted Cruz, shut down the government, but he was completely ostracized within the Beltway, including by Republicans. While all this was happening, you could smell the country changing in ways that horrify you—everybody dumping on the police; good Christians being calumniated because they refuse to bake someone a cake; the Boy Scouts (the Boy Scouts!) kowtowing to the homosexual agenda; perhaps most importantly, the hordes of dark-skinned immigrants streaming across the border, forming their gangs and gobbling up all their free stuff. McConnell and Boehner seem powerless to stop any of it. And then—the final blow—you even lost the Supreme Court, where Roberts and Kennedy turned out to be just another couple of go-along, get-along quislings.
You are tearing your hair out. You can’t believe all this is happening. You tell the pollsters. CNN just came out with something this week. How well do you feel the government in Washington represents the views of people like yourself, you were asked. Answers, from Republicans: 1 percent very well, 15 percent somewhat well, 42 percent not too well, 41 percent not at all well. Now, Democrats and independents weren’t exactly popping champagne corks in this poll, but both groups were considerably less grumpy than Republicans.
So should it be any surprise that McConnell and Boehner are both underwater among Republicans? No, it’s no surprise at all. And as for the candidates, well, you like Cruz, but you know he’s not going anywhere, the liberal media would never permit that; you’re mostly okay with Marco Rubio and you like what you see of that Scott Walker fellow; but you don’t like Jeb! any more than you like the two Washington leaders. They’re all cut from the same dreary cloth, and they’re all going to sell you out one way or the other.
And into town, this arid little town that’s run by stooges and puts its few heroes under quarantine, rides Trump. He has made no compromises, and he talks like a guy who isn’t going to make any compromises. He says he’s going to make America great again (it’s a good slogan, by the way, given his target audience; blunt and a little vulgar, just like the candidate). You don’t hear any of that timorous equivocating in the way he talks. You don’t know much about what Trump will do. But you know what he won’t do, and that’s enough.
I think that’s about the size of it. Now, we’re going to enter the period when Trump will be subjected to a more thorough scrubbing. We’ll start digging into the business deals, the alleged organized crime dalliances, the bankruptcies, how his enterprises treat their workers, all the rest. Some of it might hurt. But looking at matters again from your average conservative’s point of view, these stories will all have one thing in common: They’ll all emanate from the liberal media. As such, they will all be presumed to be part of the conspiracy against him, and against people like you, and thus a priori dismissible. There might not be a bullet that can rip his flesh.
Oh, there must be something. He did once back single-payer health care; that’s an ideological transgression of the sort that might catch up with him, especially since he still sounds rather liberal-ish on the issue. There may be some really egregious business practice that bites especially hard into the conservative consciousness—maybe he swindled a celebrated Christian somewhere down the road. That’d sting. But short of something like that, attacks in the liberal media are likely only to make him stronger.
The nominee? I’m not saying that. I’m just saying the usual rules don’t quite apply here, and he’s going to be around for a while. And it’s not because Republicans are sick of Barack Obama. It’s because they’re sick of Republicans.