I’ll admit it. I’m stumped. It seems pretty clear that a Democratic shift in 2016 will be thanks, in large measure, to Donald Trump — but it carries a pretty hefty price tag. The only question in my mind is how that’s going to play out. Consider this: in 1860, over 80% of those eligible at the time turned out to vote in the quadrennial contest to become president (compared to 55% in 2012). Ask most Americans (okay, ask those who follow politics), and they’ll tell you that Abraham Lincoln defeated Stephen Douglas to win the office. But of the roughly 4.7 million white males who voted that year, President Lincoln won just 39% of the vote. Wait, what?
We owe a debt of gratitude to the Southern Democratic and Constitutional Union parties (the first formed to defend slavery — and the later to preserve the union at all costs), who split the vote. Donald Trump is poised to do the exact same thing for the 2016 Democratic nominee — and it scares the pants off the GOP. You reap what you sow, kids. The right has been pandering to the bigoted, jingoistic, Republican Jesus™ loving crowd for decades — and now the crazy has come home to roost.
The first deleterious effect was the “TEA Party Revolution,” which hobbled any effort in Washington to attend to the people’s business. These aren’t just single-issue politicians (Taxed Enough Already), they’re single-minded, petty and pig-headed pols who seem to have no concept of what “politics” is actually about. “Politics,” from the Greek meaning “of, for, or relating to citizens” is art of compromise, forming relationships, and taking care of what Aristotle referred to as the “affairs of the cities.”
The modern-day TEA Party “politician” considers compromise a weakness — and would rather abdicate any responsibility for the “affairs of the cities” (by shutting down the government altogether) than admit their position is flawed. And it’s that kind of seditious, inflexible and haughty attitude that’s driving people to Donald Trump. They’d use words like “determined” or “persistent,” but the truth is their hardheaded inability to discuss differences in a civil manner, is killing our republic.
The reason President Obama is in the middle of his second term, I believe, is that old-school conservatives and pragmatic voters (the one pollsters call “undecided” or “independent”) recognize this insanity — and tip the delicate balance away from any full-blown national psychosis. Which brings me back to 1860 — and percentages of the voting public. Quinnipiac says that “fully 20 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters would vote for Trump if the primary were held today.” So? Twenty percent of what?
Here’s a helpful analogy: consider shopping for a bargain at any major retailer — “hurry in and save up to 50%!” Many think ‘wow, what a bargain — that’s half off.’ Until you remind them most retail prices are 500% over wholesale. The sale ad could just as easily say “we’re willing to accept just 250% more than what we paid for this item — this weekend only!” Not quite as enticing — just as Trump’s 20% isn’t really all that impressive.
Start carving the numbers on “likely” Republican primary voters (significantly fewer than those who show up for the general election) and you’ll start to breathe easier. Factor in those old-school conservatives (who remember, or may have actually voted for Nixon or Goldwater) — and you begin to see that the road to the White House is paved with crazy Republicans. There’s a downside, though — Trump has “given permission” for everyone else in the Republican primary to climb aboard the crazy train.
Mike Huckabee now says he’ll outlaw abortion through Executive Order. Seriously? Go back to civics class, governor. Bobby Jindal has floated the idea of sending the mayors of so-called “sanctuary cities” to prison. Ben Carson says he’d be willing to use military drones to target and kill undocumented workers on American soil. And Trump, Graham, Jindal and Santorum are all on-board with scrapping the 14th Amendment (good luck with that, boys), denying “birthright citizenship” to any child born on U.S. soil (but only the brown babies, evidently — meaning Ted Cruz can’t be retroactively deported to Canada).
All of this virulent anti-immigrant rhetoric triggers FEAR in the mind of the conservative voter. “Anchor baby” is the new ebola. Fear is contagious and shouts down reason in our brain, triggering a fight or flight response. And as brothers Scott and Steve Leader just demonstrated in Boston — RWNJs will choose “fight” any day of the week. The brothers were arrested and charged by the Suffolk County district attorney’s office after hospitalizing a homeless Hispanic man they found sleeping near a train station following a Red Sox game.
Witnesses say they watched the pair “urinate on him, punch him and beat him with a metal pole while he slept.” They flagged down a state trooper and, according to the prosecutors office, told him they “saw the attack and reported seeing the brothers walk away laughing.” The victim, a Mexican citizen “who had been granted permanent legal residency,” was treated for a broken nose, serious bruising and other injuries at Boston Medical Center. Following his arrest, Scott Leader said “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.”
Trump’s response? “I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate. They love this country. They want this country to be great again. But they are very passionate. I will say that.” Naturally — not unlike Jeb Bush — Trump backpedaled furiously after speaking his mind, tweeting ‘We need energy and passion, but we must treat each other with respect’. Pffft — talk about disingenuous twaddle. I used to believe that Donald Trump threw his hat in the ring to build his brand — but there was an exit strategy. I’m not seeing that anymore.
Fox News tried throwing him under the bus — but that didn’t work. They begged him — twice — to vow not to split the party in 2016. He wouldn’t do it. Jeb’s war chest of $100 million doesn’t seem to faze Donald who, according to the last numbers I saw, had spent about $2 million of his own money, while collecting a measly $100K in donations. “Part of the beauty of me is that I am very rich.” Heck, the hawkish Republican base didn’t even seem to flinch when he dissed a combat-wounded pilot and sitting U.S. Senator, John McCain.
There seems to be no floor for the bar Trump is setting in this race — he’d just tunnel underneath. I honestly believed that Trump’s exit strategy from this race was going to be a self-inflicted wound — that he’d muster up another racial or gender insult which finally, FINALLY made the right flinch. Remember now — according to Reinhold Richard “Reince” Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee — the early strategy was to attract Hispanic voters to the GOP — to be the “big tent” in politics. What they got, instead, was Trump — self-admittedly “the least racist person there is. And I think most people that know me would tell you that. I am the least racist.” Need proof?
“Laziness is a trait in blacks.” Fear not, Reince, Trump also said “I have a great relationship with the blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.” Also, “I’m not a schmuck” and “Let me tell you, I’m a really smart guy.” Smart enough to realize that this process is just more reality TV — and he’ll ride the ratings all the way to the convention, if he can. That’s where the cold, hard reality of backroom politicking will finally deliver a knockout blow to Trump’s delusions of grandeur. Twenty percent is nothing, when Jeb starts calling in chits — or promising cabinet level appointments and political favors to secure the nomination.
For now, try and ignore the ballyhoo — and remember what the president said: “We’re not going to solve our problems if we get distracted by carnival barkers and sideshows.” Trump isn’t the problem — it’s ignorance, fear and hatred — and we can do something about that.