(More on the Trump controversy here)
I don’t think you get anywhere screaming about how terrible Donald Trump is. And all I see today is screaming about how terrible Donald Trump is.
For example, here’s Reason with what looks like a fairly unreasonable piece by Peter Suderman entitled “Donald Trump is a Bad Person.”
His declaration yesterday that he would close the United States to all Muslim immigrants, including tourists and Muslim American citizens abroad trying to return home, confirmed both his fascistic tendencies and his undisguised bigotry, and made something else clear in the process: that he is simply a bad person.
As much as anything, this is the undercurrent that runs throughout the stories that have defined Trump since the beginning of his campaign: He mocked Vietnam POW John McCain for being captured during the war; he lobbed sexist jibes at Fox News host Megyn Kelly for daring to confront him about his history of misogyny; he mocked a disabled reporter, then falsely claimed he’d never met the man; he smeared immigrants as rapists; he’s Tweeted snide remarks about the wife of one of his competitors; when the crowd attacked a Black Lives Matter protestor at Trump campaign event last month, Trump sided with the crowd, saying he “should have been roughed up”; he insisted, contrary to all evidence, that thousands of Muslims celebrated the terror attack of 9/11 on camera; he lies constantly, flagrantly, and without shame.
But wait – Suderman’s just getting started.
The connecting tissue here is that, given practically any opportunity, Donald Trump will act in the most obnoxious and unpleasant way possible.
He is consistently ungracious and egotistical, and he is prone to insults and bullying when challenged. He is xenophobic and bigoted. He does not tell the truth when called on his insults. He has the maturity level of a middle-school bully, but with less sophistication about policy.
You can see that in the Trump campaign’s most visible product, his Twitter account, which is, rather famously, filled with insults: Those he does not like are tagged as losers, morons, bores, and low-energy people. Insults and petty slights are the lens through which he views the world. He is chronically, compulsively rude and uncivil with strangers and competitors alike. And by all appearances, he seems to enjoy it. His campaign is an expansion and extension of his Twitter feed.
That gleeful, unapolagetic incivility is at the root of what makes him a bad person, and also at the root his approach to politics and policy. Most of his proposals, to the limited extent that they can be understood as remotely serious, are insults in policy form.
OK, OK. Enough. It goes on from there, but you get the drift. Lots of sanctimony and faux outrage, as though Suderman has never encountered anyone who is at once uncouth and outspoken. Maybe he ought to frequent bars more often.
Trump is what he is. He’s not going to be the GOP nominee and he’s not going to be president. He’s a guy who can win news cycle after news cycle. He’s good at that because he’s a TV personality and a promoter. As such, he knows how to capture headlines and get coverage. So when it’s still two months before anybody votes and most Americans aren’t paying detailed attention to an election that won’t happen until well into next year, Trump’s skill works for him. But while he’s been able to turn the pre-primary electoral process into a reality show and get attention, that’s not the same thing as running a campaign. He’s not actually running a primary campaign, or at least not one that looks like a winner.
You want a campaign that can win, look at Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. They’re hiring quality people and implementing actual strategies to make a majority. Trump isn’t. Trump is riding name recognition and media attention to a plurality in a big field. When that field shrinks, those candidates leaving that field will give votes not to Trump but to his competitors. And when Cruz has now caught Trump in at least one Iowa poll, you’re beginning to see that payoff.
And by the by, do you think it’s an accident that Trump put out that bombshell yesterday afternoon, after an Iowa poll released yesterday morning showed Cruz topping him by five points in that state? He couldn’t have a news cycle all about how Cruz is beating him, so all of a sudden he drops a big bomb and pulls media coverage to last the whole week.
Trump is not what’s important. What’s important is his supporters, most of whom have legitimate grievances over the state of the country. And when you attack Trump with sanctimony and faux outrage, you insult those people – and drive them even further to his camp. Assuming Trump is not the GOP nominee, and he won’t be unless the competition is stupid enough to parrot the John Kasichs and Jeb Bushes of the world, his supporters will need to be brought aboard a coalition to beat the Democrat in the general election. News flash – the GOP has not built the broad coalition it’s needed in order to win a presidential election since 2004. Trump’s voters are some of the people you’ll need to add to that coalition.
So don’t insult those people. It’s dumb. It’s counterproductive. They might be uneducated, as the Washington Post notes in looking down its nose at them, and they might be bigots and rubes and suckers. Fine. It takes all kinds to make a world. You still need to turn them out in order to win an election and save the country.
You think Hillary Clinton has a positive opinion of the Black Lives Matter crowd? You think she cares about gay people or Hispanics? Please. James Carville said he wanted to be a Democrat operative, rather than a Republican one, because 80 percent of Democrats are clueless. But that was a rare moment of honesty – most of the time the Democrats have nothing but nice things to say about their voters who they think are clueless.
So lots of Trump’s voters are clueless. So what? Their votes count just like yours does. Romance them and make them persuadable. Don’t insult them.
Erick Erickson said this, and he’s correct. Just treat Trump like a regular political candidate and explain why his ideas suck, and why there is a better way to do things than what he’s proposing. And he mentions something else, which is that what Trump put out also ought to be seen as the opening of negotiations on what to do about immigration, which clearly needs curtailing.
Beat Trump by treating him like a candidate. Challenge his proposals. Attacking Trump for being unhinged, an idiot, or some other personal attack is just read as an attack on his voters. Twenty-four hours after Barack Obama gave one of the stupidest speeches ever to be given from the Oval Office — a speech that did not reassure anyone — Donald Trump opened negotiations on a different position and he started with “ban all the muslims.” Donald Trump is a negotiator. The GOP should not have attacked Trump, but engaged in the negotiations with “That’s probably not constitutional, but here is what I would do to accomplish the same thing, which is to keep Americans safe from Islamic radicals.”
Nope, they couldn’t do that. And because of the hysterical response from so many, including good friends of mine on the right, Trump wins the round.
And for God’s sake don’t rush to defend “the Muslims” like Paul Ryan stupidly did. Lots of people, and not just Trump supporters, have had it with “the Muslims,” and it’s not even the fact that there is a significant minority of Muslims in this country who are poorly assimilated and hostile – in a manner of a violent threat – to the rest of us; it’s the fact that the public perceives that the government and the elite refuse to address the problem. So when you defend “the Muslims” against Trump, you make yourself part of the same problem the public sees.
And when I say the public, I mean the large majority of Americans who believe we’re at war with radical Islam and oppose bringing in Syrian refugees.
Rand Paul has it right when he says it’s time to put a pause on immigration from countries with terror networks. That’s prudent policy and it’s not bigoted or racist to do that. It’s also where you’d like the end point to be on negotiations about immigration from at-risk places. But you probably can’t get to that end point unless it’s a middle between Obama’s position, which the failing moderate candidates in the GOP field appear to be adopting, and Trump’s.
And for that Trump probably ought to be given thanks. He’s giving the GOP a “bad cop” to use in moving the middle to its side. Instead, the elites are treating him like Hitler.
Trump isn’t who we need. Neither is the Beltway crowd and the intelligentsia who can’t think straight where he’s concerned.