The most conspicuous of American campaign hustlers is blowing his once-a-lifetime chance for the ultimate prize. When have so many rightwing notables ever trashed, even threatened rejection of their own primary winner way before he’s nominated? Nervously cornered, an astonishing range of Republicans are shifting from buyer’s remorse to pulling the emergency cord, some open to fleeing the train.
Since Trump upset the ideologically-rigid apple cart, for decades cemented in stone, conservative officials, donors and pundits sound downright befuddled, as wobbly as their primary bellringer. This raucous Trump “party” is getting out of hand, more like college tomfoolery than what staid, oligarchic agents consider a fun time.
Ironically, Trump’s penultimate “resolution” of the primary brawl, however akin to flogging “losers,” appears not to resolve much at all. Despite a seeming delegate victory, the Trump juggernaut — since winning five weeks ago — is instead dragging both the candidate and the party into schismatic frenzies. Rarely has any presumed winner looked more quickly more like a loser — not attending to business by blowing a month of pre-election opportunities.
Blatant intra-party fisticuffs must sabotage Republican maneuvers far and wide. Noisy leadership fights must undermine party morale, and that promises down ballot losses. If Trump wanted to undermine his nominal party of choice, could he have done anymore since late April? The adult check on “overplaying one’s hand” seems as foreign to Trump as those innocent visitors he wants banned. Really, what good con artist lets the scam unravel, splashed with headlines, especially when the primary is simply Act One for the nefarious nationwide sting?
Taming the Shrewish Trump
Even if he swore to his god of money, can the volatile Trump “moderate” his abusive “entertainment” without then stabbing in the back his never-retreat, never-trust-the-elite legions? Will he evolve suddenly into a productive, inclusive team captain of a huge, conflicted entity — and learn to “follow the script,” like every other calculating politician weighing every risk against every reward? Has Trump’s career ever demonstrated team play, willingness to curb appetites or, horror of horrors, sacrifice personal fame and fortune for any higher good?
How can this fearless “straight shooter” who “tells it like it is” prop up his swaggering manliness when openly chastised, then disciplined by the very elitists he stomped on when seizing center stage? Further, as Elizabeth Drew (NY Review of Books) rightly notes, a normalized Trump presents an uncharismatic, dare I say “low-energy” wannabe: “Trump’s mediocre prepared speech on Tuesday night drained him of his personality, his ingenuity, and his fun. Even his devoted family, arrayed behind him, looked both worried and bored.”
In short, what willfully insensitive, Id-obsessed insurgent morphs into a unifying party leader who accommodates diverse party views, let alone cultivates that intangible, presidential demeanor? No president bats or fields alone. That this pitched internal battle was as inevitable as Trump’s upsurge doesn’t make it less injurious. Yes, the regressive GOP base loves Trump’s swing-for-the-fences, winner-take-all ultimatums, oblivious that vaporous Trumpery has no more solidity than morning dew. Yet dominance hides all flaws, intones the Trumpster: “I command so much attention that yesterday’s offenses are forgotten as soon as I dispatch something more outlandish. We’re talking image and marketing control, not ideological or party loyalty.”
Contraries That Clash & Burn
Here’s the unholy, but hardly unique paradox: exactly what fed Trump’s primary spurt now looks to bring him down. How can wary corporate billionaires, running conspicuously public companies, embrace a loose cannon whose single Tweet wounds their reputations or triggers boycotts? Would Big Oil foster shareholder meetings, already under pressure thanks to conspiracies against climate change, that invite deluges over racism, women-baiting and hatred of foreigners? Would huge home supply or clothing retailers run by conservatives (Loewe’s, Home Depot, Target, among others) needlessly jeopardize their costly global brands by supporting Trump’s naive pro-tariff and anti-outsourcing chatter — or who knows what?
Put aside today’s mayhem, even potential electorate disruptions, and this truth remains: Trump cannot win without getting more Republican voters in key states than did McCain or Romney. Already, women, Hispanics and minorities stand against this culturally-divisive loudmouth. Whence cometh the untapped constituency that awards Trump a majority of swing states: OH, FL,WI, VA, PA, MI, IA, NV or CO?
‘Also-ran’ Without Being a ‘Has-been’?
If Trump can’t unify his nominal party (or confirm he’s a true-blue Republican), he won’t stand a chance to reverse years of entrenched state voting patterns. Where is the uplifting vision, let alone potent policy statements, that will overcome such division? Compared to the vast majority of Sanders’ fans, likely crossing over to Hillary, Republicans face greater ideological, electoral and structural problems. Trump is a hot-tempered wedge, even a brick wall, not a bridge over troubled party waters. Except, if my logic holds, a bridge to nowhere but General Election disaster.
It’s not just voting for Trump, or not. What about millions of GOP volunteers who worked their hearts out for Bush, McCain, and Romney? Are they now, atop a bucking bronco, offering the same donations, the same thankless time to register newbies, work the phones and mail rooms, soldier from door to door — even drive voters to the polls? Likewise, will Tea Party Trumpites not revolt when they learn their “self-financed hero” is anything but, rushing to amass his billion dollar war chest from despised, gated rich folks? Or that Trump enterprises, per USA Today, screw small fry business people.
Finally, even if Trump can cease his mockery of campaign practices, stop insulting everyone but Hillary and resist gratuitous potshots at unjustified victims, where’s proof he can be anyone’s partner for more than a day? What happens to Trump’s fragile ego if he falls 10 or 15 points behind? Can the Donald endure being a failed also-ran without ever having been a has-been? Judging by months of self-evident Trump misbehavior — what drives expert psychologists to invoke the ominous “narcissistic personality disorder” — few I know would take that bet.
Defrocked Hero, Just a Rogue
Who can’t wait for Trump’s exciting VP choice —Sarah, where are you?— or how badly he walks back so much that won him the primaries? And when, oh when, do we ever hear what DOABLE actions in this world Trump is FOR, rather than propel from his carnival world countless “straw-man” fallacies or ambush vulnerable multitudes like sitting ducks? Or blather on about “bringing back great jobs”?
Can a self-obsessed, empty vessel, who scorns party leaders, frameworks and wisdom, successfully debate a confident policy wonk like Hillary? The Trump pie-in-the-sky primary hustle worked because the under-educated, besieged base yearns for vacuous cheerleading, comfortable with racism, bigotry, misogyny, and boorishness. What if inevitable compromises with hated party elitists cost the Donald 10% of his vaunted populist support? What if 10% of profoundly offended Republicans in FL or OH or PA skip the presidential vote? Like firm, early glass ceilings, voter ceilings are hard political Stop signs. Distrust of character is as hard to reverse as a first-round primary delegate.
What if enough centrists and independents can’t stomach a President Trump? That way lies a Goldwater-style fiasco. And who knows whether that disrupts the entire party as much as discombobulates a roaring narcissist who must concede — shockingly, to a woman victor — he’s anything but the world’s greatest stud? The “getting screwed” ploy already fits Trump’s aggrieved victimhood, leveraged to manipulate the public and play to his base. But imagine what fantasy multitudes the Trumpster will have to blame when his own unfixable, internal contradictions sink his chances? Has Shakespeare’s turn of phrase, “hoisted on your own petard,” more aptly applied?