Over the past month — following Donald Trump’s many consecutive primary victories — panic spread within the Republican party. This reaction was sort of comical, as Republicans waited way too long to take Trump seriously and put resources into stopping him. His critics all assumed he’d never truly run for office. Then folks figured he’d stop himself after awhile; perhaps he’d get bored and decide public office was for losers. Or maybe he’d self-destruct, which really should have happened in November, but it didn’t. Perhaps the GOP establishment figured people would come to their senses before voting for a reality star, but that hasn’t happened either.
Trump’s continued presence on the campaign trail seems senseless, not only from a spectator’s point of view but from his own. What could he gain from being president beyond power? One would make a great error to assume that Trump’s greatest motivation is money. He could have run the campaign long enough to raise dough and build the Trump brand — sell books, boost speaking fees, and do what Sarah Palin did by running for Vice President — and split. Hell, Ben Carson did that with this election. But Trump did not, although he’s now trolling us by delivering mind-boggling, infomercial speeches. Trump’s having a ball all the way to the White House.
For many months, he seemingly did everything possible to offend people. Rolling Stone recently analyzed Trump’s practiced “Mussolini” routine and remarked, “In less than a year Trump has succeeded in turning the USA into a massive high school.” Indeed. And while I’m not about to have a “what about the children?” moment, it’s odd to think of some dude who brags about his schlong hosting an annual Easter Egg Roll and being a role model for the children of the country.
Hence all the reports of Republican establishment freak outs. Supposedly, they’re frantic to halt Trump’s continued rise, and they ruefully acknowledge how their own passivity is at least partially to blame. Any move now comes far too late. Last week, Mitt Romney delivered a blistering takedown speech, and yet voters said the encounter had little to no effect on the way they’d vote. Meanwhile, the Huffington Post published a curious exposé about the GOP plot to destroy Trump. The piece details a recent gathering of “billionaires, tech CEOs and top members of the Republican establishment,” who flew to a private-island meeting. The group included everyone from Apple’s Tim Cook to Paul Ryan, Google’s Larry Page, Mitch McConnell, SpaceX’s Elon Musk, and Karl Rove. All attended with the specific purpose of stopping Trump from becoming the GOP nominee. The Weekly Standard‘s William Kristol reflected upon the gathering with lines from the Communist Manifesto:
“A specter was haunting the World Forum — the specter of Donald Trump. There was much unhappiness about his emergence, a good deal of talk, some of it insightful and thoughtful, about why he’s done so well, and many expressions of hope that he would be defeated. The key task now, to once again paraphrase Karl Marx, is less to understand Trump than to stop him.”
These figureheads reportedly engaged in “hand-wringing, brow-furrowing, and fatalism” without much thought to solutions. Then again, maybe there is no solution to Donald Trump. He’s both a political outsider and a mirror of the political circus. Various fingers have pointed in various directions. Folks would love to blame anyone — even Barack Obama — for the existence of Trump, for his rise, and for the country’s failure to stop him.
Trump remains savvy. He’s swallowed everything the GOP tries to erase from its reputation, distilled the essence, and vomited up these qualities in exponential value. Trump revels in sexist comments about women (god forbid these “bimbos” dare to have a bodily function), he’s offended several religious groups, he makes xenophobic comments on the regular, and he incites violence. He does everything that a presidential candidate should never do, and he is handsomely rewarded. This strategy could be fully intentional.
Trump, to borrow a favorite phrase from Marco Rubio, “knows exactly what he’s doing.” The man barely sleeps, and he has a surplus of income. Others run his (questionably successful) businesses, so he has time to observe the American people. And yes, he’s intuitive and can sense the discontent that has bubbled within the various microcosms of the Republican party. Trump zeroed in on the angry, blue-collar segment, who feel let down by Washington elitists. Sure, he’s a billionaire, but Trump paints himself as a self-made man to appear accessible.
If the GOP truly resolved to oust Trump, it would cause a revolt. Voters have made a clear statement by rejecting the establishment and choosing Trump. Any coup at this summer’s convention would only look like the party has little regard for the wishes of its base. This would only make Trump’s supporters angrier and more distrustful of the Washington establishment than they already are. Nope, the GOP has to own this mess. Years of stoking anger amongst their base have backfired like a chaotic symphony, one led by the waving arms of Donald Trump.
Their alternative strategy, assuming that Ted Cruz doesn’t keep rising, is to continue doing nothing. The unstoppable Trump wave of party destruction has already been set in motion. He’s exposed the party’s inability to groom their own ideal candidate for an election by the people. Yes, a guy striking Hitler poses (and winning) has irreparably fractured the GOP. Trump could work an incredible amount of damage during his time in office, but the party allowed this to happen. Trump’s simply seized the moment.
Still, not all is lost. There’s still a chance that Trump could be defeated by Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. The irony there is that neither Rubio nor John Kasich can win primaries, but they’d fare better in a general election. Neither of them will have a chance to do so because the Republican party has eaten itself. So, while a bunch of billionaires and establishment figures wringing their hands paints quite a picture, their own self-examination would be more productive. Trump’s rise has already damaged the GOP. At this point, they just need to buckle up and endure the fallout.