Trump and the Conservative Party

political-scoreboard

The best politicians are able to transcend their political party and present a vision for all Americans. Only by doing so can they successfully make the transition from the primaries to the general election.

The conservative party has become accustomed to its candidates meeting a series of litmus tests . . .

While many conservatives have expressed alarm about Donald Trump, they are only doing so because of his willingness to think independently without following conservative dogma.

Like him or hate him, you must admit Mr. Trump is his own man and reaches his own conclusions. Once you strip away all the bluster, the political opposition and the schoolyard rhetoric, you find a person who has carved out his own niche in the electorate, one many people will struggle to oppose.

That fact positions Mr. Trump for the general election with many tried and true Democratic states now in play. The Clinton campaign should be careful not to underestimate Mr. Trump’s appeal among blue collar and patriotic voters.

The conservative party has become accustomed to its candidates meeting a series of litmus tests, and non-compliance has inevitably meant a primary challenge from the right and other forms of punishment, e.g., John Boehner’s resignation as House Speaker.

Yet the political establishment lacks any leverage against Donald Trump. His self-funding campaign steers clear of commitments to typical Republican donors. Trump’s free-wheeling conversations at his rallies — they can be compared to a mix between a more formal speech and a town hall — are captivating to the audience and media alike.

Many have questioned whether Trump’s approach and policy prescriptions represent the end of the Republican Party as a bastion for conservatives. God knows, they will not go quietly. But once the nomination is wrapped up, Trump will give more voice to his non-conformist elements, and that may swing the tide in the general election.

Until Trump leaves the stage, either in a few months or in eight years, we may not know the true fate of conservatives and the Republican Party. How things will play out is very much in the air.

Presidential Insults

water-bottle

Presidential insults, derided by Jeb Bush, have become the new art form. Marco Rubio, with his continued participation in the Republican race at stake, has taken to imitating a distorted caricature of Donald Trump, talking about his opponent wetting his pants and other sundry statements of similar ilk.

Presidential insults, derided by Jeb Bush, have become the new art form.

This tactic will never work. First of all, Rubio is not Donald Trump and doesn’t know how to concoct an insult. Second, he’s intruding into Mr. Trump’s area of expertise and will never beat him at his own game. And finally, Mr. Rubio’s attacks lack authenticity because they have been launched in desperation after everything else has been tried.

There’s a logic to Donald Trump’s technique. As long as you’re nice to him, he reciprocates the gesture. It’s only when you cross the line from policy into ad hominem attacks that he counter punches. And wow, how did he respond to Marco Rubio’s transgressions.

Taking a plastic bottled water container, Mr. Trump imitated Mr. Rubio’s worst moment, when Marco was giving the Republican reply to the State of the Union address. All of a sudden, in the middle of the speech, he reached out for some water off camera. Interrupting his speech to do so made him a laughingstock of the political world.

Anyway, Mr. Trump grabs the bottle, makes an exaggerated play of being thirsty and then imitates Mr. Rubio, caressing the bottle and throwing some water around. You’ve got to check out the clip, it’s hysterical.

Rubio was somehow convinced by his advisers to go negative with insults. Such a strategy may have unintended consequences as Ted Cruz tries to jujitsu the clash between his other two opponents. I don’t know how Rubio goes any lower — he’s losing his home state of Florida by 20 points.

Can’t wait to see what Trump does next.

One Man Against the System

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The time-worn saying goes, “You can’t fight city hall.” But every one in a blue moon, someone comes along who succeeds in doing so. The challenge is refreshing, and the guts to do so renews our faith in mankind.

Trump’s drive towards the Republican nomination represents nothing less than a hostile takeover of the Republican Party.

Bob Dylan did so. So did Steve Jobs. And whether you like him or not, so has Donald Trump. No matter your position on the political continuum from right to left, you must admit that the establishment hates Trump. And they fear his upending of the Republican Party purely as a matter of raw power and its threat to the existing power brokers.

Trump’s drive towards the Republican nomination represents nothing less than a hostile takeover of the Republican Party. As Republican elders scratch their heads at his popularity and rejection of key Republican orthodoxies, they have come to see their own machinations work against them.

Republican elites sanctioned and coddled the nascent Tea Party movement, and some believe created the movement out of whole cloth. Now, in a twist of Dylanesque revenge, the Tea Party has declared its independence. The policy positions they supported, while far to the right, never represented their true essence. Donald Trump provided their best spokesperson because the Tea Party always transcended a 10-point plan and favored revolutionary vigor instead.

Some of the things Trump says rightly strike fear among Republican elites and regular voters alike. But these statements often pop out during freewheeling rallies, and backtracking often occurs within hours.

Moreover, Donald Trump does not closely regulate his public speaking, with every word parsed among focus groups. The efforts of his opponents to tar him with his own words may provide a factual case against him, but they ignore his spirit and the spirit of his followers. He does seem to be a good man, much more so than the typical politician. His attacks and insults may shock people unused to political realities, but he has only expanded upon the typical negative TV ad, here today and gone tomorrow.

When Trump is evaluated in a non-factual, non-linear manner, his campaign actually makes a lot of sense.

South Carolina and Nevada Predictions

voting exhortation

 

Well, after all the speeches, town halls and rallies, the rubber hits the road tonight with the South Carolina and Nevada primary results. Before all the armchair quarterbacks start gloating with their “we-said-so-all-along” comments, this blog will take the somewhat foolhardy task of putting our predictions in writing.

We predict an affirmation for the Trump campaign and a sharp blow to the Clinton one (see exact margins below).

The problem with the Clinton campaign can be found in the neat little saying, “You campaign in poetry; you govern in prose.” Unfortunately, Hillary’s skills are more suited for the Presidency than they are for a Presidential election.

Look for Trump to win going away by a significant margin, and another Sanders-Clinton photo finish.

It takes all the pundits by surprise over and over again when Donald Trump demonstrates the power of his post-ideology campaign. The Republican electorate is clearly foiling the predictions of the Republican establishment: Unlike Charlie Brown, they will not keep trying to kick a football only to let Sally pull it away again. The Republican leadership has over-promised to win its followers, and the base will no longer trust them now no matter what they say.

It’s like the boy who cried wolf. The establishment has permanently lost its credibility, and now Mr. Trump will pick up the pieces.

There appears to be a similar dynamic playing out in the Democratic contest. When Hillary Clinton was asked if she will promise always to tell the truth by Scott Pelley of CBS News, she demurred, I will always “try to.” Pelley pounced, noting the Clintonian ambiguity. Her supporters everywhere groaned.

The problem with the Clinton campaign can be found in the neat little saying, “You campaign in poetry; you govern in prose.” Unfortunately, Hillary’s skills are more suited for the Presidency than they are for a Presidential election. Even though all her arguments are well thought out and poll tested, she seems unable to match the inspiration her husband regularly achieves.

So, to be more specific, let’s say Trump by 11, Sanders by 3.

Constitutional Hypocrites

display of patriotism

I’ve always doubted the way Republicans cling to the Constitution to justify their policy positions and how they brand everyone else unpatriotic. My suspicions have now been justified in spades.

With the balance of the Supreme Court on the line, Republicans have conveniently forgotten the responsibilities according to the document they claim to hold so dear. Barack Obama was elected to the Presidency for four years, not three, and the Senate’s refusal to even give the President’s nomination to the Supreme Court a hearing represents a betrayal of the Constitution and could even be categorized as treason.

You can always tell a person’s true intentions when they are faced with a conflict between the rules and their self-interest.

What gives Mitch McConnell the right to refuse his sworn duty, to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States? What gives the Republican Party the right to “bend” the overarching mandates of our most sacred document?

The answer can be described in two words: political expediency.

You can always tell a person’s true intentions when they are faced with a conflict between the rules and their self-interest. The Republicans as a whole have chosen their self-interest almost unanimously. They would leave the Supreme Court without a tie-breaking vote for more than a year, and the Supreme Court has never been vacant for so long.

The American people should respond as one to their act of overwhelming hypocrisy and refusal to obey the document they claim to champion: the Constitution of the United States. They should vote to overthrow the Republicans in the same way the Republicans have decided to overthrow the Constitution.

It remains to be seen how these events will resolve themselves. Each generation of Americans must renew their commitment to the Constitution and our government. If the Republicans persist in their act of constitutional hypocrisy, they should be thrown out as bums by the voters.

The denouement of this matter proves there is a difference between Democrats and Republicans. A Democratic Senate approved Anthony Kennedy for the Supreme Court in Reagan’s last year, and seven Justices have been approved by the Senate in election years. To do otherwise is a dangerous political act.

Bubble Boys and Hot Air Balloons

boy blowing bubble

Iowa did shake up the Republican race for President, but it may have impacted the candidates who are staying in the race as much as those who left. Ted Cruz remains his nasty self but those who came directly behind him may now be compared to bubble boys and hot air balloons.

In this roiling Republican race for President, nothing goes unnoticed, especially a lack of authenticity.

Chris Christie used the former moniker to describe Marco Rubio who is always “on message” and appears to repeat the same platitudes whether he is giving a stump speech or responding to a question. It’s just a matter of a transition sentence and then “section 1 B.”

In this roiling Republican race for President, nothing goes unnoticed, especially a lack of authenticity. Marco is being criticized, basically, for being too smooth and too rehearsed.

Donald Trump is the other contender most affected by the race in Iowa. Mr. Trump used to love quoting polls in his giant rallies. It animated and reinforced his ego. Now, however, some of the air has gone out of his balloon. He is slowly returning to normal, but he definitely gave the shortest speech of his career for his concession statement.

Mr. Trump is also raising a valid point about the campaign tactics of Ted Cruz. Cruz’s staff directly spread the rumor that Ben Carson was dropping out of the race in order to reduce the competition for the evangelical vote. This lie directly affected the results, and if anyone other than Trump were complaining, the press would take greater notice. As it is, it just looks like sour grapes.

With New Hampshire coming close on the heels of Iowa, none of these caricatures will stay constant. The results will generate a whole new set of dynamics and will go a long way to clarifying the race. A primary election provides a much easier way of expressing your opinion, and I would look for Mr. Cruz to falter behind the hot air balloon and the bubble boy.

The Meaning of Iowa

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What did Iowa mean to the Democratic and Republican race for President? The impact of expectations plays a central role in interpreting the results.

Someone who promised us victories without end must now contend with being a loser in the first test of his philosophy.

Marco Rubio, who finished third in the race, clearly gained more momentum than Donald Trump, who finished second. Bernie Sanders, who finished a very close second on the Democratic side, clearly gained more than Hillary Clinton, who won.

Who sets up these expectations and why do they seem to overrule the intent of the voters? Once again, polling and the opinions of media pundits figure prominently in the process. These experts interpret the voting results and thus drive public opinion in an influential manner.

Hillary Clinton was touted as gaining momentum in the final days so the fact that the race was so close for so long punctured her air of invincibility and drove the campaign staff into damage control mode. She claimed victory when the final results were far from certain, and the fact that she eked it out in the end did little to boost her campaign.

On  the Republican side, finishing first among the Republican establishment candidates gave Mr. Rubio an aura of destiny as the focal point for moderate conservatives, someone to rally around to prevent the more unconventional impact of a Cruz victory.

And what about poor Donald Trump? Someone who promised us victories without end must now contend with being a loser in the first test of his philosophy. Many thought he was “closing” the deal in the final days, that his ferocious attacks on Ted Cruz would save the day. They didn’t.

Now, it’s on to New Hampshire and a more conventional election. We’ll see if Mr. Trump can hold on there in a way he failed to do in Iowa. But the person who told us we would win so much we would become bored with it may find it harder to fulfill that promise.