I don’t support Donald Trump.
Trump’s tough talk is scant cover for a shallow, disengaged intellect. He has shown astonishing dishonesty on even the most petty issues. His affable embrace of anyone who flatters him shows a desperate and easily manipulated hunger for celebrity accolades. His sudden and convenient conversion on a host of issues is more than little suspect – it shows either a mercenary malleability or simple deceit. And, his transparently feigned faith is offensive.
But if Trump wins a majority of Republican voters and “party leaders” try to scheme away the nomination, it won’t be the “short fingered vulgarian” who tears the party apart – it will be party elites who claim to be trying to save it.
A Trump win is hardly a foregone conclusion, but ignoring – or worse yet, dismissing – the real and visceral issues driving Trump’s support would be a terrible mistake and a betrayal to the principles of self-governance.
The issues driving voters to him have very little to do with Trump and everything to do with the failings of GOP leaders to articulate and act on core conservative issues. It’s a reaction to the perception – heightened by “anti-exceptionalism” rhetoric – that America has lost its place in the world. It’s frustration with empty claims of economic recovery while real people still struggle to build a better life while watching obscene displays of wealth and enduring hypocritical diatribes from ultra-wealthy celebrities and Wall Streeters. It is a visceral reaction to the toxically arrogant Obama Presidency. It’s a convergence of frustration, betrayal, growing cynicism and fading opportunity.
Trump hardly seems the ideal candidate to carry the banner – he’s a poster-child for everything his supporters are railing against. The son of rich and well-connected Brooklyn developer who multiplied that fortune as New York real estate speculator, and relentlessly pursued wealth at any cost. Trump brags that he’s a deal maker who has thrown money at any politician who might help him. He’s a shameless salesman who used bankruptcy, political connections, and eminent domain to protect his lavish lifestyle at the expense of others.
By all means oppose Trump. I do. But I won’t abandon my party just because voters elect him.
Point out that Trump is more of a salesman or barker than a businessman — a Kramer-esque version of Ron Popeil; and that he will chase many who share our core values, but perhaps look different, out of the Party. Better yet, make the case for voters to cast ballots for Cruz, Kasich or Rubio.
Republican leaders need to let voters know that their frustrations have been heard, admit failings and mistakes, then articulate a real plan for fighting back. And we need to focus efforts against a candidate who is even more dishonest, more selfish, more arrogant, and more dangerous than Trump – Hillary Clinton.
Trump does not represent the best of the Republican Party. He is no Reagan or Roosevelt or Lincoln. His words are puerile, angry and divisive. But the Party needs to recognize that Trump does embody the frustrations many Americans are feeling. We need to listen that grating voice.