A new Washington Post poll shows Donald Trump opening a sizable lead in the race for the Republican nomination. Almost one-in-four Republicans, 24 percent, pick Trump from a crowded field of candidates. Trump’s support is almost double his nearest rivals, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, 13 percent, and Jeb Bush, 12 percent.
Trump’s rapid rise in the polls, and dominance of the political discussion, says more about the current Republican leadership than the political acumen of the real-estate developer.
In just the last few months, the fabric that holds together American society has visibly frayed. Small-scale terrorist attacks have occurred in several cities. High-profile crimes committed by illegal immigrants, some of whom seemingly have superpowers to avoid deportation, have exposed the fact that the federal government has no immigration policy.
The Obama Administration is pushing sweeping new regulations on energy and agriculture. It is considering relocating Americans to federally approved neighborhoods. It is pushing federal bureaucrats into every nook and cranny of American life and business. It continues its spying on Americans, despite numerous court rulings and the expiration of federal law.
The list, unfortunately, goes on and on. And yet, one of the first acts of the Republican Congress was to grant Obama sweeping powers to finalize a mammoth trade deal that no one has read or understands. It watches as Obama completes an agreement with Iran that is, at best, horribly naive. Mind you, at the very moment Obama officials are lauding the deal with Iran, that theocracy is preparing show trials for American hostages locked up in the the country.
It reestablishes diplomatic relations with Cuba, while thousands of dissidents and political prisoners continue to languish in the communist country’s prisons.
While Obama plays out a leftist teenage dream of normalized relations with Cuba, the rest of the real world teeters. The death cult ISIS continues to extend its reach around the world. Our closest allies in the Middle East have no idea where we stand on any geopolitical issue.
Against all of this, there is almost nothing from Republicans in Congress. There are, to be sure, press releases and statements to the press against most of these developments. These are not the actions of a true opposition, however.
Last week, speaking on the Iran deal, Jeb Bush, the Republican establishment-preferred candidate for President said, “One thing that I won’t do is just say, as a candidate, ‘I’m going to tear up the agreement on the first day.’ That’s great, that sounds great but maybe you ought to check in with your allies first, maybe you ought to appoint a secretary of state, maybe secretary of defense, you might want to have your team in place, before you take an act like that.”
Bush needs to talk to a bunch of people to decide how to proceed on the Iran deal? Obviously, there are logistics involved in ending an agreement with another country. The last thing voters, who are incredibly anxious about this deal, want to hear is a process answer. People obsessed with a process don’t have a firm commitment to principle.
Republicans in Congress think of little other than process. In response to Obama’s irresponsible behavior, they craft Rube Goldberg structures to ostensibly provide them with “oversight” of the behavior. None of this stops the behavior, but simply gives them political cover when things inevitably go south.
All of which is a long way of saying that Trump’s surge in the polls makes perfect sense. The Republicans in Congress have been battered into a meek, poll-tested, sand-box of talking points. They take no real steps towards actual opposition because they are scared of what the media and Democrats will say about them.
You can’t win the White House by simply denying the other team a chance to score, however. A “prevent defense” will always fail against an aggressive offense.
The Republican party ran that playbook in 2008 and 2012 to universally disastrous result. Republican voters want a different game-plan in 2016. The voters want an actual opposition candidate. Trump is for now claiming that mantle, and a large share of the their support. Trump at least knows how to play a role on TV.