There is much speculation about what Donald Trump’s nomination might do to the two distinct but entwined things — the Republican Party and the conservative movement. But it’s also a good idea to ask what a Trump candidacy, or even a Trump presidency, could do to the Democratic Party and its political factions.
The common viewpoint of Trump critics is that he won’t do anything to the Democrats except lose to Hillary Clinton in the general election. This viewpoint is buttressed by references to polls that show Trump doing worse against Clinton than the other GOP candidates, and especially polls that give him even lower ratings on “trust” than Our Lady of the Secret Server. (There are, however, some polls that rate Trump more trustworthy than Clinton, while both remain “underwater” on the issue.)
Lately Trump critics have been saying the Democrats can’t wait to run against The Donald, so one of the reasons he dominates open primaries is that Democrat saboteurs are crossing over to vote for the Republican they can beat. It has even been suggested that one of the reasons Bernie Sanders delivered a stunning defeat to Clinton in Michigan, overcoming a 20-point deficit in the polls is because so many Clinton voters were skipping over to the GOP primary to vote for Trump, mistakenly confident that Clinton didn’t need them to lock up the state.
Many Republicans suspect the media is holding back its heaviest Trump bombshells until after he wins the nomination, at which point they’ll nuke him off the map. One of those Republicans is Trump’s rival, Senator Ted Cruz, who said this week that journalists have privately confided in him they’re holding back their most devastating Trump exposés until June or July.
Trump’s response to this critique is that he’ll turn those polls around once he secures the GOP nomination and can focus on beating Clinton. “I haven’t even started on her yet,” as he likes to say.
Of course, he would say that… but he might be right.
Trump is faring very well in the Republican primary despite constant assault from much of his own party, and while he’s undoubtedly benefiting from incredible media exposure, most of the coverage is negative. Some portion of Trump’s support comes from voters who think he’s not the weakest general election candidate, but the strongest, and his ability to thrive despite hostile coverage is part of that argument.
At the very least, he’s demonstrated an ability to command media attention that earlier Republican candidates like Mitt Romney and John McCain could not approach. The GOP candidate must work hard to attract the media spotlight and control the narrative. As Romney in particular demonstrated, the candidate’s other virtues count for little if the Democrat/media complex can define them, and keep them playing defense all through the campaign.
Trump definitely doesn’t have trouble staying on offense. He’s already done an amazing job of swatting Bill Clinton aside, after decades of Republicans chasing him around like Wile E. Coyote trying to bag the Road Runner. Maybe he really can maul Hillary Clinton, in a way other Republican candidates would fear to attempt — allowing themselves to be pushed into a beta role where they spend all of 2016 sounding faintly apologetic about daring to run against the First! Woman! President!, as they spent 2008 and 2012 running against the First! Black! President!
For a taste of things to come, consider the Washington Post op-ed flaying Bernie Sanders on feminist grounds — not for rudely talking over Clinton during a debate, but for failing to let her interrupt him. The First! Woman! President! Is entitled to special privileges on the debate stage to compensate for centuries of patriarchal oppression, don’t you know! Good luck trying to lash Donald Trump with this wet-noodle feminist-privilege nonsense. He’ll tear quite a few pages out of Clinton’s playbook and throw them right in her face, then laugh when her friends, donors, and former employees in the media have the vapors over it.
Maybe that approach will hurt Trump more than his supporters believe, if politically-correct attitudes have a death grip on society… but they really want to watch him try it. If he does successfully face down media bias and the feminist battalion of the P.C. army, it could be a game-changer for many other candidates to follow.
If that crossover vote for Trump is sincere, he could have a profound effect on the Democrat coalition — shaking loose some voters who aren’t comfortable with Democrat orthodoxy on certain issues, don’t like the Clintons, don’t like the way Bernie Sanders got shafted by Democrat Party rules, or have lost faith in the Democrat side of the trans-partisan Beltway establishment.
The latter seems especially relevant, given how both Trump and Sanders have been successful with voters anxious about their place in the post-Obama New Normal of diminished career-prospects and perpetual economic anxiety. It’s dawning on a lot of middle-class workers that neither party establishment has anything to offer them. If Trump can even begin the process of convincing disaffected Democrats that more welfare checks aren’t the answer, other Republicans can exploit that opening in elections to follow.
Another potential opportunity for conservatives is going to sound like sarcasm when stated bluntly, but it’s not a joke: a Trump presidency would do wonders for bringing Democrats back from authoritarian socialism to embrace limited Constitutional government.
They fell in love with the Venezuelan strongman model when the strongman was Barack Obama. That love affair was going to end if any Republican succeeded him, but with Trump, the Left will reverse course hard enough to leave skid marks on the ideological pavement.
The coming reversal of liberal opinion on unitary executive power is going to be amazing, and conservatives should be standing by to exploit every minute of it. Remember when liberals were carrying water for Obama after the midterm elections by penning essays about how midterm elections were a silly waste of time… and maybe we should think about replacing the frustrating gridlock nightmare of Congress with a nice rubber-stamp legislature for the magnificent Super-President? Get ready to dump that water all over them.
By the end of Trump’s Hundred Days, you’ll be reading left-wing paeans to the majesty of divided government and the joy of filibuster obstructionism that will bring a tear to your eye, while fife and drum music plays inside your head.
One other thing about Trump’s possible effect on the Democrats: it’s true that if he does manage some sort of cross-party fusion, it could weaken conservatism within the Republican Party.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, and to be brutally honest, the state of the 2016 race so far would suggest conservatism isn’t terribly strong in the GOP right now. We shouldn’t really be surprised, because conservatives have been complaining about how the Party establishment betrays them for a long time, especially since the rise of the Tea Party movement. Trump’s campaign is not the cause of that situation, but a consequence of it.
Let’s knock off the foolishness about President Clinton being better for conservatism than President Trump right now. She won’t listen to conservatives at all. She thinks of them as enemies at best, and turkeys to be carved up for her dependent constituents at worst. If the Democrats win in 2016, they’re going to push hard with a variety of social-engineering techniques to make sure they never lose again. That task will be made much easier if the GOP lies in disarray after a vicious internal battle. You can harbor all kinds of doubts about a Trump presidency, while still accepting that it’s wouldn’t be worse for conservatism than the worst-case scenario of Clinton finishing Obama’s “transformation of America.”
And look: a big part of Trump’s appeal is the way he speaks, without reservation, of America as the team he’s playing for, the team he wants to win. That really is an alien idea for the modern Democrat Party, whose ideology is driven by loathing for American history, the multi-culturalist conviction that it’s nothing special (or that it’s especially bad), and the ironclad conviction that grievance is more important than opportunity.
Somehow we’ve reached the point where a slogan like “Make America Great Again” is reflexively spit upon as chauvinist, nationalist, nativist, or even racist. If the idea that America’s President should be one hundred percent focused on what’s best for American citizens, and American taxpayers, finds some purchase in the Democrat coalition, it’s going to tear through them like a computer virus.
If Trump could do no more than convince a substantial number of Democrats to demand solid government value for our tax dollars, it would spark a revolution among blue-collar Democrat voters. They’ve been sedated for generations into accepting ridiculous wastes of tax money, because they think fresh dollars can easily be printed up in the Treasury basement after Obama’s inept mega-government flushes each billion dollars down the toilets of corruption and incompetence. If I were a top Democrat, or one of their Republican Establishment junior partners, I’d be scared to death about the prospect of my voters awakening from that trance.
That will create opportunities for conservatives, no matter where President Trump himself comes down on the issues. How can anyone hope to “rebuild the Reagan Coalition” without first establishing points of common interest with today’s persuadable Democrats, much as Reagan did with an earlier generation?
We approach the conclusion of Chapter One of the Republican primary, and our two remaining candidates are Mr. Trump and Mr. Conservative 2016, Ted Cruz. Considering how things have been going ever since Mitt Romney pronounced himself “severely conservative” in 2012, that’s really not bad for the movement. The game has been changed, which is always a little scary, but the old game was getting us nowhere.