A week or so ago I received an email requesting that I sign a petition asking a major corporation to break its ties with Donald Trump because of all of the really obnoxious and mostly false comments he made about illegal immigrants. I refused the request, though certainly not because I agreed with his comments; I certainly do not. I just didn’t want to be part of anything which would keep the Donald from continuing to spew his venom. I think the Donald Trump is an asset for the ultimate Democratic Party nominee both now and in the General Election even though he has virtually no chance of winning the Republican nomination.
Normally I would one of the first in line to protest this blowhard’s ill conceived remarks, but I have to admit that in backhanded way he is doing me a big favor. You see, there is not one candidate in the ever growing crowd of potential Republican nominees who I would like to see in the White House so I am fan of anything or anybody who will decrease the chances that the eventual Republican nominee will win the Presidency. Right now, Donald Trump is taking the Republican Party along for a ride into very troubled waters and I couldn’t be happier.
The Donald is the polar opposite of the polished politicians who make up most of the rest of the Republican field. True to his self aggrandizing style he is doing just about everything possible to get in front of TV cameras, even it means saying some pretty outlandish things. How about this quote about securing the southern border with Mexico: “I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me —and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words”. Yep, I’ll bet the Mexican government officials already have their checkbooks out. How about this one when he was talking about the Obamacare, “”I have so many websites. I have them all over the place. I hire people … it costs me three dollars.” If one of the serious candidates made statements like these, the press would have him/her for dinner. Yet no one seems to bat an eye; after all this is the Donald – why would anyone expect anything different.
You would think that none of the other Republican candidates would take him seriously. After all Trump has almost on chance to wining the Republican nomination. However, the campaign staffs of the other candidates are taking him very seriously and for very good reasons. For the first two Republican debates, August 6, 2015 on Fox News and September 16, 2015 on CNN, only the top 10 Republican candidates based on the most recent five national polls will be invited to participate and no one in the Republican hierarchy wants to see Donald Trump in those debates. Not only can he counted on to personally attack the other candidates – like when he says that the only reason that Jeb Bush is interested in a solution for the immigration mess is because he has a Mexican wife, – there is also a fear that if he is on the stage he will “suck all the oxygen out of a room” with his overblown rhetoric and hog the spotlight.
A few weeks ago when Trump was polling in the 1% to 2% range and running ninth in the polls, there was hope among the staffers of the other Republican candidates that Trump would fall out the top ten by next Fall and the problem would resolve itself. I understand there was also consideration given to a cooperative effort where several of the other campaigns would run ads attacking Trump before the debates to ensure that Trump would fall out of the top ten in the polls. However the Donald seems to have struck a card with the far right zealots of the Republican Party and he has surged in the polls. In the last national polls Trump received 12% of the Republican vote, second only Jeb Bush with 19% and clearly ahead of third place candidates Mike Huckabee and Scott Walker who each garnered 8%. Much to the dismay of the other campaign staffs, Trump seems to be gathering momentum.
Trump seems ready state his unconventional views on just about any issue he is asked about. For instance, he has more than happy to inform anyone that he would deal with ISIS by cutting off their funding, bombing the oil wells and oil refining sites in Syria and Iraq that they control. When asked whether that wouldn’t also destroy most of the wealth of the two countries, he replied that he would then send in American oil companies to rebuild the facilities very quickly. He conveniently failed to mention that the oil companies would only do so if they, not the countries involved, were allowed to control the resulting petroleum products and that isn’t going to happen. However the Donald is never one to let inconvenient facts stand in the way of his grand ideas. He feels that if he can get away with saying that he will be able to force Mexico to pay for an impenetrable wall across our entire southern border, he can get away with just about anything.
While Trump seems willing to say preposterous things about just any subject, he is getting the most attention for his remarks on illegal immigrates and this is where he can most help to the ultimate Democratic nominee. During his announcement of his candidacy, he made the his now infamous statement: “They (the Mexican government) are sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapist, and I assume some are good people.” Not only does this statement unfairly characterize millions of illegal immigrates who have been law abiding residents since entering the country, these kinds of statements from a Republican candidate for President are problematic for a Party which must appeal to a much larger percentage to the Latino voters than it has in past elections.
The naturalization of Latino illegal immigrates and the provision of a path to citizenship are the key issues for the majority of Hispanic voters who make up an ever larger share of the electorate. Hispanic voters made up 10% of voters in the 2012 Presidential elections and according to the Pew Hispanic Center, they will account for half of the growth in the country’s electorate by 2030. More importantly Hispanic make up large and ever growing voting blocks in four of the eight to ten “battleground” states in the 2016 election – Nevada, Colorado, Virginia and Florida. For instance, in Nevada, in the last 20 years the Latino share of voters grew from 5% to 15% and it will increase further by 2016. President Obama took all four of these states in each of the last two elections and a victory in two or three of these states in 2016 will likely put another Democrat in the White House.
Despite, or even because of his frequent flights of hyperbole, Trumps quick rise in the polls proves that his message is resonating with the far right radical base of the Republican Party. To those zealots he is the unabashed “truth teller” who tells it like it is without pulling any punches. He saying the things they want to hear. He is their kind of guy. However, is also a guy who has almost no chance of winning the Republican Party nomination and zero chance of winning the general election, but he can cause a lot damage to the other Republican candidates in the meantime.
As he continues to gain traction, Trump appears to be making progress at the expense of Walker, Carson and Rubio in the polls. Their numbers have declined as Trumps numbers have improved. Trump has caught up with and passed all three in the polls. If he continues to improve his appeal with the Republican right wing voters he will likely do so to the detriment of candidates like Huckabee, Cruz, Perry and Santorum.
However, Trump presents the greatest danger to the Republican Party’s chances of winning the Presidency in his potential affect on the Party’s establishment candidates like Bush and Rubio and perhaps Walker. While establishment candidates have captured the Republican nomination in the last several Presidential election cycles, their road is never an easy one.
While candidates like Bush and Rubio are the recipients of most of the big corporate donations, establishment candidates like them must walk a tight rope between throwing out enough red meat to keep from alienating the far right wing base of the GOP while not moving so far to the right that they can’t pivot back towards the center once they secure the Republican nomination. Not appearing to be conservative enough could lose them the nomination; appearing to be too conservative on key issues could lose them the general election. As Romney found, it is not an easy rope to walk.
If candidates like Bush and Rubio had planned to finesse some key conservatives issues like illegal immigration, the presence of Trump’s “tell it like it is” narrative will make it difficult fro them to do so. Trump will not only attack them with a vengeance in the debates, but he will also present them with a dilemma. He is in all likelihood going to continue spout off in over the top fashion on immigration and other key conservative issues. His establishment opponents can chose condemn his views and risk alienating the radicals and tea partiers whose support they need to secure the nomination. Or they chose not to do so and make it much difficult attract the centralist voters they will need to win the general election.
You can bet that most Republican candidates wish that Trump was still firing apprentices on his TV show instead of sticking his nose in Presidential politics. They may even be wondering if he is really a Democratic secret weapon.