“You have to get out of the ideal fantasy world you read about in magazines and see on TV. It is not as easy as they make it look. It is tough, and people get hurt. So you have to be as tough as nails and willing to kick ass if you want to win. Most people are not cut out for this. You have to deal with a tremendous amount of pressure. You have to think large and solve big problems that scare the crap out of most people. People are going to try to steal from you and destroy you just for the fun of it. You have to stand up to them, fight back and kick their ass.” – Donald Trump in his book Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life
Even though I’ve long been a big fan of Donald Trump’s accomplishments in business, I have to admit I have been surprised by the success he’s been having so far in his run at the presidency. Trump has been dominating the news about 2016 candidates and just came in first in a national poll (by 10 percent if you count first and second choices).
For the most part, the response to this has been uniform disgust from the GOP establishment, sneers from many pundits, and assurances that he can’t win. What you haven’t seen much of is an explanation of how someone who’s not a career politician, who’s detested by the GOP establishment, who’s being attacked by the media, and who had poor poll numbers when he entered the race, can now be on top of a 17 candidate GOP field full of prominent governors and senators.
You’d think that even the Republicans who hate Trump might at least be asking a few hard questions about what he’s doing right and what they can learn from him. After all, even if Trump does fade later in the race, something he’s doing right now is obviously resonating with the voters, isn’t it?
Maybe what he’s doing right is…
1) Being Authentic: Donald Trump is a scrappy, confident and aggressive self-promoter who doesn’t mind taking on a big challenge or letting you know that, yes, he succeeded and he made 10 million dollars in the process. Some people will like that and others won’t, but at least you get the sense you’re getting to see the real Trump.
On the other hand, most politicians come across like manufactured poll-tested facsimiles of human beings who would pick which sporting event, hairstyle and even how often they go to the toilet based on what their pollster tells them.
I can still remember when Mitt Romney, who is probably more charitable and giving than 98% of the people on the planet, was reduced to releasing a picture of himself standing in front of a washing machine to try to help people see him as a human being. Ugh. Just ugh.
Republicans like to think of politics as all about logic, but an emotional connection with a politician may be even more important. When a candidate the American people can relate to is up against someone who comes across like a fake, soulless automaton (See Hillary), they look for any excuse to vote for the person they can connect with. Today, if people had to choose which candidate they’d like to have a slice of pizza with, Donald Trump would win in a landslide. That’s not all there is to being a successful candidate, but it’s more than half of it and any candidate who wants to win ignores that at his peril.
2) Tapping Into Issues People Care About: There’s nothing wrong with talking about prison reform, flattening the income tax, and lowering corporate taxes, but does anyone really think the GOP is going to win an election on that? Republican politicians love to talk about issues that…
A) …Are hot with the top hat and monocle set at the Chamber of Commerce.
B) …Were big when Reagan was in office 25+ years ago.
C) …Are cave-ins to liberal demands.
When Donald Trump talked about illegal immigrant crime, he tapped into a powerful issue that wasn’t even on the radar of most Republicans in Congress. Not only was he right about all the crime coming over the border, it’s an issue that has been percolating under the surface for a long time (See 7 Horrible Crimes Committed in America By Illegal Aliens from May of 2014). It’s also something that puts Democrats on the defensive since they’re the ones demanding that we refuse to enforce our current immigration laws. If Democrats had just obeyed the laws on the books, how many Americans would be alive today? How many American women have been raped by illegal immigrants because Democrats are stopping the border patrol from doing its job? How many American children have been needlessly molested?
When Trump talks about that issue or not just building a wall, but forcing Mexico to pay for it since it’s encouraging its citizens to break our laws, he’s hitting pay dirt. When he says countries like Saudi Arabia should pay America for defending them, it’s music to the ears of a lot of Americans. Given that we’re running a deficit every year, shouldn’t we at least be having a real discussion about whether we’re getting enough bang for our buck out of our foreign aid and overseas military spending? The American people would certainly love to have that discussion. So where has the Republican Party been on these issues and why did it take Donald Trump to get people talking about them?
3) Sticking A Thumb In The Eye Of The Establishment: Conservative voters elect Republicans because we expect them to support an agenda we agree with and move the country to the Right. A Republican who doesn’t at least try to do that is as useless as a shower at an Occupy protester’s house. On the other hand, there are an awful lot of Republicans in D.C. who would undoubtedly consider it to be a great victory for the GOP if we controlled every branch of government, but did nothing except pass left-of-center legislation along with a few sops toward the ultra-rich guys who fill up their campaign coffers. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, who run Congress, both seem to fit that definition pretty well. For that matter, so does most of the GOP “Leadership” in Congress.
If they’re getting a case of the vapors, if a bunch of consultants whose advice would probably consist of “Screw conservatives” don’t like it, and if Charles Krauthammer and George Will are tut-tutting that you’re fighting a little too hard and too dirty, those are signs you’re on the right track.
The Republican Party has nothing to offer these days other than being “the lesser of two evils.” That's why it's funny to hear people who worry that, "Trump is hurting the GOP brand." The GOP "brand" is "spineless," "stupid," and "inept." He won't make it worse. Maybe someone should worry about what people like John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Peter King, Jeb Bush, Renee Ellmers and Lindsey Graham are doing to the GOP "brand."
Any candidate who thinks the Republican Party in Congress is doing a good job right now isn’t up to the challenge of being President. Donald Trump gets that and to be fair, so does Ted Cruz and even Rand Paul. Those of us who are sick and tired of being flipped off by the same party we voted into power appreciate candidates who seem to understand that they work for us, we don’t work for them.
4) Being Willing To Fight: What good is a Republican Party that wins at the ballot box and STILL loses every ideological battle to the Left? A lot of conservatives have been asking themselves that question lately because that’s what we’ve been seeing for the last few years. Other than a few conservatives with brass cojones like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Louie Gohmert and Tim Scott, the Republican party in D.C. seems to think they should be able to win fights with the Left without anyone getting mad at them. The only thing most Republicans are willing to fight for is the agenda of the Mr. Burns clones at the Chamber of Commerce and the only people they’re willing to go to the mat against are their own supporters.
On the other hand, Donald Trump just took on the Democrats, the media, pundits who don’t like him and half the establishment Republicans in Washington and HE WON. Suddenly, Democrats are nervous. The media and other GOP candidates are talking about sanctuary cities. There has even been a bill introduced in Congress to curtail them. This isn’t because a woman was murdered. Sadly, American citizens are raped and murdered by illegal aliens literally every day of the week. It’s because Donald Trump had the courage to stand in there and fight when 98% of the Republicans in Congress would have folded like a tent. Not only did Trump refuse to fold, he doubled down, issued press releases defending his position, and he threatened to sue businesses that broke contracts with him. There are plenty of Republicans -- Mitt Romney, John McCain and John Boehner included -- who pull out the brass knuckles when they’re fighting other Republicans and then roll over on their bellies like lapdogs when they have to take on the Democrats. Trump has already proven he’s made of sterner stuff.
5) Listening To The Voters: The Republican Party is out-of-touch with the people who vote Republicans into office. The GOP’s leadership in Congress openly holds its conservative base in contempt. The only hope grassroots conservatives have when it comes to these men is the hope that they’ll be defeated in a primary because it’s impossible to cooperate with arrogant politicians who think the voters owe them, not the other way around.
On the presidential front, many people consider the “top tier” to be Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker. Jeb Bush’s campaign slogan may as well be “Screw the Conservatives Who’re Voting for Me.” Marco Rubio ran ads attacking Charlie Crist for being in favor of amnesty when he was desperately trying to woo conservatives, but once he got into office, he led the charge for amnesty and open borders. How do you take him at his word on ANYTHING from abortion to gun control after that? Meanwhile, Scott Walker – who’s supposed to be the “conservative alternative” to those two – saw his team hire Brad Dayspring from the NRSC. Dayspring made a name for himself publicly smearing, sliming, demeaning and attacking grassroots conservatives on a regular basis. Despite a huge outcry from conservatives, Scott Walker’s PAC kept Dayspring on board. If you’re a conservative who thinks he can trust someone like that, you richly deserve the knife you’re going to get in your back if Walker makes it to the White House.
On the other hand, if you want evidence that Trump is paying attention to the voters, it’s not hard to find. If looking at the issues he’s talking about isn’t enough, look at his Twitter feed where at times it seems like he’s retweeted every single person in America who said something nice about him. As much as anything, Donald Trump’s numbers are going up because conservatives want to feel like someone with some juice in the Republican Party is listening to them. Maybe more than a handful of other Republicans should try that some time.