After tomorrow’s debates, the political mists will begin to lift and it will be easier to see how and why Mr. Trump is important to the GOP in 2016, whether he succeeds or not.
First, let’s give credit where all the credit is due. Echoing Mr. Trump himself, had he not verbally carpet-bombed the campaign with much-needed noise about illegal immigration, it is doubtful whether other wannabes would have had the courage to touch that rail. That he did so loudly and with panache was only the beginning, continuing as he did the barrage against certain Wall Street elements, the Iran Nuclear Deal (and “deal” is an awfully bold word for the greatest Iranian bluff of the new century), and the undeniable aura of incompetency haloing the current administration. And that was just for starters.
Had Mr. Trump kept the attacks at that level, most onlookers would have viewed him as just the antidote to attack and shrink the progressive blob overtaking every issue and dominating every action. His very demeanor put rivals on notice that he has a big stick and will use it.
The problem for most thoughtful conservatives is two fold: does he mean it or will his views change willy-nilly as they have ad nauseam on taxes, Wall Street, Hillary, abortion, et al? The fact that Mr. Trump is willing to change his mind is a plus—one could only wish politicians had the integrity to admit that a changed view—with time and knowledge—is a most desirable characteristic. That he has changed his views so much in so short a time, conveniently in so many instances, is not so plussy.
The second problem is the thing that Mr. Trump and Senator Cruz have in common: they work too hard alienating the very people they need to get them elected—and then, to get things done—unless, of course, they’re planning a neo-dictatorship where allies are only for show. That is the very approach some might accuse Mr. Obama of having adopted in his daily willingness to circumvent, trample, or otherwise ignore our club rules: the Constitution of the United States.
Cruz calling his political masters “liars” is neither cool nor civil. Trump calling people names and making it very personal in response to criticism belies an unwelcome immaturity in a national leader. Bobby Jindal, for example, is no “lightweight.” Ben Carson does have a voice worth a listen. Carly Fiorina’s face is not a kettle the pot should call anything. Bush’s energy level should not be confused with thoughtful practicality. And so on.
Mr. Trump’s contention that because he is not a politician and takes no contributions makes him somehow superior is faulty on many counts. For one thing, being a politician should be no more an insult than being a lawyer, doctor, dentist, or real estate tycoon. Good, honorable politicians (not necessarily an oxymoron) are worth everything because they know how to get things done despite the slings, arrows, rocks, and sometimes, bullets thrown at them. Americans should no more want an electrician to do their plumbing or a dentist to replace a heart valve than have a real estate agent run the most complex organization in the world.
Any candidate, moreover, who does not have the financial support of the people who elect him or her, isn’t worth having. Why? Because if Mr. Trump or anyone else can “buy” the presidency, he owes us—each and every one of us--nothing—not even the courtesy to consider our views. When he talks about others taking money from hedge fund managers, so what? Every president has taken money from people who thought and hoped they were buying access but didn’t always get it. Records show that the wealthiest people, the biggest organizations often give money to both. Let them. We didn’t get to be the freest and wealthiest country in the world doing it any other way. So why would we let a tycoon run our country just because he wants to?
So, one of two things has to happen beginning now: Messrs. Trump, Cruz, and any others to whom this applies, have to cool it with the personal invective. If their skins aren’t thick enough to take heat—criticism of their views or how they present them—they need to get the hell out of the kitchen. Condemn the sin, not the sinner, if you will. You have “the right to rise” above it, Mr. Trump. You’ll get a whole lot worse from the likes of Sanders, Warren, and Biden to start with, not to mention what Putin and all of his kind will throw.
Curbing the personal stuff and zeroing in on the issues with the same verve and tenactiy would make Mr. Trump far more worthy of the respect and attention of the 70% of Republicans who do not now support him, not to mention the large portion of Indies and maybe a few red-blooded Democrats necessary to win the White House.
OR, other Republican candidates have to up their game and in a big way. That’s the other thing for which Mr. Trump deserves credit. A presidential campaign need not be a boring three-credit required course we all must endure. It can be exciting, interesting, colorful, and yes, entertaining—all without the slime.
The likes of Carson, Bush, Kasich, Rubio have to show that not only are they willing to take on the diseases plaguing our society, but also, that they’ll do it with the kind of noisy vitality, which commands our attention and support, a few bucks at a time. If they refuse to take us to that high place about which Reagan often spoke, they have only themselves to blame if it’s Trump who makes the journey.