Hi guys (and gal!),
I thought it was time we chatted.
I've been enormously impressed with the way many of you have attempted to handle Donald Trump, who is proving to be an unnervingly resilient force in this nascent Republican primary.
I imagine you must be thinking: How can this arrogant, fact-agnostic, insult-hurling barstool bloviator be doing so well? You've been reluctant to cross him, but no amount of ignoring will spare you from one day being called a "dummy" or an "idiot" by The Donald. So best to get it over with.
Some of you have tried to point out that Trump doesn't seem all that conservative. Calling into question the heroism of our captured POWs, voting for and supporting Democrats, once even saying he thought the economy does better under Democrats – all compelling if you could jolt Trump supporters out of their love-drunk stupors long enough to care. It almost doesn't matter what he says -- they are enamored of the way he says it.
Lindsey, it must have been galling to be the subject of Trump's cellphone stunt. After 22 years in local and state politics, used to the rules- and etiquette-obsessed Congress, you must have let out a South Carolinian "Well, I never!" when he gave out your phone number. Great job making light of it later. Your "How to destroy your cellphone video" responded with the appropriate amount of dignity.
Marco, your recent attempt at sidelining Trump was pretty creative, comparing him to Obama and calling them both classless. It doesn't seem as though "class" is something Trump's supporters are all that interested in, however. They seem to like that he sounds like a guy they know from down at the bar. You're going to have to aim lower.
Trump has become an embarrassing distraction for all of you. (Well, not you, Ted. You seem to find him adorable!) But he's also distracted voters from the awkward contortions Hillary Clinton is trying to make with progressives. With no end in sight, Trump could be around for a very long time. He even recently hinted he could run as an independent if Republicans try to marginalize him.
The media's no help, because few attempt to ask Trump anything substantive, instead preferring to fixate on his outbursts for days, and then asking the rest of you to spend days responding to them. With questions like "Would you go to a gay wedding?" and "Should Donald Trump apologize to John McCain?" you must feel like all those years studying politics were a waste of time.
Whenever someone does try to pin him down on policies – to his great credit, Anderson Cooper tried repeatedly in an interview this week for CNN -- Trump is vague or punts completely.
So what to do? You can't live like this forever, and all a Trump nomination means is another Clinton's in the White House.
It's time for a new tack. Attacking him on style is pointless. Style is exactly what people like. What his supporters need to see is that there's no substance there. Knowing a guy in China isn't a foreign policy. Building a giant wall isn't a solution to a broken immigration system – it's a five-year-old's response. Bombing Iraqi oil fields sounds fun, but does nothing to drive ISIS out of Syria, say. Voters may love Donald's straight talk (which is a sad reflection of just how little affection they have for you all), but in the end they also want a commander-in-chief who knows some stuff.
So I propose that whenever you are asked a substantive question about income inequality, immigration or terrorism, for example, instead of thoughtfully answering as you normally would, respond with, "What would Donald do?" Until reporters and voters force Trump to lay out an actual agenda, answering tough questions about real policies, why should you be held to a different standard?
And except to say, "What would Donald do?" I would also refuse to answer any questions related to Trump. He doesn't speak for you and you certainly shouldn't have to speak for him. All that happens when you weigh in, even if to criticize Trump, is that the whole of the party looks somehow responsible for him. And it shouldn't be.
You've put up with Trump's antics and the media's complicity long enough. Time to put your feet down and refuse to play his games.