I can’t decide whether Trump is an agent of disruption recruited by the Clintons (a story that has been making the rounds for a while) or the best thing that could possibly have happened to Republicans for the 2016 cycle, though none of the other candidates, with the partial exception of Ted Cruz, seem to get it.
First, note that all the early predictions that Trump would go the same route as the bottle rockets of 2012 have been falsified. Check out this chart:
Second, he’s generating intense interest in the GOP contest, as seen by the fact that 24 million tuned in to the first debate a few weeks ago. This is allowing the whole field to get their footing while Trump draws most of the attention. Let’s face it: presidential campaigns are too long. Reagan announced his candidacy in November 1979, and the first debate (which he skipped) wasn’t until January. Now people announce for president shortly after their 21st birthday it seems, and the cycle has been moved up. This is not a good thing, as Romney found out four years ago. The Trump dynamic amounts to making this phase of the 2016 cycle the equivalent of the NFL preseason: he’s the Johnny Manziel of this presidential season. In the absence of Trump, much of the field would be attacking Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, who, let’s face it, haven’t been very impressive so far.
This brings me to the main accomplishment of Trump: he’s exposing the fatal weakness of Bush, and to a lesser extent Walker. How so? Let’s borrow Peggy Noonan’s conclusion in her column today:
The people hate the elites, which is not new, and very American. The elites have no faith in the people, which, actually, is new. Everything is stasis. Then Donald Trump comes, like a rock thrown through a showroom window, and the molecules start to move.
Congratulations, Peggy! You’ve just caught up with Angelo Codevilla.
Trump has caught fire because he understands that people want to get our government back from the lawlessness of the Obama regime. Opinion polls show that the number of Americans who fear the government has reached an all-time high. Trump looks like the person who gets this, and would smash up Washington, rather than just “reform” it. Whether Trump actually has the capacity to accomplish such an object is a subject for another day. If nothing else, the Trump phenomenon should be getting the whole field to step up its game dramatically. But it doesn’t seem to be happening.
Here it is important is to note the contrast with Jeb Bush. What is Bush’s main self-advertised appeal right now? That he’s a “problem solver.” No, Mr. Bush: people don’t want a “problem solver” to fiddle with the nobs in Washington, or “tweak” common core and No Child Left Behind, etc. We need someone who wants to smash the place up, to get the government back under the people’s control. (Walker is exhibiting a similar problem, but I’ll touch on that another time, too.)
For all of the decency of the entire Bush family (and I think Jeb was a very good governor of Florida), Trump is willy-nilly exposing their chief defect: they just don’t get it. They are country-club conservatives, not ideological conservatives. And country-club conservatism is not sufficient to correct the corruptions of the Obama regime, let alone even talk about them sensibly. For now, Trump and Cruz appear to be the only people in the field who get it and evince an intent to talk seriously to the American people in the campaign. I don’t think Trump can carry it off beyond immigration, but we’ll see.
Meanwhile, Trump-McFly 2016? Check out “Trump to the Future.”
PAUL ADDS: While some Republicans theorize that Trump is an agent of disruption unleashed by the Clintons to throw the GOP race into chaos, some on the left say he’s an agent unleashed by Republican bigwigs to make the rest of the field look reasonable.
Personally, I don’t buy either conspiracy theory. The former theory — a conspiracy by the Clintons — is more plausible, though. After all, it’s undisputed that Trump talked with Bill Clinton about the race before he entered it.