There’s a scene in the movie Rocky (the original) in which heavyweight champion Apollo Creed is fooling around in his hotel suite while a television in the background shows a news report of Rocky training in a meat locker, pounding in earnest on dead animal flesh. Creed’s trainer says, “Hey, champ, you oughta come and look at this boy you’re gonna fight on TV. It looks like he means business.”
There aren’t many similarities between Rocky Balboa, a down-and-out, punch-drunk fighter and Donald Trump, a billionaire tycoon. But both have had their prospects for reaching the peak dismissed by those who are supposed to know. And after watching Donald Trump campaigning (via C-SPAN) and reading Scott’s account of his Alabama rally, I have the same sense as Creed’s trainer — we oughta look at this guy; he means business.
There are three reasons why I have assumed Trump won’t be the Republican nominee: (1) his blustery off-the-wall comments will bring him down, (2) Republicans voters will discover that he’s not a conservative, and (3) the field will narrow to a point where 30 to 35 percent support — Trump’s presumed ceiling — won’t be enough.
The third scenario still looks like a decent bet. Note, however, that this enormous field requires lots of winnowing. And many candidates have reason to believe they may prosper if Trump crashes. This gives them a strong incentive not to throw in the towel.
The first scenario, Trump falling of his own weight, is still possible, but should no longer be considered probable.
The second scenario should still be of concern to Trump. And Jeb Bush reportedly is planning an ad campaign that will highlight Trump’s liberal positions and time as a Democrat.
However, the scuttlebutt is that, when focus groups are presented with this sort of evidence, Trump supporters don’t waver. This doesn’t mean they won’t waver as the time to actually vote approaches, if subjected to a steady barrage of evidence of Trump’s past liberal leanings. But I’m no longer certain that they will.
How is it possible that GOP Trump supporters aren’t put off, or indeed appalled, by his liberal record? A normal candidate whose campaign contributions helped elect Democrats and bring Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to power would be flatly unacceptable to Republicans. So too with a candidate who supported socialized medicine and a massive tax increase.
Those who profess to understanding the Trump phenomenon say he overcomes this record because conservative voters are angry that the Republicans “haven’t done anything” to advance conservative principles. Thus, they don’t see Trump as any worse than his Republican opponents, whatever non-conservative views he has espoused and whichever liberals he has helped elect.
Anger is an understandable reaction to the current political scene, but it’s no excuse for stupidity.
Yes, Republicans as a party haven’t fulfilled expectations when it comes to advancing a conservative agenda. But at least they didn’t enact a Canadian-style single payer health care system (which is what the Democrats have always wanted) or impose massive tax increases on the wealthy. Trump, as noted, favored both of these core liberal agenda items.
And why assume that all 16 of Trump’s GOP rivals are to blame for the failure of Republicans to push a conservative agenda through Congress? Is Scott Walker guilty? He successfully took on the powerful public sector unions in Wisconsin when Trump was trying still trying to decide whether he’s a liberal or a conservative.
Is Ted Cruz guilty? In an attempt to undo Obamacare, he orchestrated a partial government shutdown. What else do Trump supporters think he should have done, engage in self-immolation?
What about Bobby Jindal? How is he to blame for Republicans “not doing what they said they would do” when they got to Washington?
Prefer the false purity that comes with never having held public office? What’s wrong with Ben Carson? Unlike Trump, he has a consistent record of supporting conservative principles.
So, yes, we oughta look at Donald Trump — we oughta look hard. We should look at him through the same lens we use for candidates who aren’t super-rich celebrities and reality TV stars. And we should not look at him through a red mist.