The Party of Trump, Formerly Known as the GOP

I regularly read the blog of Scott Adams, creator of the comic strip Dilbert (blog.dilbert.com) and believe he has a better handle on the Trump phenomenon than the rest of us.  Months ago he predicted Trump would not only win the Republican primary but the election as well, and by a landslide.  Adams’ basic premise is that we are not largely rational as we might think.  It’s more the reverse, like we are 90% irrational and being so irrational, it is easy to persuade us to change our minds.  You just need to know what buttons to push.

And Donald Trump has proven a virtuoso on those keys.

There are all sorts of reasons to doubt and worry about a Trump presidency, but unless those reasons are rooted deeply in our guts they don’t mean much when it comes to voting.  We tend to sway like willows in the wind.  Have you noticed how often prospective voters say when interviewed that their minds are still not made up and probably won’t be until they are about to cast their ballots.  In other words, their guts will decide, not their minds.  Later they will come up with rationalizations if pushed, but it was their gut feelings that decided the issue.

Looking back on my post of two days ago I have decided that I was being too rational in giving credence to those sophisticated numbers crunchers who see the possibility of Trump being stopped from getting the nomination.

My gut now tells me that those rational techniques are not properly gauging the welling up of pro-Trump sentiment.  Trump has a powerful narrative at play:  At our irrational cores we want a hero to save the day, a strong man to protect us, a guy willing to do whatever is necessary to win all sorts of battles that will make American Great again.  A father figure who will makes us feel safe.

It’s a child’s fantasy, but enormously alluring.  As when Ronald Reagan became president, Trump is offering up the hope that we will feel better about our selves and our position in the world.  If the Republican insiders try to quell this energy, the party apparatus itself will be crushed.  As Scott Adams points out in a recent post:

“Shenanigans might happen at the convention. But unless something big changes, the GOP will either become the Trump party or the newest resident of history’s dust bin, living under a Clinton presidency. The GOP is down to two options.”

When boiled down to a choice between a Clinton presidency and a Trump party, it is not easy for Trump foes to choose the former option.  Sure it looks like the death knell of Republicanism, but maybe that can be dealt with later.  An irrational hope, but like much of what we do irrationally, putting off until tomorrow can work for awhile.

The only thing that really stands in the way of a Trump nomination would be a failure of the Trump team to make nice to enough party insiders, so they would chose the “dust bin” option for the party rather than bend to his will.  And, as you may have noticed, Trump is working on that with the help of some new members of his expanded campaign team, something I will return to in a later post.

What is so crazy about all of this is Trump is arguably more a Democrat than a Republican when it comes to policies, but he has managed to capture Republican sentiments despite often advocating positions that have not suited the Republican conservative base.  Look at his defense of funding planned parenthood, his exceptions made in abortions for rape and incest and his suggesting that North Carolina would be better off not making a big deal over the LGBT bathroom issue.

Trump seems to be given a pass on these issues as indications that at least he’s being honest and for his toughness in other areas and…….????    And he may well be given a pass by Republicans on a number of other issues, given the alternative specter of a  Hillary presidency.

The huge question is what will the Republican Party look like by the end of the year no matter who wins the presidential election, but a common desire to beat Hillary might suppress much of that in the interim.

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Donald, Bernie and Alice in Wonderland

Now I know what Alice must have felt like when falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland.  Last June I called Trump a “clown”  and have not even tried to cover Sanders because he was a self-proclaimed “socialist,” a political scarlet letter “S”  I assumed a majority of Americans couldn’t stomach.

Now I see Trump as a clever ringmaster who has made clowns of observers like me not to mention his fellow party candidates.   And, while I still doubt a majority of Americans can accept a socialist president, perhaps enough Democrats can to make Bernie their nominee, especially if Hillary’s campaign continues to be plagued by the email mess she created and Bill’s philandering past and a $125,000,000 they have received in speaking fees since they left the White House.

It is now at least “thinkable” that our presidential race could come down to Donald Trump vs. Bernie Sanders.  After all, one Vegas odds maker makes Trump an odds-on favorite and lists Bernie’s chances as 5/1 to win a primary (Hillary remains a 1/10 super favorite).

If a Trump-Sanders show down seems possible what isn’t?  What about this?  According to polls a number of Trump supporters pick Sanders as their second choice for president, and vice-versa with Sanders followers, ignoring party lines.   Despite many differences between the two (e. g. Sanders wants to change a “corrupt system” which favors a few and Trump blames the “idiots” who run it for not making good deals for our country) they represent a determination to change the status quo and that common desire has attracted large, enthusiastic followings, reminiscent of when hope and change was Obama’s calling card.

How either candidate might change the workings of government is hard to magine.  Bernie has plans, like a single payer health system, Medicare for all, but how would he get support for it? (1.)  The main reason Obamacare hasn’t worked out to the satisfaction of many, is that too many deals had to be made with too many factions within his own party to barely get it passed.

And if it is hard to imagine what Bernie would actually succeed in doing, imagining Trump as president is unimaginable.   So much of his successful candidacy has lay in the realm of the unpredictable, why would it suddenly change if he were president?   And since he has no policy plans, only slogans and threats, what would he actually do if given the chance?

The situation seems “iffy” enough to throttle much speculation for now and wait for things to sort out more, but in the interim I will soon return to my favorite topic of what Trump’s success says about us.   While Bernie is becoming more interesting as his chances have improved, he still runs a regular political campaign and that cannot become as addictive for many as a reality TV show with continuous plot twists.  Most of us do not get hooked on a mere political campaign, but we do when it comes to a favorite TV show.

As in Wonderland, there is a surreality about Trump’s campaign.  He has successfully ignored traditional political wisdom in running to win the presidency, but as good as he is at talking a great game, if actually given the chance to govern, who knows how or what he would do?    Might he have us so hooked at that point that we will vote him in just to see?  But that reality check is still just a possibility down the line.

For now I doubt if I am alone waking up each day wondering what new Trump surprise will be awaiting on the morning cable shows.  How has he stolen the next news cycle this time?   Oh, he has put Ted Cruz on the defense again, something others have been unable to do, and….  Oh, a surprise endorsement from Sarah Palin flying to Iowa to announce it, important because she had supported Cruz in his Senate race.

Trump has gotten us to the point where we are always wondering:  What will Donald say or do next?  If able to maintain that curiousity with Republicans, Trump seems likely to win the primary, surprised as I am to say that.

Will he then find a way to make the election all about him as well, make it his show as he has the primary?   Well, I for one would be very curious to see.

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(1.)  Surprisingly, Trump has said that a single payer system seems to work well in other countries and may rate a look.   If his mesmerizing power turns him into President Trump I can imagine him arguing that we are the richest country in the world and a great nation should take care of its sick and a single payer system would be the best way to do it.   Cut out all those high cost insurance middle men and pressure the drug companies for lower prices.  And suddenly this would cease to be a socialist idea and instead a common sense solution.