Does Donald Trump want to be president of the United States? Only Donald Trump knows. That he has invested eight months of his time into becoming the Republican nominee suggests he does, however, a lifetime of liberal views indicates he does not – at least not on a GOP ticket.
The ‘out there’ theory that Trump is Hillary Clinton’s secret agent, sent in to complete the destruction of a party that has fissured greatly during Barack Obama’s presidency, has remained just that – out there. But the 2016 race has contained more political theatre than even Frank Underwood could summon up.
On the surface it makes a degree of sense, although it could admittedly be dismissed as a logical fallacy. Trump has bulldozed his way in, ripped open wounds in the party that are on the brink of becoming irreparable (if they aren’t already), and played on the often-implied prejudices of a party that is going to find it harder and harder to win as America’s demographics change forever.
Let’s assess the Trump predicament in more depth. The GOP has an unstoppable candidate that it does not want, but that its voters – by and large – do. Since cruising down the Trump Tower escalator on 16 June last year, The Donald has exposed the frustrations of Republican voters, and harnessed them to create an undeniable movement. Immigration? Build a wall. Washington politicians? Stuff ‘em. Nabisco? No more Oreos. There are few concrete solutions (except the wall), but the frontrunner’s plans are still better than anything else Republicans have heard over the past eight years.
Until now, moderates, evangelicals, libertarians and Tea Partiers have been kept under the umbrella, despite their many differences. One goal they are all invested in, however, is preventing another Democrat, Hillary Clinton in particular, from securing the White House for another term. It just so happens that the man leading that charge invited her to his wedding, donated to her foundation and was lavishing praise on her until just a few years ago.
Four years ago, arch-libertarian Ron Paul threatened to take the GOP by storm. This time around, his son Rand failed to even make it to the ‘Live Free or Die’ state of New Hampshire – that Republicans are now turning towards a big government leader indicates they were never interested in full-scale freedom or liberty.
But far more incredible than courting the party with libertarian streaks, Trump has become the darling of evangelicals too, despite the presence of Ted Cruz. Trump claims to have evolved from previous pro-choice views and also states that he is firmly for traditional marriage – which is quite believable since he has had three.
Other incidents that would have been complete no-nos for other Republican candidates include Trump’s slightly questionable history on the Second Amendment, and his comment on ‘Obamacare’ that he “liked the mandate”, which is one of the most loathed parts of it. In short, considering Trump’s rocky ride and ideological clashes with key wings of the GOP, it’s remarkable that he has been able to assert and maintain such a strong lead.
Trump is a rare breed of politician who is truly Teflon. You could write a book on all of his election gaffes: from Megyn Kelly to John McCain, from “Two Corinthians” to the Pope. Barring his blip in Iowa – and everyone knows they can’t pick a winner – Trump has been impenetrable. He made good on his massive New Hampshire lead, eased home in South Carolina despite an all-out attack on the Bushes and then hammered home his advantage taking nearly half of the vote in the Nevada Caucus.
It’s a hostile takeover that has caught the Republican Party off-guard, even though they had nearly a year to prepare themselves for it. Marco Rubio is their last hope, and his campaign will be over if Trump bests him in his home state of Florida on 15 March – polls give the latter a comfortable lead, even in a one-on-one showdown with Rubio. Cruz, the only other feasible candidate left, is even more detested by Republican high-rankers than Trump.
The GOP has no choice: it must get behind Trump and hope beyond hope that he does want the top prize. Establishment Republicans have come out of the woodwork, saying they would prefer a Clinton presidency to a Trump one, and that making the Republicans at least maintained control of the Senate this November would be the primary aim. But where would that leave them? With an already hated establishment that not only blew another election, but effectively gave Hillary the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Good luck with that.
In Trump, the GOP has an uncontrollable force. The New Yorker possesses the savvy to dominate the media and direct the conversation – a game-changing skill that can be both beneficial and detrimental. Trump detected the anger among Republicans far better than their party did, and he subsequently tailored his campaign message to articulate those feelings. For at least 35 to 40 percent of GOP voters, Trump is their spokesman. He has energised them in a way no one has since Ronald Reagan. The Republican hierarchy may perceive a Trump general election win to be impossible, but betraying him now would ensure their own doom.
While Trump signed a pledge in September to support the Republican nominee come what may, recent months have shown that it is he who decides whether he is being treated fairly, and that he is not afraid to use it as leverage. Screwing him at the Cleveland convention in July would all but guarantee a third-party bid, which would hand victory to the Democrats. Trump’s passionate base has demonstrated they would rather stick two fingers up to the system than support another do-nothing Washington politician.
The scrambling to stop Trump in recent days is proof of how desperate, fruitless and forlorn things are for the GOP establishment. Months of gently prodding didn’t work; neither did more intellectual attacks from Jeb Bush, leaving Rubio no choice but to try something wacky.
As we approach Super Tuesday, the most delegate-rich day in primary politics, Rubio’s main line of attack is to pick apart Trump’s orangey skin and question whether the billionaire wet himself at the last debate. Trump, not to be outdone at the comedy roadshow, has taken delight in mocking ‘Little Marco’, noting how he sweats profusely and how newly-acquired henchman Chris Christie belittled him at the pre-New Hampshire debate. And they are running to be the Leader of the Free World.
The 2016 election has descended into farce. There will never be another like it and we probably don’t even know half of this story yet. Conventional wisdom suggests Donald Trump is a nutter, and the product of a rapidly-declining Republican Party. But conventional wisdom is defunct. Could Trump really be a plant? With his well-documented history, it wouldn’t be a ‘yuge’ surprise.
The Republicans’ best chance of winning the White House is a former liberal who will ensure their total meltdown if they make any attempt to treat him badly. Who would have ever thought it would come to that?