Monday, April 11, 2016

"Never Trump." But why?



It was, by all accounts, an unusual week for "The Donald."

Political pundits and news media in general noticed that Donald Trump has been lying low in the past week. If it weren't for his typically ubiquitous presence on news programs, it might almost be understandable. Trump's campaign suffered a PR black eye when his former campaign manager was charged with simple battery and then a second roundhouse blow hit his camp when Ted Cruz won a major victory in the Wisconsin primary, acquiring much needed political capital, indeed enough for many to speculate that Cruz could at least gain enough delegates to deny Trump a majority in the GOP convention. This would lead to a brokered convention, the kind involving wheeling and dealing in fuliginous backrooms rather than the foregone conclusion that most party conventions have been in the past.

But Trump has been the presumptive nominee for quite a time now. What happened? Well, at least part of this is due to a massive "Never Trump" campaign. This has played out on conservative talk radio as hosts have lambasted Trump, charging that he is not a true conservative. David Brooks at The New York Times has been an open critic of Trump almost since The Donald announced his candidacy nigh on one year ago. Brooks wrote a piece just recently wherein he argues for a "Lincoln Caucus" at the GOP convention. Such a caucus would "would not be an explicitly anti-Trump caucus or an anti-Cruz caucus. It would just be a caucus made up of delegates who are not happy with the choices currently before them." In other words, bring the party back closer to center and more in line with the conservatism espoused by Abraham Lincoln, in Brooks' thinking, anyway.

Regardless, I must ask why. Why is there a surge in "Never Trump?" Why is the Republican Party so against him? A quick look at his campaign platform shows him pretty much in line with past Republican thinking. He wants a wall built along our southern border and to force Mexico to pay for it. He wants to deport illegal immigrants and he wants to repeal ACA while ensuring Americans have the right to keep and bear arms. He wants better care for our veterans and he wants to destroy ISIS. Granted that leaves a great many other critical facets of governmental policy un-examined, such as education, but I can't help but think that if I were a conservative, the Trump platform would be the equivalent of a double scoop chocolate sundae with whip cream and sprinkles. Gimme a spoon.

And yet it isn't. If it were, there would be no effective Never Trump campaign. What could it be? To begin to determine an answer, maybe we should first examine why Trump had any support in the first place. When I've asked people this question, I've had many different responses, ranging from support of his business acumen to his charisma (such as it is, but there is no accounting for taste), but there is one answer more frequent than all the others: "He's just saying what's on everybody's mind."

Donald Trump has made many statements that could be construed as either racist, sexist, or both. This has led to the perception that your average Trump supporter is the personification of a stereotypical "redneck" with a mullet, a trucker ballcap, and three teeth in his mouth. Therefore, not representative of the Republican electorate as a whole. The data shows that this perception is not true. In six state polls, Trump was the most popular candidate among college-educated voters. It may then be possible that these Trump supporters might not like their chosen candidate's seeming inability to conduct civil discourse, but they are willing to overlook it in order to support his proposed policies. At the same time, other Republicans closer to the Never Trump camp might be opposed to him because of that very same grandstanding bluster.

There is yet another possibility.

I have taught the book Frankenstein enough to at least get an idea of what someone looks like when they recognize that the results of their ill-considered labors have just blown up in their face. It could be argued that in their own way, the Republicans have exploited an undercurrent of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia in the electorate much in the same way they started courting evangelical Christians in earnest back in 2000. If Trump is indeed "just saying what's on everybody's mind," then could it be inferred that he is merely bringing these unsavory aspects of the Republican base into the light? If so, then party leadership is understandably vexed and more than a little panicked at the sight.

This has been building, burgeoning for years. This monster has a dark and ugly underbelly. They have subtly, covertly ridden on its back for years now but someone has just come along and knocked the thing over on its side, exposing it to the sun for all to see. It then returns to its feet and runs about, completely out of control. Now the GOP villagers have the pitchforks and torches out, attempting to corral the culmination of their monstrous creation in the proverbial windmill.

Yes, I know that part isn't in the book version of Frankenstein but I'm making a metaphor here.

Is that it? I suppose I could outright make the accusation and then safely mitigate it all by adding one of Trump's "I don't know!" 's at the end.


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