Donald is on a Roll
And Hillary Has Got to Love it.
In case you just haven’t been paying attention, there is a pretty good chance we might be headed for a Three Party Race for President in 2016. Or in an even more bizarre scenario, we might actually have a bona-fide eccentric, super-rich media mogul running on the Republican side of the ticket. Either way, it has to have Hillary Clinton’s campaign mavens already polishing up the crown and scepter to adorn her coronation.
Of course, that Third Party Candidate/GOP Neo-populist Bully Boy, would be none other than Donald Trump—the delight of the “talk radio” wing of the Republican Right and the only man in the room during the first GOP Presidential Debate who wouldn’t swear his support for the party’s nominee should it not be he. But let’s be frank about it, shall we? If Trump had not participated in that soulless, soundbite beauty contest it would have garnered ratings just a notch above the USA Women’s Collegiate Softball Finals.
As it was, it drew an audience just north of 24 Million people, becoming the most watched event in cable news history—more than triple the ratings of any other political debate ever. In fact, when you watched “The Donald” standing up in the same room with his $3000 dollar Armani threads, his dead muskrat hairdo, his billionaire swagger and sucking the oxygen out of the room, he actually came off like genuine American folk hero—especially when stacked up against the sanitized choirboy Stepford clones coming straight out of the Conservative Christian cookie cutter.
If the First Republican Presidential Debate just ten days ago had any objective at all, it convinced me of several things right out of the gate: First, we’ve all finally come to realize the degree of loathing the general public has for Political Correctness and all it represents. Next, Donald Trump has proven beyond all doubt that, when you’ve got 10 billion dollars you can rail at the world like someone’s redneck drunken uncle and still get away with saying about anything you want. Third, America has become a soundbite nation, seduced by TMZ and having abandoned logic and accountability in the process. We the People don’t really want the facts any more. We want Entertainment. We want clever sounding quick-fix solutions that no one will bother to vet.
Something has also struck me before and since, and that is the fact that—when it comes to PC—Donald Trump is pushing the envelope so hard that one might suspect he is deliberately trying to sabotage his own campaign. And it’s not working yet, even though the RNC is doubtless sitting up nights trying to figure out ways to run him off.
There is no doubt on that fateful debate night that FOX News and Megyn Kelly in particular planned to have the best of Trump with a stack of tough questions that flew straight into his Curmudgeon Castle Keep. And “The Donald” took the bait. Although he more or less kept his cool during the two-hour show-and-tell, he retaliated after the fact with a spate of nasty tweets and appearances on MSNBC and CNN to denounce FOX and news team itself as being some backroom conspiracy to sink his political fortunes. And to everyone’s shock and amazement Trump entirely had his way with it.
Even despite the fact that Megyn Kelly, Chris Wallace and Bret Baier did a recap where they declared the event a failure for Trump and foresaw a new rising star in Senator Marco Rubio (who was at least a bit Presidential), their prognostications fell flat and Trump’s post debate numbers soared—up anywhere from 5 to 10 points at around 30% and over twice that of the nearest Republican challenger Jeb Bush (who seems to hang-in there, despite coming off like a 21st century version of Herbert Hoover).
But that kind of butt-whipping wasn’t enough for Donald who has absolutely no filter whenever his billionaire pooh bah sensibilities are challenged. So he chose in the aftermath to attack Megyn Kelly personally—with a lightly veiled sexist remark about her bodily orifices running red, which garnered a legion of women rushing to Kelly’s defense oddly followed by an orchestrated pushback from Trump’s harem, defending Trump himself as “having reverence for women.” Then “The Donald” quickly followed a couple of days later by winning a stare-down with FOX Newsgroup President Roger Ailes that managed to get Kelly—arguably the most popular news anchor in this century—sent packing on a sudden sabbatical “to be with her family.” Now, sufficiently placated, the Donald has agreed to return to FOX to spread his apocryphal imperatives with virtual impunity. (So much for freedom of the press.)
The real casualty in all of this is not Kelly or FOX News or the GOP or even Trump himself. The greatest loss in in all of this is something called political substance. Instead we have a war of words, a new sport called media bashing and bad gossip column fodder that is almost as embarrassing to report as the public responses to it. Because the political mindset of the American public has apparently been run off a cliff and straight into a pit of mindless drivel that has nothing to do with solving this nation’s problems and everything to do with giving yet another bully pulpit to extremists and fools.
If you happen to be among those few remaining who don't really believe that Donald Trump is a serious candidate for President in 2016, you weren’t around for his speech to a $25 a plate crowd in the Detroit suburb of Birch Run, Michigan last week. And anyone who saw it or heard it realized just how well “The Donald” knows how to work a room. Since Detroit, capital of the “Rust Belt” with an 18% unemployment rate, is the socio-economic equivalent of a battered wife, Trump’s sudden appearance for dinner was well timed. Playing his mantra like a prosperity harp and preaching to raucous applause, the billionaire mogul denounced the recent opening by Ford Motor Company of an Auto Plant in China as if it were something unheard of, while he promised that if he were made POTUS he would shut down the channels of commerce to China and bring all these jobs back to the USA. (Of course it was utter nonsense because that ship sailed twenty years ago with NAFTA and the Trans Pacific Pact [TPP]. Major car manufacturers are permitted to go where the labor/profit ratio benefits their bottom line, and there is nothing the government can do to stop them other than enact major treaty restructuring which would take years and benefit no one.)
If one choses to remain naïve about this, one could believe that Trump is just being himself—brash, loud, rude and utterly convinced in the rightness of his behavior. The truth is that Donald Trump has gone out of his way to offend the GOP and everyone in it. He baits, berates and insults every powerful party figure from John McCain to Jeb Bush, and in fact does not have one single close friend inside the party power structure with which he has chosen cast his lot. He is setting himself up as a man apart—as a third party—and one has to ask why? God only knows Trump is driving the Republican establishment crazy, and they’re praying he’ll go away.
I personally think he just might do that. But only after he has had his way with them all—either bringing them to heel and turning the entire GOP into a cheap demagogic side-show or by bolting before everyone finds out that the Emperor has no clothes.
So my Conspiracy Theory is this: Donald is doing all this intentionally, because he can. For reasons that can only be explained through the lens of a megalomaniac, Donald Trump knows he is in a Win-Win scenario. If he continues front-run by double digits and bend the Republican Party to his will, he will gain the nomination and make the race far more interesting than it otherwise would have been. If Trump gets bounced by the Republicans—something, in this incendiary political environment, that is possible at any time—he is perfectly positioned to start a Third Party Movement and provide the political gut-shot to the GOP that the Democrats have been praying for.
The challenge lies in the fact that, at this point, The Donald is gaining rather than losing momentum. He is bending the ratings-crazed mainstream media to his will, and he has struck a match to reignite a Republican Party passion that until now has lost all sense of itself. Desperate for anything that looks like a winner, the right-tilting GOP rank-and-file is willing to abandon both logic and accountability. In doing so, they haven’t bothered to vet much of anything Trump has said or backed in the last 20 years, and are more than happy to enjoy this three-ring Barnum and Bailey replete with clown-car, Ringmaster and a hi-wire act that is yet to have a “flyer.”
Despite the recent titillating chain of events, most political pros know very well that eventually the Circus leaves town. Donald will have to stop acting like a gambling casino owner-gunslinger and become presidential. He will actually have to come up with policy answers and not prattle on about sending in boots on the ground to fight ISIS when our military has been so badly gutted we couldn't defend a shopping mall in Nairobi. He’ll have to stop all the economic trash-talk against China who owns 34% of all our debt paper. And he’ll have to come up with a solution to our immigration dilemma that doesn’t come off like an “Off with their Heads!” declaration straight from The Queen of Hearts. In essence, he’ll generally have to start acting like an adult.
The fact is, Trump doesn't want to, or need to. He’s a billionaire brat with a brand new toy, and he’ll play with it until it tires him…or until someone will stroke his Titanic ego enough to convince him to set up a Third Party run for President. There is a good chance he will, especially when the public catches on that there is no “there” there—that in fact Donald is historically a populist and redoubtably a liberal on most issues. Insiders know this. And no one could be happier about this than Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The fact is that Donald Trump doesn't have one single close ally inside the GOP. In truth, he is far closer in political sentiment and allegiance to an entire squadron of Democrats than he is to any Republican of any stripe. He was a de-facto Democrat for his entire adult life, until he made a sudden conversion to the GOP in 2009. He contributed generously and often to his close friends Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, and heavily invested in Kerry’s 2004 run for President. He aggressively backed Hillary Clinton’s primary campaign for POTUS in 2008, and he has openly declared Bill Clinton to have been one of the best Presidents the US has ever had. Trump’s daughter Ivanka just happens to be Chelsea Clinton’s BFF, and they have all shared weddings, political rallies and social outings in great profusion. Coincidence? Perhaps. But it is no coincidence that The Wall Street Journal recently corroborated a series of meetings during which Trump and his handlers consulted with Bill Clinton a few weeks before deciding to dive into the Republican primary. And by all reports, the former POTUS encouraged Trump to work his way into the GOP political landscape.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think for a minute that Donald Trump would intentionally be anyone’s stalking horse… or Trojan horse for that matter. But be realistic. It is not hard to stroke a gargantuan ego like Trump’s, especially if you are a former President of the United States and someone Donald highly reveres. So there is at least a reasonable chance that The Donald’s entry into the political arena has been orchestrated—and quite possibly manipulated—by someone with a whole lot more political savvy than Trump himself could ever hope to have.
So, here we have it. The stage is set. And we have a Hobson’s choice. If Donald Trump drops his adversarial approach to the GOP power structure and actually schmoozes his way into the nomination, it will prove beyond the shadow of a doubt just how desperate the Republicans are to field someone who has a ghost of a chance at the White House. Even so, he will face Hillary in a National election and get his clock cleaned, because no one in his or her right mind among the 41% of non-aligned "independent" voters wants to go anywhere near a hip-shooting, knee-jerk, egomaniacal hothead with his foot on the throat of this nation’s media and his hand on the Nuclear trigger. (Besides, Hillary already has leverage with this nation’s Millennials who represent 21% of the vote and haven’t a clue about what anyone stands for, but have already looked up from the iPhone text-orgies long enough to decide that it’s time for a woman to run America. End of story.)
On the other hand, if Trump breaks off on his own and throws us into a Three Party Race, he’ll virtually assure Hillary Clinton’s election that way, because three party races have historically sabotaged either one political party or the other, and the consequences are usually dire…as it will this time for the GOP.
Anyone who has been around for more than a couple of decades remembers that Ross Perot’s Presidential run in 1992—despite his paranoia hiccup in the 7th inning—still trashed George H.W. Bush’s bid for reelection and served as the single reason Bill Clinton became our 42nd President. Richard Nixon cannily survived a George Wallace Third Party run in 1968 that cost him four key southern states, including Georgia and Alabama. And Harry Truman miraculously managed to come out on top of a Four Party Race in 1948 that included defections from the Dixiecrats (and a loss of four Southern states) and the Socialist Party fronted by former VP, Henry A. Wallace. And of course, the most famous three party race involved Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party in 1912 that utterly undercut the reelection of Republican President William Howard Taft and thrust Woodrow Wilson into the White House.
The difference in all those races and the one before us now is the fact that—once upon a time twenty, forty and sixty years ago—the American public actually took the time to be truly informed about the issues. And back in the 20th Century the political parties truly stood for something. They hadn’t been taken over by vocal lunatic fringe on both sides. A lunatic fringe, by the way, that Donald Trump often spearheaded in the past. One needs merely look back a couple of years to find that he is the ultimate extremist/conspiracy theorist. He was a borderline “Truther” in the wake of the 911 crisis. And up until 2013, he was an avowed and aggressive “Birther” who openly challenged Barack Obama’s credentials for citizenship as well as his patriotism.
All of this will, of course, be hurled in Trump’s face by Hillary Clinton should they square off in 2016. “The Donald” is going to have to be able to defend that, and so will any party that sponsors him.
At this point, Trump just doesn’t care. He’s having his way with a dying party that has lost its political moorings and just basically having a damn good time. To be perfectly honest, so are we all. Donald Trump is the flavor of the day. Donald Trump is media meat and a simplistic sound-bite mirage. And no one is happier about this that than the Clinton Political Machine.
In truth all this is coming as something of a relief to Hillary Clinton who is currently facing a mountain of challenges, including possible ethics violations while Secretary of State. Notwithstanding the fact that she has the campaign personality of a Stegosaurus, she is also being bombarded with a surprising far-left surge from self-confessed Socialist Bernie Sanders and his “Occupy Wall Street” groupies who have, temporarily at least, found a new place to pitch their Hate America tent. And (just in case Hillary gets indicted) the Praetorian Guard Democrats are oiling up the hinges on Joe Biden’s suit of armor should they need to, because no one inside the mainstream of the Party wants Sanders to get anywhere near the Democratic nomination, mainly because he is selling a political Ponzi scheme that simply will not hold up under examination.
In the end it all comes down to understanding who has the legs to go the distance. One has to wonder whether or not the Donald really has the discipline to go all the way. At this point, why should he not? Everything is going his way. The American voters are so sick of the deadly pall of “business as usual” inside the Beltway that they are temporarily at least ready to try anything new. Trump has unlimited funds and is beholden to no one.. He is a multibillionaire with no world’s left to conquer. And he has a terrific command of media buzz.
In truth, no Presidential campaign in history ever has cranked up so early in the game. It’s happening on both sides of the aisle. And it is symptomatic of a nation that has at last had enough with business as usual. Or has it?
The philosopher Eric Hoffer once wrote in The Ordeal of Change that human nature is so intrinsically opposed to change that it will often resist it even when circumstances become intolerable. The question then is this: Have We the People finally reached our limits? Or do we once again revert to the mean once the media buzz dies down? The Conventional Wisdom of both parties is betting that we will. But, as Donald Trump is proving daily, “Convention” is no longer Wise.