The left has long depicted the typical Republican as a white, racist, misogynist male with a big bank balance and a small brain. This is a caricature, of course, but the current election cycle has produced an ostensible GOP presidential candidate who personifies the parody so closely that he may as well have been constructed in a laboratory by the Democratic National Committee. Donald Trump is the cartoon Republican that Hillary Clinton and her media lackeys want to run against in 2016 and they are working hard to assure that his florid, frowning visage becomes the face of the GOP.
As Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight notes, “Trump has received 54 percent of the media coverage of the GOP primary.” He has been getting more free press than all the other Republican candidates combined. Trump’s supporters believe this is about his skillful manipulation of the media. In reality, it is they who are being played by a press corps that is giving him 24/7 coverage to bolster his illusory lead in the national polls. But these polls tell us nothing about the state of the race. Because there’s no such thing as a national primary, they measure little more than name recognition.
The people who run the major media outlets, such as CNN, are well aware of this reality. Yet they knowingly publish misleading national surveys, like this poll released last week, showing Trump with an implausible lead of 21 points over his nearest rival. Such “blockbuster” surveys provide a pretext for another tsunami of “news” stories about his alleged lead, additional interviews, and more coverage of the campaign rallies during which he almost always says something ignorant or offensive. These statements are then reported as generally representative of GOP positions.
To see how this plays into the hands of Hillary Clinton, who is already in general election mode, one has only to look at how her campaign responded when Trump began braying about how she got “schlonged” by Barack Obama in 2008. As the New York Times puts it, “For months, Mrs. Clinton’s strategy was to hang Mr. Trump’s more outrageous pronouncements around the necks of other Republican contenders, seeking to portray the party’s entire field as extreme.” But now that he is talking about Clinton in his trademark misogynistic style, she and her campaign staff are giddy.
According to the Times, “Mrs. Clinton’s aides could barely believe their good fortune. Mr. Trump had just given them new fodder to galvanize women behind her candidacy—and they used it.” The Clinton campaign immediately enlisted Emily’s List to publish an open letter that puts the onus of controlling Trump’s big mouth on his contenders for the GOP nomination: “You have a chance to step up and do something about Donald Trump.… You at least know enough to try to hide your anti-woman policies behind the nice things you say about the women that you know.”
This is how Trump is already doing real damage to the Republican Party. It doesn’t matter that the other GOP candidates are obviously not “anti-woman.” Because he is the purported leader in the party’s primary race, Trump has reinforced the ridiculous notion that Republicans are waging a “war on women.” The GOP already had a lot of work to do in order to recover from Mitt Romney’s disastrous showing among female voters in 2012. Now the party’s eventual nominee will also have to overcome the damage done by Donald Trump’s apparent case of Tourette’s syndrome.
And this isn’t the only area in which Trump’s inability to control his mouth is hurting the GOP. He famously launched his campaign by conflating Mexican immigrants with criminals: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best.… They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” And, as if there weren’t already enough factual and political problems with this statement, he went on to promise that he will deport 11 million Hispanics, including many who were born here, and vowed to eliminate birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment.
This was not merely damaging to the GOP’s image with Hispanics, 40 percent of whom must vote Republican if the party is to recapture the White House, it is bound to terrify African Americans. One of the purposes of the 14th Amendment is to assure that former slaves and their descendants could not be denied U.S. citizenship or any of its associated privileges—including the vote. It is difficult to imagine a more divisive issue to raise in a political environment characterized by false Democrat claims that the Republicans seek to suppress the African-American vote.
In addition to his penchant for reinforcing Democrat talking points about GOP misogyny and racism, Trump has repeatedly shown himself to be profoundly ignorant about all manner of issues concerning national defense and foreign policy. One of the scariest answers by a presidential candidate I have ever heard in any forum was the Trump response on December 15 that made it obvious that he had not heard of the nuclear triad. He has also provided ample evidence that he has no command of U.S. foreign policy or who we are fighting in the war against Islamic terrorism.
All of which suggests that if Trump weren’t so solipsistic, he would have dropped out of the presidential race due to sheer embarrassment. And, oddly enough, this brings us back to the national surveys. While they can tell us little about the state of the GOP primary race, they can provide useful information about the public attitude concerning candidates. The most recent survey conducted by Quinnipiac University contains a startling datum: “Half of American voters say they’d be embarrassed to have Donald Trump as their Commander in Chief.” It’s not hard to see why.
It’s harder to see how a significant number of voters, assuming his supporters actually vote, have been fooled by the transparent media campaign to keep Trump’s cartoon candidacy going. Presumably, it’s a symptom of our increasingly sick celebrity culture, combined with widespread public frustration with Beltway bumbling. Regardless of the reason, the longer the parody is permitted to continue, the more damage the GOP will incur. If it goes on too long, Hillary could actually win in November. That would be worse than embarrassing. It would be dangerous.