The man “experts” predicted would never win — wins.
Now it is official. Against all the odds, all the naysayers, all those who disdained, derided, disparaged and despised, Donald John Trump stands today as the winner of the Republican nomination to be the 45th President of the United States.
Three years ago I observed in this space in a piece titled “Never Ignore Donald Trump” that “it is a huge mistake to ignore” him as so many political legions were already doing. One year ago, a month after he had dramatically descended the escalator at Trump Tower to announce his candidacy I noted that “Yes, Trump Can Win” — and spent some time comparing the intense disdain of Trump to the same sentiments that surfaced so long ago to candidate Ronald Reagan.
I quoted some of what was said of Reagan in the day, none of it good and all of it from considerable GOP figures or journalists of the day. But believing the nascent anti-Trumpers were making the same mistake that what might have been called “#NeverReagan” had made during the years of Reagan’s ascent, I made it a point to quote those who, in my opinion, were getting it so wildly wrong. So let’s take a look back at some of these quotes:
Karl Rove in the Wall Street Journal flatly predicted Trump would never win the GOP nomination and added that the main problem for his GOP competitors would be that Trump “could make the path to the White House that much rockier for whoever eventually does.”
The response of GOP candidates to Mr. Trump should be guided by the June 23 Fox News Poll showing that 64% of Republicans, 69% of conservatives and 55% of tea party members consider his candidacy a sideshow. An analyst at the FiveThirtyEight website pointed out that Mr. Trump has the worst favorable/unfavorable ratings of 106 presidential candidates since 1980, worse than even Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Mr. Trump is disliked by 57% of his own party.…
Mr. Trump could become the 2016 version of Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, who tarnished the GOP brand in 2012 with an offensive statement about rape. Republican leaders from Mitt Romney on down immediately condemned his words, but swing voters were persuaded that every Republican believed what Mr. Akin said.
Over at NBC journalist Perry Bacon Jr. penned this about Trump:
Donald Trump is almost certainly not going to be the Republican presidential nominee, and his candidacy puts the Republican Party in a quandary over its rules for which candidates to include in debates.
… Even if he is on the ballot, Trump has obvious disadvantages. He has never run for another office or held another government post, as nearly all modern presidents have. The Republican Party has at least a dozen candidates with stronger credentials than Trump.
He is unlikely to win a single primary.… The polls create the impression that Trump is a true contender for the presidency.
In reality, polls are often simply a test of fame….
Donald Trump has little chance of being the Republican nominee.
The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza headlined it this way:
Why no one should take Donald Trump seriously, in one very simple chart
There’s a tendency when someone like Donald Trump announces that he is running for president to view — and analyze — him through the same lens that we do for the other men and women actively seeking the presidency. What’s his policy vision? Who’s in his political inner circle? What would a Trump presidency look like?
Asking any of these questions gives Trump a benefit of the doubt that he simply doesn’t deserve: That a path exists for him to be president.
It doesn’t. Not even close.
… Among Republicans — you know, the people who decide the identity of their party’s presidential nominee — Trump has a net negative 42 rating. As in 23 percent of Republicans had a favorable view of Trump while 65 percent(!) had an unfavorable one. Want even more? Compare the number of Republicans who feel strongly favorable to Trump (11 percent) to those who feel strongly unfavorable (43 percent). No one in the field is anywhere close to those numbers; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is the only candidate other than Trump to have higher unfavorable than favorable ratings among his own party.
You cannot and do not win anything when your numbers look like Trump’s. I can’t say it any more clearly than that. There’s nothing you can say or do — not that Trump would ever even consider going on an image rehabilitation tour — to change how people feel about you. Republicans know Trump. And they really, really don’t like him.
… Trump has every right to run. This is a democracy after all. But what he should not get is covered as though this is an even-close-to-serious attempt to either win the Republican nomination or influence the conversation in GOP circles in any significant way. It’s not.
One could go on here. These people, smart people one and all, were hardly alone in their assessments of Trump’s chances. The point here is not to gloat — not my thing (unless the Red Sox beat the Yankees for the pennant). The point here is to understand why. Why? Why in the world were so many smart people unable to see Trump coming?
In this corner the respectful suggestion is that far too many of these people exist inside the “bubble” that is the insiders’ world of professional politics and media. Having spent a considerable chunk of my own life in this world — and now spending a considerable amount of time outside it — it must be said they are two very different worlds that are galaxies apart.
Here in the middle of Pennsylvania I have no journalist neighbors. No Members of Congress, U.S. Senators, Cabinet members, presidential or vice presidential staff or important bureaucrats inhabit the environs as they did when I lived on Capitol Hill in Washington. Georgetown cocktail parties are out, shopping at the Giant is in. Fancy brunches have vanished in favor of after-church breakfast at the Summit Family Restaurant, a local diner. And the conversation? Nothing about who is up and who is down in the White House or what bill is stuck in committee. Instead? Instead the conversation can be on issues — illegal immigration, personal dealings with the health care system, a disgust with political correctness are three that make the rounds — the state of the church (local and the national denomination), something Rush Limbaugh said, and so on. There is nothing “inside” about these conversations. If you asked about, say, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and his relationship with campaign chairman Paul Manafort — fodder for endlessly riveting conservation Inside the Beltway — the first, second, and third reaction would be blank faces. Not, I hasten to add, because people here are uninformed — because they are meticulously informed about the things they see affecting their daily lives.
There is no suggestion here that one world is filled with good people and the other with bad. That is simply not so. But it is to suggest that the political world has seemed startlingly out of touch with the real world, when in fact not disdainful of its inhabitants. Looking down noses at the world where people get up every day and go to work, raise kids, are not always clad in the most fashionable or expensive of clothes, talk among themselves about their problems, figure out how to have enough money in the bank to pay for their kid’s education, buy a house or a car or enjoy an actual vacation, not to mention shop in the Giant. In that world it seemed abundantly clear to me that what I was hearing every day in one form, fashion, or another matched what I knew of Donald Trump, both personally and professionally.
There are now a little over five months to go in this thus far tumultuous 2016 political year. And as of yesterday, Donald Trump has accomplished what all the experts said could never be done. He will in fact be the Republican nominee for president.
The question now is whether the political and media class that has so repeatedly gotten the Donald wrong have yet begun to understand why. Do they now understand that change — that oft used word that is a favorite for pollsters and consultants — is really, truly at hand? A change in the direction of America that has come, appropriately enough, from the bottom up in a country that was designed to be run from the bottom up. Or, to borrow from Old Abe, a country and a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Not of and by the professional political class for the lobbyists, consultants, and bureaucrats.
As the battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump now comes into view, the real battle here is just as it was when Donald Trump rode down that Trump Tower escalator.
The difference now is that finally — finally — Donald Trump and the American people, that vast “silent majority” who are the heart and soul of America — are being taking seriously. As well they should be.
It’s about time.