“Donald Trump has a way of making bellicose statements of a highly controversial nature. He is, however, merely parroting commonly held ideas among average Americans, especially the working class.”
I must preface this article by stating that I am not a Trump supporter. Yet that is precisely why I am compelled to comment on his campaign and its strategy. When “the Donald” joined the race for the GOP nomination for the presidency, like many I felt his candidacy was little more than a joke. Trump has earned some renown for his capacity as an entertainer. As an educated Republican and long time conservative, I did not find Trump especially appealing, and I am not alone. Educated voters have been slow to warm to Trump’s candidacy. Conservatives are also wary of this “Johnny-come-lately” Republican who identified himself as a liberal just a few years ago.
Donald Trump has a way of making bellicose statements of a highly controversial nature. He is, however, merely parroting commonly held ideas among average Americans, especially the working class. When the media attacks him for it, he defends his statement and thus appears to be defending his supporters from the onslaught of the political and media elites. The back and forth of this flywheel effect only serves to endear Mr. Trump to his supporters while placing on display for all to see the bias and incompetence of the American media. These media and political elites are highly out of touch with common American voters, and Trump drawn the disparity into sharp focus. Trump’s statements are designed to elicit an emotional knee-jerk reaction that is positive from common Americans and negative from the media and elites. While this is a common political tactic, Mr. Trump is especially good at it and this cannot be an accident.
There is yet another layer to this approach: Mr. Trump has brought otherwise unsupportive and more educated voters to his defense! When the Donald began to describe the illegal immigration problem, namely, that they come to America and commit heinous crimes, he was attacked as every kind of racist bigot. The media exaggerated his comments to apply to Mexican immigrants and Latinos in general. Some were taken in by their propaganda. I found myself in the undesirable position of defending Trump against the misinterpretation and exaggeration of his comments. He had referred only to illegal immigrants, who come from many countries, not just from Mexico, and who do not belong here. Every crime committed in the US by an illegal is committed by a person who should not be within the country to begin with.
As longtime conservative commentator and radio show host Rush Limbaugh has oft pointed out, when attacked by the media, Trump not only refuses to be cowed by them, but instead doubles down. This is an approach Mr. Limbaugh has demanded of the GOP for years. As Rush points out, the right cannot win playing by the left’s rules. If the GOP cannot confront the media, then it cannot win.
A more recent Trump statement is a further example: after the San Bernardino terrorist attack, he called for a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants until a better means of vetting can be devised. Immediately the attacks began. Again Trump was a racist. The statement demonstrated the ignorance of his attackers firstly because Islam is in fact not a race, but a religion made up of people from many ethnicities. These attackers made outrageous claims that such a policy was unconstitutional, and “not who we are.” The more ridiculous claims run from Trump supporting a total ban on Islam in the United States to his giving aid to Islamic State (IS) by way of his comments. The Obama Administration’s unwillingness to confront IS and the ineffective year-old bombing campaign, have been of much greater aid to IS.
Those who sought to malign the Donald had stepped right into his trap. As it turns out, a federal law passed by a Democrat Congress in 1952 and signed into law by then President Harry Truman, gives the presidency the absolute discretion to identify any individual or groups, classified in any manner, and prohibit all immigration by such individuals or groups until a time when the President himself decides that the threat has abated. When the Islamic Revolution swept into power in Iran, President Jimmy Carter not only halted all Iranian immigration, he had some 15,000 Iranian nationals in the US on student visas tracked down and the greater part of them deported. Such a policy would not only be constitutional (exceptions to many rights are made in the interests of national security), it is already the law of the land that such a policy could be made.
The trap had several layers, first that his attackers made idiots of themselves in their ignorance of the law (the left never allows facts to intervene with their opinions anyway); second that many Americans have been thinking precisely what the Donald said but shrank from expressing such beliefs for fear of retribution from the fascist regime of political correctness; and third Trump demonstrated that to the President, the left, and the media and political elites, political correctness is more important then protecting American lives. The distance between that political elite and the average American grows daily, as do Trump’s poll numbers. He has risen to over 40% in national GOP primary polls.
It is impossible to call Trump incompetent as a leader. A man who inherited a multi-million dollar business empire and turned it into a multi-billion dollar global enterprise has no reason to fear this claim. He has clearly demonstrated abilities to cultivate business relationships, reach compromises, navigate legal minefields and government bureaucracy, and “initiative” may as well be his middle name. Trump’s bombastic, over the top personality and tough, masculine persona appeal to an interesting assortment of demographics. He leads every GOP demographic: women, Latinos, blue-collar workers, and such, with the singular exception of evangelical Christians, who prefer candidates like Senator Ted Cruz and Dr. Ben Carson. It is interesting then, that Trump has cozied with Cruz and the two mostly avoid attacking one another.
When it comes to polls, Trump’s support comes from strange quarters for a GOP candidate. He has garnered the support of minorities and low-income working class voters, and he continues to make gains among more traditional conservatives. Given the GOP primary polls, it is easy to prognosticate that Trump has a strong chance of being nominated; this despite the fact that the GOP “establishment” would prefer a more malleable candidate like Jeb Bush. The GOP claims to be eager to reach out to traditionally Democrat constituencies, like low-income working class voters. Trump is having more success than any other candidate or GOP institution at accomplishing just that; yet he garners only contempt from party leadership.
Head-to-head polls also place him between 6 and 10 points behind Hillary Clinton, the nominee presumptive of the Democrat Party. These are early polls and it is important to take them with a grain of salt. These likely Democrat voters will have little motivation to go to the polls for a crony, corrupt candidate like Hillary Clinton, whose one claim to fame is that her husband was President; oh, and she is a woman as if that alone were a reason to vote for a candidate. Trump can also draw voters to the polls who did not vote at previous elections. All this taken together has Trump well within the statistical margin of error. Six months into his campaign, he thus holds the greatest likelihood of winning the GOP nomination, and has at least a good a chance of being President as Mrs. Clinton.
Contrary to popular belief, Trump is not a conservative. Yes, his hard-line stance on immigration strikes at the core of conservative goals: border security and at least the willingness to deport some of the current illegal population. It also brought him the support of low wage voters, who compete with illegals for jobs and whose wages are depressed thereby. His tax plan is remarkably moderate, however. Far from a complete rewrite of the tax code, a flat tax, or a consumption tax, he plans to do away with certain sweetheart exemptions, especially for fund managers, thus targeting the well to do, and he would eliminate taxes altogether for the lowest wage earners. He is also open to replacing the Affordable Care Act (aka: Obamacare) with a more reasonable system that would involve some role for the government. Most of his policy suggestions are far from the right and approach the centre. Many Americans have lost patience for the political establishment in both parties, and Mr. Trump has carefully placed himself in the most desirable of positions: he is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, but is essentially a third party candidate who happens to be seeking the GOP nomination. Third party candidates are never successful in the US and only serve to spoil the election for one major party or the other. The Donald is simply edging out the competition to the right with a kind of “hostile takeover.” At this, Donald Trump is very much an expert.
Mr. Trump’s detractors have underestimated his ability at political calculation. Likewise, his supporters appreciate his apparently off-the-cuff manner. Neither has it entirely correct. Far from off-the-cuff or politically inept, Donald Trump has devised, along with his marketing staff, a brilliant strategy that has placed him well within striking distance of both the GOP nomination and the presidency itself. All this before the first ballot has been cast in the Republican primary process. In a word, his approach is quite ingenious.