The GOP's Pied Piper and Anger Establishment
Still leading in the polls, Donald Trump has resonated so strongly into the anger sentiments surrounding issues like immigration and national security within the GOP’s base, that it has insulated him from losing momentum despite his series of controversial comments. In addition, his bombastic delivery and replies to them have garnered overwhelming free media exposure that fuels his campaign while crowding out the media coverage of his rivals.
However, while many conservatives including talk show hosts and others in the GOP may be mesmerized by the tunes of Donald Trump, and go at lengths to validate his points, they inadvertently have created their own monstrous version of the Pied Piper. Donald Trump may be able to make irresponsible promises and offer strong yet delusive enticements in order to win the GOP nomination, but he is luring the party towards a political disaster. Not only in the elections next year, but also in undermining the relevancy of conservatism as a governing alternative to the European style socialism espoused by Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
The allure of Donald Trump has enticed many prominent conservatives to give him political capital to elevate the perception of his own conservative credibility. This is a major factor that has aided Mr. Trump’s prominence with the GOP base and has helped his poll numbers. It is ironic that many who are considered conservative ‘purists’ and often apply a litmus test to screen out RINOs (Republicans in name only), have given Donald Trump a pass despite his past record and stance on current issues.
Since 1999 in New York Mr. Trump has given more to local Democrats than Republicans, $351,000 versus $241,000 respectively. He has switched party affiliation back and forth between being both a Democrat and a Republican numerous times since 1987 and only recently returned to the Republican Party in 2012. His past support of imminent domain to favor his business interests contradicts the conservative principles of property rights. Instead of talking about how he would make America more conducive for business, Mr. Trump definitely does not sound like a conservative or a person who understands the economics of global companies when he rants that he would punish Ford Motor Company with tariffs for building a plant in Mexico. These baseless populist appeals sound more like things we would hear at a Clinton or Sanders rally.
After years of resenting President Obama’s executive overreach and expansion of government, some conservatives seem comfortable in accommodating a President Trump who advocates exercising power the same way far beyond the authority of the office. His constant rhetoric of how he would force and make certain policies happen does not indicate respect or acknowledgement of the legislative process or the constitution. Recently at a gathering with the New England Benevolent Association he asserted that as president he would make the death penalty mandatory for anyone convicted of killing a police officer via executive order. The issue of death penalty is decided by the states and not something that can be imposed by presidential executive order. However the GOP’s Pied Piper knows how to play a tune depending on the emotion in the room. Shortly after he received the endorsement from the group.
Donald Trump rise can also be attributed to another type of establishment within the GOP not connected to the traditional establishment often talked about and abhorred by outsiders in the party. The ‘anger’ establishment within the GOP is made up of those who have legitimate reasons to be upset with the traditional establishment’s failure of stopping President Obama’s liberal agenda. They also have an established thought that if they just get the conservative base angry enough to get out and vote, that will be enough to win the elections. Hence, the appeal of a Pied Piper candidate like Donald Trump who will say things people want to hear or are already thinking so they will get out and vote.
The miscalculation of the anger establishment is that it has promoted the personality of Donald Trump to bring awareness to their passionate causes at the expense of not actually justifying conservatism. He has been such a great distraction in the debate and campaign that there has been little conversation of how pro growth conservatism has been working already in red states to create jobs and opportunity, especially among the poor and middle class of all races and demographics.
Conservatives need to reacquaint Americans with the virtues of economic freedom as the alternative to the inequality and wealth redistribution narrative of the Democratic Party. Economic freedom and strong national security should be the buzzwords of the GOP brand not Donald Trump’s rhetoric. According to a recent Quinnipiac poll Donald Trump, is the weakest Republican in a head-to-head matchup against Hillary Clinton, to whom he loses 41% to 47%. He has the worst favorability ratings among the 12 Democrat and Republican candidates tested. In addition, he does poorly among key demographics and voting groups such as Hispanics, independents, millennials and blacks. Not only does this indicate that he would lose in a general election if he becomes the nominee, Mr. Trump does not offer the kind of ‘coat tails’ the GOP will need to retain or expand their majorities in Congress.
The GOP needs a presidential nominee with an inspirational tone that can communicate why conservatism is relevant in the 21st century and can transcend preconceived notions of the Party. He or she will also need to expand the base and broaden the appeal of the Party to the changing demographics in the country going forward. It is not enough use the phrases regarding limited government versus big government or the constitution unless they are discussed in the context of being specific benefits to solving today’s problems.
Too many conservatives in the GOP are like car salesmen who know their product knowledge very well but do not convert that knowledge to more sales because they do not make connections of their products to the needs of the customer. They know the constitution and founding principles really well as intended by the founders, but can only connect with people who already have that knowledge. House Speaker Paul Ryan is correct when he said, “the GOP needs to be the proposition Party not just an opposition Party.” And the best way to do so is to justify conservatism with viable solutions applicable to these times.
However, if the anger establishment in the GOP keeps making their Pied Piper thinks he is more valuable than he really is, he may demand a high price such as the entitlement to the nomination. If so, he may keep playing his luring tune all the way to convention and further divide the party.