Why Trump Leads

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

Dan McLaughlin grudgingly admires Trump’s ability to disrupt, unsettle, and exploit the primary system:

Let’s start with ambiguity. Trump has been flirting with electoral politics so long, he was asked in an interview with Rona Barrett in 1980 about his possible interest in running for president someday, and Larry King asked him at the 1988 GOP convention if he would have accepted an invitation to be George H.W. Bush’s running mate. He joined H. Ross Perot’s “Reform Party” in 1999 and even ran briefly in its primaries for the 2000 election before bowing out and watching the nomination go to Pat Buchanan.

Trump zigged—he declared that he identified as a Democrat as recently as 2004, donated significant sums of money to Hillary Clinton and other Democrats despised by rank-and-file Republicans, and had glowing words for Hillary and President Obama. He zagged—he confronted Obama so directly over his birthplace in 2011 that Obama felt compelled to finally publicly release his Hawaiian birth certificate, and he endorsed Mitt Romney in the 2012 primaries, saying that if Romney were the nominee, Trump would not stage his own third-party bid in 2012.

Given his long and erratic history, loose party loyalty, and propensity to bluff, Trump’s competitors for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination were quite reasonably conditioned to view talk of a Trump 2016 campaign, and even his June 16 announcement, with uncertainty: was it another publicity stunt? A run-up to a Perot-style third party campaign? A stalking horse for some hidden agenda? A personal vendetta against Jeb Bush? Or a real effort to win the Republican nomination?

Unable to discern Trump’s intentions in May, June, and July, his opponents were tentative in reaching decisions and putting them into action. To the extent that he maintains the third-party threat to this day, it provides him a screen of ambiguity that protects him against attacks other candidates would have to face. Nobody worries that Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush will leave the party in a snit and launch a third-party bid; Trump’s credible threat of doing so makes primary opponents think twice about attacking him in ways they would not hesitate to attack loyal Republicans whose intent to abide by primary outcomes is clear.

There’s much more.

(Hat tip to T. Greer.)


  1. Slovenian Guest says:

    Others marvel at the Orwellian nature of it all:

    Donald Trump, a liberal New Yorker with a Jewish family who has actually done advertisements for the Likud Party of Israel, is held up by many in the “alternative right” as the Savior of the White Race, and as the literal reincarnation of Adolph Hitler himself by those on the left. Trump’s greatest crime has been to suggest that some aliens who enter the country illegally are criminals, and that the US should forbid Muslims from entering the country until we can “figure out what’s going on” when it comes to terrorist attacks ostensibly perpetrated by Muslims. The double-talk never ends and the current discourse goes beyond anything George Orwell could have dreamed up in his most paranoid moments.

    via 2015 Going On 1984

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