Say What You Will, Donald Trump is a Republican Nightmare
“[Donald Trump is] the personification of the Republican id, saying forthrightly the things most of them want to finesse, embodying their worst impulses, and doing it all with a spectacular if unwarranted confidence. Other Republicans may recoil from him, but when they look at Donald Trump, they’re only looking at a version of themselves.”
Before I criticize The Week’s Paul Waldman for writing an insulting article predicated on his ability to read Republicans’ minds, I must admit that I concur. However, concurrence does not equal agreement. If your cat tells you that fish tastes delicious, you may think you agree. When the two of you discuss why you like the taste; your cat highlighting how much he loves the taste of the fins, crunchy pin bones, scales and blood; you learn the definition of concurrence.
So, is Donald Trump the GOP’s id? In many ways, yes. Just look at his polling: Real Clear Politics’ poll average shows Trump ahead of Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Rick Santorum, Governor Rick Perry, and Carly Fiorina. Each of these candidates has earned serious attention for their campaigns because each has shown dedicated support to conservatism and to the Republican Party. Governor George Pataki, another announced GOP candidate, does not even register on RCP’s poll average. Clearly, many conservatives like what Trump offers. They even prefer him to many serious candidates.
Trump’s visceral disgust for Mexico and South America resonates with many Republicans even while others are trying to broaden the party’s appeal among Latinos. While most Republicans may say that they do not feel as harshly as Trump’s clearly racist rhetoric suggests, the xenophobic writings of Pat Buchanan, Michelle Malkin, and most recently, Ann Coulter (author of “Adios, America”), enjoys large audiences among conservatives.
Even Trump’s remarks on trade with China impressed Republicans in spite of the fact that his policy prescriptions run contrary to the free market principles that conservatives champion.
Waldman goes astray, eating halibut guts, when he tries to elucidate what Republicans truly believe. “It is the investors and inheritors…to whom we must attend–showering them with favors, relieving their burdens, tiptoeing around their tender feelings–for they are truly the best of us,” Waldman writes, mischaracterizing Republican arguments against the Democrat’s punitive tax schemes. He goes on to compare Trump’s self-aggrandizement to Republican belief in American exceptionalism–a ridiculous comparison. Finally, he finishes by comparing Republican ideas to the Birther quackery that Trump pedalled for years. Again, Waldman seems to know Republicans about as much as Trump knows subtlety.
Still, though, his piece offers some sobering insight, if we, Republicans, can be smart enough to benefit. That Mr. Trump; who donated copious amounts of money to Democrats, took cheap shots at other GOP candidates and pundits, paid actors to cheer on his 2016 presidential announcement, and publicly grifted foolish people with the Obama birth certificate fraud; polls better among Republicans than so many of our serious candidates, brings shame upon our party. If, in fact, Trump represents our collective id, though, we are not completely doomed. We’re humans, after all. We are not ruled completely by our ids. We have to rely on our superegos to deal with the problems posed by Mr. Trump, and elect a respectable nominee.
The first step in solving a problem is recognizing that one exists. In Trump, troubles abound: He’s garnered enough attention, on name recognition alone, to crowd out serious candidates from the debates. He’s prideful enough to recklessly spoil the GOP field by hurling insults and baseless charges, damaging the eventual nominee ahead of the general election. He’s wealthy enough to launch a third party campaign that could siphon votes away from the eventual Republican candidate. He could cause all of this mayhem without losing a wink of sleep. Donald Trump is a liability.
The next step is for Republican candidates to deal with him in a way that doesn’t raise his profile or his inclination to launch a third party bid. On the debate stage, Rick Wilson, a national Republican media consultant and campaign adviser, offers solid advice. Republican candidates, Wilson argues, must engage with Mr. Trump in a very delicate fashion that keeps interactions to a minimum, but doesn’t ignore him. Ignoring Trump could create the outsider vs. insider (establishment) dynamic that could play in his favor.
Finally, Republicans inclined to vote for, volunteer for, or donate to Donald Trump should be seriously dissuaded. Irresponsible conservative news outlets will treat him favorably because his controversial status boosts ratings. But serious coverage doesn’t equal serious ideas. Remind Trump supporters that he is an unprincipled fraud. David Graham, writing in The Atlantic, points out that Trump may not last beyond mid-October because disclosing his financial worth–a worth he claims is 9 billion dollars–will reveal that he is lying.
Whether or not Trump represents the GOP id, this nightmare scenario can only be defeated by our superego.