Meditations on

Monday, April 25, 2016

Why Donald Trump hasn't been and won't be stopped

On this blog I've spent a lot of time detailing and explaining the plans of the Republican establishment and Ted Cruz to stop Donald Trump from winning the GOP nomination. Their plans were easy enough to understand and essentially boiled down to trying to unite the majority chunk of middle-class Republican voters who felt that voting Trump was unseemly and unsafe.

It didn't work, it won't work, and it failed for the same reasons that the conservative movement as a whole has largely failed over the last several decades. Because it was fighting against a message and against a vision rather than supplying their own.

At its core conservatism is reactionary and about preserving the old ways. In a democracy with a powerful economy and a central state with tons of money and resources you're generally not going to win elections by arguing for prudence, you're going to win by selling the best vision for how to leverage all of those resources.

Democrats and progressivism have argued for using those resources to improve the lot of average citizens. On the home front and socially, Republicans and conservatism has been about preserving the traditions and institutions that made those resources possible. The latter is a prudent vision, but it's just not going to sell.

Where Republicans have developed and sold an aggressive vision for how to make the most of America's resources is with foreign interventionism. Neo-conservatives within the party sold the electorate on policing the world and establishing peace and prosperity across the globe. But today with America's economy slipping combined with repeated military defeats and foreign adventures that seemed to make foreigners and Americans both worse off? That's not so attractive a vision. That's how Trump is able to sound almost like a 9/11 truther before the South Carolina primary (home of neo-Con senator Lindsey Graham) and then still absolutely thrash George W. Bush's brother.

When many conservatives look at Donald Trump they see a disreputable scum bag who's out for himself, they don't see someone who should be winning the GOP primary nor someone who can win in November. The whole thing is totally baffling.

However, when you see past all of that to a guy who's completely alone in selling a new vision for how the government's massive pool of resources can be put to work to improve the lot of the average American over and against the lot of the foreigner, you begin to understand why he's having success.

Combine that message with the fact that Trump is by and far the strongest personality and leader (in the purest sense of getting people to follow him) it's easy to see why Cruz and the establishment have been totally unable to stop him.

Beating Trump will require another strong leader who can sell the people on a positive vision. Instead, Trump is likely to run against Hillary Clinton, who will almost certainly fall into the trap of running as the non-Trump, safe answer for who should run the country. That's not going to work for several reasons.

One is that people don't like the status quo and they make like it even less if there are more terrorist attacks, market failures, or rumors of even higher insurance premiums between now and November.

Another is that Hillary is profoundly unlikable. Trump's weakness as an unfavorable windbag is completely minimized if America's other option is a shrill phony that can easily be painted as being on the side of the established powers that Americans don't really trust anymore to hold their best interests at heart. Neither the status quo nor Hillary herself have done anything to paint themselves as a likable, safe alternative to Trump.

Here's the current delegate count in the GOP primary:
Now that Cruz and Kasich are both mathematically eliminated from winning the needed 1,237 delegates their ability to sell themselves as a strong, alternative leader is further blunted. Instead they are pitching themselves to Americans as a means to stop Trump and allow the party to choose the next president on our behalf. It would seem that the GOP's plan is for that to be Paul Ryan.

Voters are not going to go for that. What reason do they have at this point to trust the establishment to make decisions on their behalf without accountability?

You can expect to see Trump snatch up enough of the 733 remaining delegates to reach Cleveland, OH as the nominee thanks in part to massive victories in Pennsylvania and California. If he's even close he'll leverage the threat of the utter destruction that would occur if the party looked to overturn the will of their voters to secure enough delegates to wrap it up.

From there all the talk will be about how Clinton is a shoo-in to beat Trump and the "educated people don't vote for demagogues like Trump!" rhetoric will really be ratcheted up. But it won't work.

In this space I think I'll do some writing on some movies and TV shows I've seen recently that I think are an interesting reflection on current American culture. We'll still check in on the election but that's about the size of it for the foreseeable future.

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