Wednesday, July 15, 2015
The Party Crasher
If you remember from a few years ago, Borat toured America, stoking racist sentiments wherever he went. One of the most memorable scenes was when Borat led a country bar room in a bawdy rendition of "Throw the Jew Down the Well." Not too many Americans knew of Sacha Baron Cohen at that point or that Borat was one of his characters on the Ali G Show in Great Britain. As a result, Borat took America by surprise, even doing rodeos with his unique interpretation of the national anthem, which was met with confusion and eventually boos as I don't think the audience caught the lyrics.
Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo thinks that Donald Trump is a similar plant meant to stir unrest in the GOP. He even goes so far as to suggest the Democrats planted him, specifically the Clintons. It may be that Curbelo's thoughts are not as absurd as some people think, as the Donald is a showman first and foremost and he may very well be doing his own version of Borat in America.
Trump is not generally known for his integrity, yet his in-your-face personality is appealing to a great number of persons who have shown much interest in his candidacy. James Fallows is partially right in that Trump is just another Herman Cain, generating excitement which will very soon dissipate. No one has mounted a successful off-the-wall candidacy like this except at the state and local level. But, the longer the Donald stays in the race the more he stirs up all these unchecked emotions, which will present some serious problems for the GOP down the line.
The Herminator said some pretty wild things four years ago but when he agreed to debate Newt Gingrich in front of a live audience, Herm melted on screen. All those nifty little campaign slogans like his 9-9-9 tax plan went out the window, as Herm was clearly not ready for prime time. It was a great coup for Newt, who got a big bounce from that televised episode.
I don't think any GOP candidate would be willing to sit down with Trump in a similar situation, but nine of them will get their chance at him at the first debate hosted by Fox News on August 6, which might be appropriately titled Battle Royale. This has become a very eagerly anticipated debate largely because of Trump. He has garnered virtually all the media attention since declaring his candidacy, reducing other boisterous candidates like Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee to the fringes. This will be Trump's show. How the other candidates react to him will determine their fate.
The Party Crasher has turned the GOP upside down. I can sympathize with Curbelo, who wants a legitimate Republican nominee, but he has to ask himself if the GOP truly represents his interests. What Trump has done is expose the fault lines in the Republican Party and clearly the GOP is tilted far to the Right. Curbelo's dreams of immigration reform are the last thing on most Republicans' minds. Trump's interest in this campaign may be nothing more than to expose this rift, but did the GOP really think it could conceal it?
Most of the other candidates have similarly voiced such sentiments in less colorful ways. Even Jeb Bush, Curbelo's choice, is probably reconsidering the position he staked last month on immigration reform, given the Donald's meteoric rise in the polls. Trump's bold-faced Nativism has forced Republicans to confront the most radical elements within their party and it isn't pretty.
Yes, the Donald could very well be a plant, as all this unrest benefits the Democrats should they ever decide to distinguish themselves in this campaign. So far the only candidate stirring up any excitement is Bernie Sanders, which the media tends to regard as the Dem's own version of Donald Trump, despite the fact that Bernie actually is a public servant with a long committed record to liberal principles.
Trump has no commitment to any principles except the art of making money. This is a guy who ran as a Reform Party candidate extolling a "middle way" in 1999, a Birther in 2012 and now a Know Nothing Nativist in 2016. Whatever stake he has in this campaign is in his own interest, not the Republican Party and certainly not the United States. The Donald seemed as anxious to cut media ties as he did debt-ridden businesses when he declared bankruptcy four times. The Miss USA pageant has been a ratings loser for decades and hit rock bottom this week. Miss Universe does little better. Losing these pageants or his line of clothes at Macy's is no skin off Donald's nose. In fact, he is treating it like a red badge of courage.
What he seems to be positioning himself for is the next big deal, turning the GOP campaign into a reality show, which he appears to want to milk for as long as possible. The upcoming Republican debate will be like an episode of Celebrity Apprentice with him front and center, exactly where he wants to be. It doesn't matter whether he wins or loses. Everyone will be talking about the Donald the next day.