At The Federalist, Dan McLaughlin (aka the Baseball Crank), discusses the phenomenon of the Donald Trump candidacy from the perspective of military strategy. If nothing else, it is a great primer on military strategist and aircraft designer John (“Forty Second”) Boyd, one of the most remarkable men to ever work at the Pentagon. Using Boyd’s principles, McLaughlin explains why Trump has been a success but also how he may eventually fail.
My overall take is that McLaughlin is overthinking Trump. While Trump has certainly shown far more political skill than his detractors give him credit for, I don’t think he would have skyrocketed to the top if he hadn’t hitched his ride to a number of pre-existing issues and trends. How much of this was deliberate strategy and how much pure luck I can only guess, but I suspect that Donald Trump is genuinely surprised by how well things are going.
I see three underlying issues propelling Trump forward. In descending order of importance, they are: immigration, the GOP establishment, and Political Correctness.
Immigration: Donald Trump championed the immigration issue right out of the gate. Until he announced his candidacy, both parties favoured more immigration (minus a few recalcitrant Republicans like Jeff Sessions). The Democrats wanted to increase their voter base and the mainstream Republicans wanted to satisfy the cheap labour lobby. As a result, this issue was ripe for the plucking. And Donald Trump plucked it. I think there is little doubt that Donald Trump would not be leading the pack if he weren’t championing this cause.
The GOP establishment: This is closely related to the immigration issue. The voters – not just Republican voters but a strong majority of American voters - want immigration curtailed, while the Republican Party – the natural party to champion this cause – steadfastly refuses to do so.
While some voters can be fooled some of the time, the voters as a whole tend to get their way after they wake up. Because in a democracy, numbers count. Smart politicians understand this. Many in the GOPe are not smart. They think they can win a contest of will with the people. The logical conclusion of this contest will be fewer dumb politicians. This is already beginning. Take Eric Cantor and John Boehner. They are gone, but they won’t be the last dumb politicians to see their careers destroyed before this business is finally over.
And it isn’t just immigration. Take Paul Ryan’s recent budget deal, a conglomeration of everything that Republican voters hate about the Republican Party. Paul Ryan became Speaker of the House because his predecessor’s tenure simply became untenable. With this deal, Ryan is copying the most despised aspects of Boehner’s governing philosophy. His days are now numbered as well.
It is no accident that the top four Presidential candidates – Trump, Cruz, Carson, and Rubio – are outsiders. While Rubio is touted as an establishment figure, he came to national prominence by challenging a sitting governor of his own party for the Senate. It is a mark of their desperation that Rubio is the straw that they cling to now. In the same way, it is no accident that the establishment Republican of this election cycle, Jeb Bush, has only achieved 3% support in spite of the $100 million he raised.
In normal times, the insiders can say, look, we may be grubby and compromised but we know how to get things done in Washington. The fecklessness of the Republican Congressional leadership has undercut this justification. Feckless, duplicitous, and utterly incompetent – the perfect mix of qualities for a stock villain.
Political Correctness: I have long held that opposition to Political Correctness is political low-hanging fruit that nobody has yet picked. Until now. You can see this issue resonate every time Donald Trump says something controversial. The media and the pundits (including many conservative standard-bearers) declare that Trump’s much-awaited implosion has arrived. Then the opposite happens. Trump proceeds to go even higher in the polls after he refuses to back down. What is happening is that Donald Trump has stumbled upon the right strategy for slaying Political Correctness. Instead of being perplexed why Trump gains support even though he refuses to apologize, his critics should be studying him for tactical lessons.
Trump gains by defying PC norms because everybody – and I mean almost everybody across the political spectrum, from left-of-center liberals, to low information voters, to hard-core conservatives - hate Political Correctness. It is unfair and oppressive, and it is getting more odious by the day as its injunctions evolve to become ever more ridiculous. Stand against it, like Trump, and you will be the hero.
If the Republicans really want to stop Trump, they should hug him on these issues. If they can put no daylight between themselves and The Donald on them, these strengths will have been neutralized, and they can be free to attack Trump’s actual weaknesses. Radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin understand this. Only one Republican politician does. His name is Ted Cruz.