Lessons from Trump’s Saga
Now that Donald Trump has pulled out of the race for president under the GOP mantle, what can be learned from his bizarre mini-candidacy? Chris Cillizza, who writes a column called The Fix in the Washington Post suggests that the take-away lesson for other Republican presidential candidates in 2012 is that confrontation works… any confrontation.
When that confrontation is based on the idiotic notion that President Obama was not born in America — the birther issue — and the challenge to Obama was to produce his long-form birth certificate, Cillizza’s assessment seems simplistic at best, or moronic. Take your pick. But he has a valid point.
“Trump’s willingness to fight mattered more than the substance of what triggered the fight,” he wrote, basing that on the popular support in the polls Trump received when he first burst on the scene. In a CNN/Opinion Research survey, 67 percent of respondents rated Trump as a politician who was not typical (the appeal of the anti-establishment) and 57 percent said he was “tough enough to handle a crisis.”
Both characteristics provoke the visceral appeal to a large number of Republican voters who embrace the image of the candidate more than the message. Sarah Pahlin fits that mold, as does Tea Party favorite Rep. Michelle Bachman, R-Minnesota.
But the more important message for Republicans is that such bravado can be a short-lived attraction. Trump had his 15 minutes of fame in the presidential spotlight (cynics may say he was smart enough to capitalize on his celebrity, promote his irascible public persona, and then get out before his stupidity did real damage), but even those who liked his “fighter” instinct tired of the inanity of his attacks (moving from the birth certificate to demanding Obama produce his high school transcript).
But put a Republican on the scene with a confrontational approach and issues (high taxes, deficits, national security, public pensions, gay marriage and other hot-button conservative causes) and Cillizza’s point is that you’ll have a closer battle. Unfortunately, the image of a politician getting down in the gutter to fight it out (think pro-wrestling) appeals to certain voters who also seem to gravitate to conservative rhetoric even when the issues work against the voters’ self interest. It’s a conundrum for Democrats and presents a heady challenge for the nation as well.