Politico Magazine asked me and 11 others if Trump has “killed the GOP.” My answer? Not yet:
Before the Republican establishment concludes that its party is being consumed by a hostile takeover, it should first let its people cast some votes. So many conclusions are being prematurely drawn based on poll numbers. Poll numbers are very sensitive to media coverage, and we’ve never had a media huckster par excellence run for president before. Sure, Donald Trump can goose poll numbers by dominating news cycles through outrageous antics. But we don’t know if that actually translates into votes, especially when there isn’t much evidence of a robust get-out-the-vote operation.
Even adding the Trump and Cruz poll numbers together, to conclude that the conservative populist wing is larger than the establishment-friendly wing is a dangerous assumption. With Trump and Cruz running scorched-earth ads against each other, there is no guarantee that one camp’s supporters will easily migrate to the other.
At the moment, both wings of the party are divided. If Trump and Cruz stay divided, the establishment will be perfectly capable of reasserting control over the process by consolidating support around the mainstream candidate that performs best in the first few contests.
My suspicion is that Trump’s poll numbers will prove to be inflated. The Iowa caucus is the first test of that theory, though it is a flawed one.
Rick Santorum won the 2012 caucuses with 29,839 votes. Mike Huckabee won in 2008 with 40,954. Neither got very far after that. Small numbers of people on the ideological fringe have dominated the low turnout affair. It would not be fair to judge the entire Republican Party and conservative movement to be out to lunch based on that one contest. But the contest could set the tone for future primaries.
A Trump victory would be an early indicator of mass insanity in the Republican Party. As extreme as Santorum and Huckabee were, both at least had the basic qualifications for national office, with long stints as senator and governor respectively. Trump not only lacks governing experience, he also lacks substantive policy ideas, even going out of his way to argue that policy details are superfluous.
Instead, Trump runs on demagoguery and hate. He has not only maligned Islam, but other Christian denominations (remember his swipe against Ben Carson: “I’m Presbyterian. Boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist I don’t know about.”) He made excuses for supporters who beat up and urinated on a Latino homeless man. He mocks the disabled.
For Trump to win with Iowa’s social conservatives, despite his recent pro-choice past, would send the message loud and clear how much hate is boiling inside the conservative heart.
Most conservatives take umbrage when liberals use a broad brush to paint them as bigoted neanderthals. But there’s only one way to neutralize that line of attack: Don’t act like and don’t associate with bigoted neanderthals.
A vote for Trump is to confirm the liberal stereotype of conservatives as racists. You have plenty of conservative options whose campaigns are not completely based on hate. You have an opportunity to take control of your party’s image.
Perhaps you are inclined to vote to Trump because that feels like a grand rebuke to the Republican Establishment and “politically correct” liberals. But to have the last laugh, you can’t prove us liberals correct. You need to prove us wrong.