Donald Trump isn’t going to be the Republican nominee for president. But in a way, that’s beside the point: The odds are mounting that the actual nominee is going to sound very much like Trump, not to mention like Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann.
I liked Ed Kilgore’s column this week about Trump, which argues that while Republican elites will likely succeed in denying the nomination to Trump or any other rogue candidate, they’re still stuck with Trumpism:
This year, GOP voters’ hunger for radicalism is so great that it can be filled by essentially anybody. Kill off Trump’s candidacy and the demand will remain, leaving an opening for yet another demagogic charlatan to take his place.
What Republican politicians and leaders of GOP-aligned interest groups want is a presidential nominee — and if they’re lucky, a president — who they can rely on to be reasonable with them. That is, one who will stick with them on the big issues, or at least always treat them as allies and work to keep them happy. As long as Republican establishment figures think they can count on a candidate to do that, they’ll overlook his or her crazy rhetoric.
But Republican elites will do what they can to veto any real rogue candidate (as Trump would be if he really runs) who they don’t think they’ll able to rely on once in office.
That gets back to the original rogue candidate, Sarah Palin. What has hurt Palin as a prospective candidate, and has resulted in GOP elites turning against her publicly, is that they believe (probably with good reason) that she can’t be trusted.
The upshot: It has become less likely over the last several months that a real crazy and untrustworthy candidate will win the Republican nomination. Nonetheless, Kilgore is right about the appetite of the Republican electorate for Trumpism. Therefore, it’s become more and more likely that the eventual nominee will have to spend a lot of time and energy pretending to be crazy, or at least working at ways to appeal to a constituency that wants to hear crazy things.