Well, it’s almost funny. But if you switch the words “liberal” and “progressive” to “Republican” and “conservative,” that paragraph would be equally as accurate. Both parties seem to feel the same way about Donald Trump. While the Republicans struggle with who Trump is and what he believes – not to mention his commitment to the Republican cause – the Democrats are waking up to their own challenges.
The Democrats are kidding themselves if they think they are going to be able to rely on their usual attacks on Republicans with Donald Trump at the helm. They aren’t going to be able to launch into the tired war on women or talk about how Republicans hate poor people and sick people, etc., and make that stick. Nothing even close to those charges has stuck to Donald Trump so far. On CNBC, I recently likened Donald Trump to the dark force from the movie “The Fifth Element.” He seems to absorb attacks and grow in strength rather than be wounded.
Trump isn’t just a counter-puncher; he uses rhetorical counter-force weapons to deprive opponents of their favorite attacks. Remember how Trump stifled and silenced Hillary’s attempt to launch an attack on Trump as sexist? I would guess we will be hearing a lot more in the general election about Bill’s indiscretions and her complicit role in helping him concoct the lies and demonize his victims. But that will just be Trump getting warmed up. Trump will routinely go after Hillary Clinton in ways the Democrats have always thought would be off-limits. And he will do so to her face. The email controversies, the odd arrangements Hillary staffers had with the private sector, the coordination between the State Department and the Clinton foundation, the money that poured in from foreign and corporate sources who wanted easy access to the Clinton world, a variety of Clinton’s flaws and previous gaffes – even Chelsea’s employment – will all come roaring out of the Trump campaign. The Clintoncampaign will spend a lot of time on their heels.
Democrats try to comfort themselves with the idea that there is no such thing as an Obama voter from 2008 or 2012 who will turn around and vote for Trump in 2016. It is easy to say Trump can’t win a general election. But that is the kind of rational thinking that has been applied to Trump ever since his campaign started. And it’s the kind of thinking that has been proven wrong time and time again. I can imagine Donald Trump pulling into a predominantly poor African-American neighborhood, standing on a platform, pointing to his wealth and saying, “If you want a chance to get rich, vote for me – look around, and if you want the status quo, vote for Hillary!” It could strike a chord with some young black voters who want a shot at a better life, not promises of incrementally more dependence and servitude to the Democratic establishment. I don’t dismiss the idea that Donald Trump could find a foothold in the African-American community.
Everything about Election 2016 is unprecedented. Every day with Donald Trump is Opposite Day. Take it from me: Whatever you think will happen is wrong. The opposite will occur. As I’ve said before, Donald Trump has the particular advantage of a lot of votes, and at the end of the day, in politics, that’s hard to beat.
Oh by the way, the reports that conspiracies are being hatched to deprive Trump of the nomination are overstated, but a sharp reading of the rulebook is underway, and there is a desperate effort by both the Cruz and Kasich campaigns to organize themselves as the single alternative. But if it were anybody other than Trump in this position, the party would be celebrating its coalescence behind the magnificent, victorious campaign. The truth is we either have primaries or we don’t; we either have rules or we don’t. What’s worse for a democracy: When a bad guy gets elected or when the losers refuse to lose? Whoever wins the primaries and is compliant with the rules should be the Republican nominee. Period. The challenges to that should only go so far.