Those who are not fans of Republican front-runner Donald Trump -- perhaps because he's splitting the Republican Party, perhaps because he says things that white supremacists enjoy, perhaps because they are running against him -- often try to figure out whom to blame for his ascent. Surely Trump couldn't actually just be a guy whose message appeals to a large percentage of the Republican base, right? Someone else must have paved the way for him to move into that position.
So who has gotten that blame? A remarkably motley set of people/groups/dead folks!
The media is to blame for Donald Trump
The idea is that polls reward candidates who get a lot of attention from the media, particularly in a field with a lot of relatively unknown candidates. Trump was doing poorly in the polls until his feud with Univision erupted in late June. Then, with lots of attention paid to his positions on immigration, he rocketed upward, where he has stayed. Without the media covering his various statements and fights and so on, the theory goes, he'd still be at Pataki levels in the polls.
Maybe! Or maybe Trump would have just started running TV ads about how terrible illegal immigrants and Muslim refugees are earlier and still compelled that same population to offer him its support.
More specifically, TV is to blame for Donald Trump
"It is because credible candidates don't get a chance to be heard in the states which are going to do the voting, because the national networks won't let them on prime time," McQuaid said. "So, of course, you are going to get certain bubbles for certain candidates. And the national poll is going to show Trump ahead, because he has got the name recognition. He is a TV brand. And he is, in part, a creature of the national television networks."
That's true in the sense that Trump was and again is a television star. But the same response as above applies.
The Republican Party is to blame for Donald Trump
Those who are predisposed to dislike the Republican establishment have suggested that the party's failure to listen to its base is to blame for Trump's rise.
In the Washington Examiner, FreedomWorks's Adam Brandon wrote in August that "Americans are frustrated with a Republican Party that has let them down again and again."
"Enter Trump, a straight-talking, political outsider billionaire who's not afraid of being politically incorrect," Brandon writes. "Is it any wonder so many find him an appealing contrast to the typical politician?"
I myself have connected the party's failure to resolve its internal immigration dispute for adding fuel to Trump's fire. But opposition to traditional candidates and to the establishment has benefited other candidates, too, like Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. Only Trump has maintained a wide lead over a long period of time.
Jeb Bush (and other lousy candidates) are to blame for Donald Trump
There's a corollary to that argument: That the lack of good establishment candidates left space for Trump. Timothy Staley made that case for CNN a while back. "A lack of strong centrist leaders ultimately creates the vacuum that radicalism fills," he wrote. "Blame for Trump lies as much with Bush, [Scott] Walker, [Chris] Christie or even [Hillary] Clinton as it does The Donald himself."
There's definitely some truth to that. If there were a strong moderate candidate, Trump's poll numbers would be lower (since that's what "strong" means). Or even if there were only one moderate/centrist candidate, that person would be able to enjoy more popular support.
But there isn't such a candidate -- and, frankly, it's not clear how much more support a unified centrist candidate would earn. To wit:
Barack Obama is to blame for Donald Trump
Bush, for his part, doesn't think Jeb Bush is to blame. He blames Barack Obama.
Just last week, Bush told NPR that "Donald Trump is in fact a creature of Barack Obama."
"But for Barack Obama," Bush said, "Donald Trump's effect would not be nearly as strong as it is. We're living in a divided country right now, and we need political leaders, rather than continuing to divide as both President Obama and Donald Trump [do], to unite us."
The problem with this theory is that the United States is no more split on partisan lines than it was during the last president, whose last name escapes me.
Bush isn't alone in this theory. A few months after the Washington Examiner ran the piece blaming the GOP, it ran its own editorial blaming Obama. "Support for Trump is indeed born of desperation, but not of the economic variety as Obama and Sanders would have it," the paper wrote. "Rather, Trump has become less unpopular (only 57 percent unfavorable) because he is running against what more and more Americans view as an age of unprecedented physical danger to themselves and international humiliation for their country."
And here we thought he was running against other Republicans.
Franklin Roosevelt is to blame for Donald Trump
"Trump has already spoken fondly of Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese Americans," Goldberg wrote. "It seems a sure bet that a President Trump would follow FDR’s — and Obama’s — example in doing whatever he could get away with."
In TNR's succinct estimation, "FDR is now to blame for Donald Trump." That's probably a little further down the path than is warranted, but they said it, not me.
The Buffalo Bills are to blame for Donald Trump
We'll just quote Syracuse.com's Matthew Fairburn.
"When the Bills were for sale last summer, Trump, who is now running for president of the United States, was in the thick of the bidding process," Fairburn writes. "He claims he offered $1 billion cash for the franchise that sold to Terry and Kim Pegula for $1.4 billion last September. ...
"There's still a long way to go in the race, but if you ask Trump, missing out on his chance to own an NFL team is what pushed him to go after something bigger. So depending on your views on Trump, the Bills may deserve some credit — or blame — for his rise in the race."
We're going to agree with this one.