The latest statement by Donald Trump would knock an ordinary mortal out of the race for the Presidency, but Trump has proven, again and again, that he defies the laws of gravity. At one of the Sunday morning talk shows, he did not disavow support from David Duke, former grand wizard of the
Klu Ku Klux Klan. He said he did not know Duke and needed to learn more about the white supremacist groups lining up behind his candidacy.
Taking the Republican front-runner at his word, it is disturbing that a candidate for President does not know who David Duke is since he raises his racist thoughts every couple of years. Of course in the fact-free zone that is the Republican primary, knowledge of actual facts is not regarded as a qualification for the office. One might think, however, that you do not need a lot of research to condemn groups that advocate white supremacy. While Trump later said he had a faulty ear piece and did not understand the question, the candidate revered for “telling it like it is,” clearly talked about both Duke and white supremacists in his answer.
But the traditional mores of politics do not apply to Donald J. Trump. Which of the following would not result in the departure of any other candidate?
- Proposing to ban all adherents of a religious faith from the country;
- Characterizing Mexicans as rapists and criminals;
- Ridiculing a disabled person by mocking the disability;
- Criticizing a reporter for her tough questions by implying she was having her period;
- Praising Vladimir Putin;
- Criticizing the last three GOP nominees for the Presidency, including John McCain because he was captured in combat;
- Demeaning your Republican opponents, most recently by calling Ted Cruz a “liar” and Marco Rubio a “choke artist;”
- Fighting with the Pope.
If Trump performs as expected on Super Tuesday, it would mean the race for the GOP nomination is effectively over – at least if he were any other candidate. But the so-called Republican establishment is aghast at the prospect of Trump as the party’s leader. It’s not because of his vile positions or vulgar behavior, but because it will harm the electoral prospects of down-ballot Republican candidates.
It’s also not because it would deprive a qualified opponent – possibly excepting John Kasich – from securing the nomination. Loathsome Ted Cruz is not only reviled by Democrats, but by his Republican “colleagues” in the Senate. Marco Rubio has been displaying his true mettle in recent days by suggesting that Trump may have urinated in his pants during the last debate, and lately suggesting Trump has a small penis. To think that this is the year the Republicans supposedly had a deep bench of candidates.
That Thursday night debate serves as a microcosm of the state of the Republican Party. Saint Ronald Reagan must have been rolling over in his grave to see his commandment to never speak ill of a fellow Republican being so universally ignored by the leading candidates. Amidst all the shouting, the insults were pointed and personal, with only Kasich and Ben Carson not taking part.
At one point, Donald Trump said that his health plan replacing Obamacare would not have people “dying in the streets.” Setting aside that Trump, like all other Republican politicians, does not actually have a plan, Ted Cruz actually went after him – without offering any assurance that his own non-existent plan would not result in people dying in the street.
But if anything embodied the obliviousness of the Republican establishment from both reality and the concerns of the many voters backing Trump, it was a question by moderator Hugh Hewitt. He prefaced it by saying that the threat to religious liberty “keeps me awake at night.” He wasn’t referring to ISIS beheadings or a proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the country. Rather, it was merchants – in the United States – having to provide “flowers or baked goods” to customers who were gay.
There are certainly matters that could keep me awake at night – Donald Trump becoming President near the top of the list – but a gay couple buying cupcakes is not one of them. So if Trump does become the nominee, we can hope that it might become the impetus for a party that relies so heavily on fear-mongering and obstructionism to conduct a real and meaning self-assessment.