In politics, some candidates are verbs–active, meaningful, moving forward. Others are nouns—a name, a box to check (or not), indistinguishable from others in the field in which one is not particularly interested. The media like to cover the verbs. The nouns tend to garner little attention and fall away. Eventually, though, so do most of the verbs.
Donald Trump is a verb. More importantly, he is an active verb that the media cannot resist using. They hate him, and they can’t resist telling us so. And he’s doing well enough to justify their attention. Sort of.
Right now, Trump looks like he’s winning, but only because he stands alone in his category. Let me illustrate.
There are far too many candidates in the hunt right now for the numbers to be meaningful. This dilutes the vote to the point that candidates that would otherwise be solid choices wind up in the single digits, because they are all competing for the same sector of the electorate. One set (call them the “conservatives,” though few of any of the rest claim to be anything but) currently split the vote of the base. The base is important, because it not only carries a large chunk of the vote; it disproportionately provides the workers that are needed to get the eventual candidate into the White House.
The base is made up largely of very religious and very conservative people who are, at this point, only still in the Republican Party because they yet hope that a strongly conservative party can eventually drive out the establishment Republican Party, which they view as much too accommodating of the current president’s wishes, overly chained to big business and big government, and quite probably lying when they—well, quite frankly, when they talk. These people vote Republican because the alternative is to vote for a Democrat, which would, in their view, ruin the country.
Right now, the conservative voter can choose from ten candidates. Even in the poll that is alarming the pundits the most—North Carolina—those together make up well over a majority of the votes. Trump comes in first with 16%, but the undeclared Walker claims 12. Add the rest of the conservative base choices, and you get over 60 percent.
The establishment Republicans, on the other hand, have their own set of candidates among which to divide the vote—Bush, Christie, Graham, and Pataki. They take home only 17 points between them (actually, Graham and Pataki don’t even get any votes in that poll).
And then you have Trump’s 16 percent.
Trump doesn’t fall into any category, so he essentially has a segment all to himself. And he’s using it for all it’s worth. Being unique in the field is very helpful. It makes it appear as though you have a strong shot. Once the conservative candidates start to drop out after the debates start next month, things will change. As conservatives fall, which candidates will benefit? Where will those voters go?
I can tell you this. No candidate will move far unless he (or she) carries with him the power that propels Trump right now: the right position on immigration.
To give credit where credit is due, it is not Trump that we have to thank for the current conversation; it is Ann Coulter. Before Trump made his “controversial” comments about immigrants, she had in her hand documented evidence that he was right, and was already all over the conservative media sphere (the only one open to her, thanks to the Powers That Be of media).
But it was Trump’s claims that immigrants were murderers and rapists that set the intelligentsia on fire. First the liberals, then even the conservatives prepared the gasoline-soaked sticks on which to immolate him. The rank and file of the GOP, however, heard from on talk radio and in letters to the editor, was vexingly resistant to the scolding of their leadership, and seemed to be taking his side.
Then something happened.
Just before Independence Day, a 5-times-deported illegal immigrant shot an American citizen in the head in San Francisco, and amazingly, we found out about it.
Suddenly, Donald Trump didn’t look quite so crazy.
There’s nothing like vindication to drive your poll numbers up, and right at this moment, Trump’s “Mexico doesn’t send us their best people” sounds a lot better than Jeb Bush’s famous “they come here as an act of love”. (I have news for Jeb Bush: it’s not an “act of love” when the loved one doesn’t consent.)
The majority of Americans—especially conservatives—are opposed to the president’s executive overreach on immigration and his seemingly unending efforts to keep the border door open, with Nancy Pelosi personally ushering in new Democrat voters. They are skeptical even of their own evangelical leaders reassuring them that incoming “undocumented” aren’t taking their jobs, committing crimes, or voting for Democrats.
They disagree with these positions. Because they have eyes.
The GOP nomination may not go to Trump. But it will go to someone who takes Trump’s warnings on immigration seriously. The other candidates, good as they may be, disdain Trump at their peril. They would be wise to keep in mind the meaning of the word “Trump.” It means “defeats all others.” And they’d better take that card from him if they want to win.