Sunday, August 30, 2015

‘Not a politician’?

During the 1996 presidential campaign a panelist on a Christian radio talk show noted that GOP candidate Bob Dole, a deficit hawk when he was in the U.S. Senate, changed his position to support tax cuts. The panelist said, essentially, “That’s what I wanted to hear.”

Of course he did — that’s precisely why Dole changed his position, to get such people to vote for him.

I recall that exchange in reference to Donald Trump’s leading the Republican Party in the race for the White House. Many people supporting him — including, I understand, more than a few evangelical Christians — are saying because, well, he’s saying what they believe, most notably with his stance on illegal immigration.

In other words, in that narrative he’s not one of those mealy-mouthed politicians not willing to take a stand.

Here’s the problem: It could be that Trump is taking that stand simply to get those votes; indeed, it’s likely that his utter lack of polish is a campaign tactic in its own right. (Remember that Sarah Palin, when she was selected to run with John McCain in 2008, came out trash-talking but eventually had her head handed to her.)

See, you simply can’t run a campaign on anger toward some target; at some point you have to do brick-and-mortar things and, importantly, get the money to pay for them. Building a wall along the southern border with Mexico and deporting the undocumented, as Trump said he wanted to do, would cost billions that this nation simply doesn’t have. Of course, when you’re trying to take a political posture details are irrelevant. Trouble is that when you do you give people the optimum opportunity to vote against you.

At some point, Trump will need to turn down his rhetoric or get specific or realistic about his plans. If he doesn’t, and at this point it doesn’t seem likely, he’s toast.

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