So, what just happened?
Since Donald Trump announced his candidacy last year, the political pundits and media talking heads have gotten everything wrong in their analyses. Each week would be Trump’s last. Each controversial comment was to doom his campaign. Each debate performance was dissected and each stump speech criticized.
Not one political pundit gave Trump a snowball’s chance in Hell of being in the race through Christmas, let alone until the Iowa caucuses.
After winning the New Hampshire primary, his downfall was pontificated upon daily. Establishment candidates were lauded, Trump denigrated, on a regular basis. As the field grew smaller, time was considered the to be on the side of those battling Trump, that he and his appeal would collapse in the next news cycle.
Fast forward to Indiana. Trump has cleared the field. He is the presumptive nominee.
The political talking heads are at it still. Now the prognostications are about how badly he will lose to Hillary and how he will adversely effect down ballots races.
And their explanations of how and why Donald Trump has secured the Republican nomination demonstrate that they are still clueless. The primary pronouncements cite voter anger, misogyny, xenophobia, and Trump’s media savvy.
They ignore the fact that Trump’s populist message was a repudiation of conservative orthodoxy, of evangelical social dogma, of theocracy. He supports Planned Parenthood, LGBT rights, universal healthcare, social safety nets, Social Security, and rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure. None are positions embraced by the right wing.
The pundits have yet to realize that a political earthquake occurred. Not just because Trump will be the nominee and that he isn’t a traditional politician, but something far deeper and more profound.
The Republican party is no longer owned by Wall Street.
Not since Teddy Roosevelt in 1904 has there been a Republican standard bearer free of Wall Street control.
The talking heads focus on Trump’s popularity with the Republican base, and assume that his call for a border wall, deporting all undocumenteds, banning Muslims, etc is evidence of his racism and xenophobia.
They miss the fact that the base of the Republican party has been overwhelmingly racist and xenophobic since Richard Nixon’s southern strategy.
Trump did nothing to create those sentiments, they were already there.
What the pundits miss, or do not understand, is that what just happened was the establishment lost its stranglehold on the Republican party.
The latest developments surround the refusal of former presidents Bush 41 and Bush 43 to support Trump. Add to those also declining are Mitt Romney and Speaker Paul Ryan. The talking heads are pontificating that alone will fracture the party and assure Trump’s defeat in November.
Again, their lack of comprehension of Trump’s movement is profound. The Republican populist rank and file rejects the lot of them. They do not give a damn if the Bushes endorse Trump or Mitt Romney calls him names. The rank-and-file is close to storming Washington with pitchforks. They not only do not care about establishment politicians, they loathe them.
Until the Donald, the GOP was the party of free trade agreements, military adventurism, cutting capital gains taxes, corporate welfare, tax loopholes, trickle-down economics, super pacs, and lobbyist influence in campaigns and government. It was a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street.
Trump has ignored establishment orthodoxy and repudiated establishment priorities.
Trump has been able to take his message condemning military intervention and perpetual war to the people without the need to raise campaign money from the arms manufacturers, munitions lobbyists, warship builders, and the aircraft industry.
Trump has been able to fight trade agreements like NAFTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) because he does not need bribes from multinational corporations, Wall Street, and banking lobbyists.
Trump is too rich to be bribed and doesn’t need to steal.
His populist, anti-establishment message is resonating with a growing segment of the American public.
Should Donald Trump be defeated in November, it is more than likely the Republican party will return to being a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Business and billionaires. But if he is elected, the Republican party will become a populist party, free of the control of right wing ideology and corporate bank accounts.
For years, middle class, lower income, and poor Republicans have voted against their own economic interests, because their social values have been held hostage to the interests of billionaires and Wall Street. Doctrinaire conservatives extorted support from evangelicals, anti-abortionists, gun nuts, and bigots with their checkbooks.
“You want your conservative social issues advanced? You need to vote for our guy!”
The Donald trumped that political norm.
Trump is appealing to a populist base that is distinguishable from the populist left only on social issues. And Trump is far more attractive to blue collar Democrats and left wing populists than is Hillary Clinton.
Hillary supports trade agreements. Trump does not.
Hillary supports military interventionism. Trump does not.
Hillary supports corporate welfare. Trump does not.
Nor do rank and file Republicans. They are mostly hard working men and women long feeling the economic effects of a deteriorating economy, closing of factories, loss of jobs, and being manipulated by Republican political hacks who demand they back tax breaks for billionaires and corporations, demand that they support selling off America’s resources to Big Business, demand that Big Oil and Big Ag be subsidized by taxpayers, that the military industrial complex makes billions on war and the deaths of American soldiers.
All those demands were being made upon Republican rank and file voters because Wall Street and special interests owned the souls of Republican legislators, and Republican candidates for office gladly bought into the bribery for money to get themselves elected to office.
But Republicans were fed up with the taxes, with the duplicity of their leaders, with the deaf ears they spoke into and the promises that were made and broken by career politicians and political opportunists.
And Trump knew how pissed off the electorate was. And he knew how to capitalize on it.
Donald Trump is a salesman. But not just a salesman, brilliant salesman. He took a degree from Wharton and a million dollars and built an empire. He is a skilled administrator and an accomplished negotiator. But his sales acumen is almost magical. And sales is what politics is all about. Trump instinctively dumbs down his vocabulary to match any situation. He can read a room with astonishing precision. He is perhaps one of the greatest political talents in American history. Certainly the most talented I have seen in my 70 years, forty of which have been spent as a professional political strategist.
Trump’s prescience will one day be the subject of doctoral dissertations and political science courses. Never in American history has any outsider waged a successful takeover of a major political party. What Trump has accomplished is so extraordinary and so significant that no one in the party leadership or among party operatives believed it was happening, even as they witnessed his doing so day after day, debate after debate, primary after primary.
Trump is paying a very dear price for his insurgency. While he has cleared the field of 16 challengers and guaranteed himself the nomination, the establishment is apoplectic. And vengeful. A full blown propaganda campaign against Trump has been waged for months, and is now being used to line up support for Hillary from Republican donors and officials.
Those who wish to control him cannot, and they would rather have a Democrat they own in the White House than a Republican they have no hold over. Just last week, Charles Koch, one of the biggest financiers of Republicans and a behind-the-scenes puppetmaster of right wing legislation indicated that he would prefer Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump.
Trump’s candidacy may well realign the Democratic and Republican parties. The hard right conservatives and libertarians have been shoved aside by the populists. And populist sentiment has now taken over the party. The Wall Street Republicans and old school hacks in the Republican leadership are perilously close to being thrown out of power. Congressional Members will now pay close attention to Trump’s margins in their districts. Overnight we will see substantial changes in Congressional support for the TPP, for example. Trump has redefined the party even if he loses in November. His supporters aren’t going anywhere, and they are as uncontrollable as is Trump.
Sanders voters will likely be faced with choosing between Trump and Hillary in November. Sanders has already declared he will back Hillary, but that she would have to convince his supporters to earn their votes.
Given a choice between an establishment candidate backed by Charles Koch and owned by Wall Street, and a populist bent on throwing out politics as usual, I am certain many Sanders voters will definitely prefer the latter.
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