We don’t have to look very far to discern why Donald Trump is surging in the polls, and others in a broadly conservative Republican field are lagging so badly.
It’s because the other candidates keep doing what Republicans have been losing by doing, for years.
They’re reacting like Pavlov’s dog to red-herring provocations.
In this primary season, the provocations aren’t deliberately placed by a left-wing mainstream media. They spout effortlessly from Mr. Trump.
Now, that does keep the MSM fortified with distractions: reasons to cover Trump and not cover, say, Senator Paul’s latest stump speech, or Ms. Fiorina’s latest townhall forum on the chicken enchilada circuit.
But when Trump does at least get an issue front and center, what do the other candidates do if they wander into the spotlight that follows Trump? Instead of talking memorably about the policy issues that really, really worry voters, most of them complain about the bad manners, policy stupidity, and uncongenial persona of…Donald Trump. (I know a few of them don’t. See below.)
When Trump said a few weeks ago “We don’t have time for ‘tone,’” that, right there – let me UNDERLINE it for you, ladies and gentlemen – that is when the other candidates should have been taking notes.
Trump meant what he said. Trump voters agree with him. We don’t have time for tone. But what are too many of the establishment candidates out there doing? They’re talking about razza-flippin’ tone.
Let me ask you this. Which matters more:
1. Whether Republicans can prevent Obama from surrendering to radical Iran, and the mullahs’ plan to leverage a nuclear arsenal to bring about the Shia apocalypse?
2. What Donald Trump says about Carly Fiorina’s appearance or Megyn Kelly’s professionalism?
Don’t start in on the “Well, if Trump has this bad attitude about women and he talks about these things at all, that means he’s too much of a lightweight, and the people need to see that, blah blah blah…”
You don’t get it. If, at a time like this, with the republic facing an emergency, you get in a righteous snit over what Trump’s saying about Fiorina (or women in general); if your response to his misogynist snark-bombs is to bother with indignation – that makes you the lightweight.
They – Trump and the media – are setting the agenda. You’re reacting to it. As if you’re afraid not to.
On the issue of illegal immigration? The voters know where Trump stands. But they still can’t say in 25 words or less what you, Mr. Average GOP Candidate, think about it. That’s not because the media are talking about Trump’s below-the-belt rhetoric.
IT’S BECAUSE YOU ARE.
I don’t know how to spell it out more emphatically. The voters are smarter than most of the candidates on this: they know which is more important, the threat from Iran or Trump’s latest comment about some woman’s body functions.
The voters know what they’re really worried about – the national debt, overregulation, political cronyism, loss of freedom, a collapsing rule of law, government institutions being used to enforce social radicalism – and they’re disgusted that the Republican “establishment,” instead of fighting those things tooth and nail, only finds focused energy when it’s time to lash out at Donald Trump’s latest social solecism — or otherwise explain to GOP voters why we’re the ones who are wrong, and can’t have what we’re asking for.
How incredibly misdirected and irrelevant of Republican leaders. What a “P.C.,” inside-the-Beltway-type mindset.
Stop talking about Trump, and start realizing that the voters correctly think it’s spineless of you, to let anyone – the media, another candidate – keep putting you in a position where you use up your 10 seconds of air time making ritual condemnations or apologies.
They’re not going to stop. This game is working for them. Only you, establishment Republicans – only you have the power to stop yourselves from continuing to play this losing hand.
I’ve seen three candidates avoid getting sucked into the Trump orbit: Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina. Fiorina, with her new ad a couple of days ago, lobbed the only successful wisecrack about Trump (to date) by another candidate, but she’s shown actual wisdom by not engaging in any prissy, ritual condemnation of his trash-talk about her. Cruz and Carson don’t say much about Trump.
For these three candidates, I think their posture is dictated as much by character as by well-crafted strategy – and perhaps more. Their voters, I think, appreciate both.
What the Trump voters see about most of the other candidates is that those candidates keep lending themselves to the ritual takedown game the left has been playing for so many years. That game is never going to produce a different result. We’ve reached the tipping point at which too many of the people “get” that, and they aren’t going to fall for it anymore – no matter what.