This presidential campaign has been full of surprises for me.
Surprise #1: People are actually voting for Donald Trump. My initial theory has been disproven. I thought that the Republican party, having pushed out all the rational people like me, had been reduced to the radical fringe; that is, a bunch of disenchanted white males who think the U.S. peaked in the 1950s). You only have to watch Samantha Bee interview a group of millennials who are supporting Trump to know that he is appealing beyond the traditional radical fringe to a new kind of radical fringe that – for reasons I’ve yet to figure out – think Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are actually interchangeable. This brings us to …
Surprise #2: The Republican Party is actually actively working to deny Trump the nomination. To quote Basil Hoffman’s one line in My Favorite Year (he was the gag writer who never said anything): “This makes me so happy.” Why? Because having spent years cultivating the radical fringe, the Republicans are now contending with the most radical guy of all, and they hate him.
For years, they’ve sown unfounded fears about terrorism (weapons of mass destruction, anyone?); maligned a twice-duly elected president (see: birthers); and voted 837 times to defund health care legislation that actually helps Americans. So what have they spawned? A guy who’s too crazy for Republicans.
Think about that. Did you actually think that was possible? Not me.
But Republicans seem to be among the few people who are actually listening to what Trump’s saying. Take the other night, when in one of his victory speeches, he said he was going to force Apple to build their smartphones in America. Apparently I’m not the only one for whom that rings somewhat anti-capitalist, and even fascist. Is Trump also going to force Americans to buy those more-expensive smartphones over, say, Samsung phones built in Korea? Apparently I’m not the only one for whom that rings somewhat anti-capitalist, and even communist.
Clearly, Trump’s strong point isn’t civics. He’s big on forcing people to do things. As distasteful as it was, I went to his web site to see what he’s in favor of, and learned that he wants to “eliminate China’s illegal export subsidies.” Does he even know how little power a U.S. president has? I’m pretty sure he can’t dictate to foreign governments (though he seems to think Mexico will do his bidding). Obama can’t even get the Republicans in the Senate to meet his Supreme Court nominee. Does Trump think he can belittle the Senate into doing his bidding? Does he even understand that senators are the only people whose terms in office are longer than the president’s?
I hope that those millennials who support him read further on that same page, where his strategy for getting China to do what he wants is to deploying the U.S. military “appropriately in the East and South China Seas.” You know, millennials, those are your friends from high school and college who are going to be fighting that war, along with the one Trump is planning to throw in the Middle East.
The Republicans aren’t real happy about some of Trump’s other plans, either. He wants to simplify the tax code in favor of ordinary people (something I’m in favor of as well) as well as businesses. But I’m waiting to see how he lowers taxes on citizens and businesses and still funds wars on multiple continents (the U.S. even found World War II hard to fund, and everybody was in favor of that one). But of course, before that happens, you have to believe that a billionaire – who has four times taken advantage of U.S. bankruptcy protection laws – is going to simplify the tax code for everyone else’s benefit.
So my venerable ex-party finds itself between the proverbial rock and hard place. If Trump wins the nomination, the Republicans risk Americans actually start listening to what he’s saying and realizing that if they look up blowhard in the dictionary, they’ll find Trump’s picture there. If Republicans deny Trump the nomination, they risk him running as a third-party candidate. Either way, they lose.
Which brings us to …
Surprise #3: Did you actually think it was possible for Hillary Clinton, with all of her baggage, to sashay into the White House? Not me.