Trump Already Is a Third Party Candidate
Questions have dogged the Donald Trump campaign from the start. Who is this guy? What does he believe? What are his party loyalties? And finally, will Trump run as a third party candidate if Republicans try to torpedo his quest for the White House?
Let’s start with the easiest question first. Donald Trump has already staged a coup. He is the third party candidate, albeit campaigning under a Republican guidon. Given his success up to this point, Trump seems to have outmaneuvered his critics on all sides. Indeed, he has hijacked a major political party and is now reshaping it to his purposes. Trump believes that he has the answer to national malaise and he is willing to pay his own way to the levers of power.
Self-funding alone makes Trump revolutionary. He’s “all in” to resuscitate his vision of the American dream.
Say what you will about Trump, but the phenomenon is vintage Americana. He has reinvented himself, reinvented political campaigns, reinvented American politics, and may be on the way to reinventing the country too. Trump is a third party, a party of one until done.
Now, to those other questions.
Who is Trump?
Defining Donald Trump is best done by saying what he is not. He is not a Republican, nor a Democrat. He is not a liberal, nor a conservative. And surely, he is not a lawyer. Not that any of the usual branding means much these days.
Most traditional labels are now captured in a few words: call them elites, establishment, or the usual suspects. Personalize the left as Chris Matthews or the right as George Will; it really doesn’t much matter. Both represent varieties of tired platitudes.
Trump isn’t running against, or for, any labels or specific ideology. He’s running against “business as usual,” or for an opportunity to make things work again. Trump wants to win first and sift the details later. Whether or not he is the guy to fix Washington is arguable, but none of the traditional pigeonholes apply in his case.
For the moment, you could call Trump a pragmatic populist. If business models are relevant, he probably thinks that he can build a better mousetrap. If his career and campaign to date is evidence, the Donald is pretty good at building, period.
Lawyers have dominated American politics now for generations. The time may be right to give a cocky guy who has had a real job, and concrete accomplishments, a shot at fixing decades of domestic and foreign policy folly. The Beltway status quo is Trump’s real target in 2016.
What does He Believe?
At heart, Donald Trump probably believes in three things: God, country, and Donald Trump. Surely God and America have been good to him and his family. Why should he not believe in himself?
Trump had the opportunity the other day to shame a pandering prelate in Mexico, a papal hypocrite -- and he didn’t. Such restraint might be the fear of God -- or intimations of a lighter touch once the electoral battles are done.
If Trump picks a fight with a church, it will not be Christians or Jews in any case. Francis and Bibi, like Trump, are both fond of walls too. And bye-the-by, Trump could pay for his southern wall with tariffs, applying a tax on the $20-some billion in annual remittances to Mexico, or withholding foreign aid from Mexico.
Vicente Fox and other scions of dystopic narco-states south of the border should be careful about “f—king walls” and related obscenities. If Trump becomes president, Vicente may have an open-ended opportunity to “foxtrot” himself and Mexico on a grand scale.
There is one thing that voters have noticed by now, that is that Trump does not feel obligated to special interests, special pleaders, political correctness, or sacred cows -- especially politicians who have wrought fiscal incontinence and foreign policy malpractice. Trump has both major political parties in the crosshairs, but seems smart enough to focus on one target at a time; marshaling first what’s left of gob-smacked Republicans before turning his guns on Sanders I or Clinton II.
Trump is not much of a cypher anymore. He has managed to annoy the press, poseurs on both sides of the political aisle, academic navel gazers, beltway bandits, Catholics, and Islamists. Trump seems to have alienated everybody except the electorate. If numbers matter, to date he has created a bigger tent for moribund Republicans. In contrast, Democrats are anchored by two white, far left, codgers who may have passed their sell-by dates. The grandmother or grandfather of American democratic socialism is very unlikely to generate much enthusiasm in a general election.
Camille Paglia put it best in a recent essay:
“Hillary has unfortunately adopted the Steinem brand of blame-men-first feminism, which defines women as perpetual victims requiring government protections. Hillary’s sometimes impatient or patronizing tone about men, which can perhaps be traced to key aspects of her personal history, may prove costly to her current campaign.”
Trump pays lip service to Republicans and conservatives alike on the campaign trail, but clearly he knows that ideology doesn’t matter if you don’t win. The best description for him at the moment is democratic pragmatist, with the emphasis on the adjective.
Anti-Trump machinations, now led by Mitt Romney and Mitch McConnell, are again trying to throw democracy under the bus, thwarting the popular vote. Alas, Romney is yesterday’s news and McConnell probably should have left town with John Boehner.
The Beltway bordello, that incestuous fraternity of politicos, lawyers, journalists, academics and camp followers, is hysterical over the prospect that Trump might come to power with the wisdom of crowds. Establishment contempt for Trump voters has exposed an underlying contempt for ordinary citizens and democracy itself.
McConnell says that the Republicans should drop Trump “like a hot rock.” The Senate majority leader seems to be confused. It is he and like-minded dead wood that are at risk, in danger of being moved off Capitol Hill in 2017.
G. Murphy Donovan writes about the politics of national security.