Monday, April 04, 2016

The Trump Card is the Joker

It's been wishful thinking so far, but now it may be happening.  Donald Trump is self-destructing, and his nomination by the Republican party is slipping away.

After so many have said so and been wrong, E. J. Dionne was brave enough to say it now, and I'm sure many more are thinking it.

Gabriel Sherman's insightful profile of the Trump for President operation suggests two reasons why this is happening, or maybe three.  Trump has been skillful and mesmerizing, and as Sherman writes, many of the outrageous positions he's taken have been the result of research--though that research was of the issues that most resonated on rabid right talk radio.

Sherman also reports what many have suggested--that Trump's political operation is very small and very inexperienced.

But three things have been happening.  Sherman writes that Trump seems very tired, and I've noticed this as well.  He's never been through anything like this, and it's wearing him down.

Second, at this stage of the campaign he's in over his head, or, to put it in today's jargon, outside his comfort zone.  He's being questioned, and he's answering, on topics not only beyond his experience or knowledge, but outside the rabid right radio-tested set of issues.

So now he's making pronouncements in his patented aggressive style that baffle everyone.  Tired, over his head and outside his core issues, he isn't resonating--he's just raving.

Some of his extreme assertions have some supporters, though few and fringe.  Others are just lunatic ravings.  And dangerous.

The test of this premise will be in the next several primaries.  The conventional wisdom is giving the Wisconsin primary to Cruz.  If Trump wins it, his chances for the nomination become strong again (and naysayers will be wrong again), especially since this is likely to buttress support in New York and other big states that follow.  If Cruz wins Wisconsin, he has the momentum, and Trump will have to stop him in New York, or his situation becomes dire.

The fractures in the Republican party have become so deep and open that in the last candidates forum, none of the three remaining candidates sounded like they would support the nominee if it wasn't them.  Trump has since said as well that if denied the nomination he might run anyway.  Somehow I don't think he will.

Few dispute that with Trump at the top of the ticket, the GOP will lose many congressional races and maybe governorships. They will most likely lose the Senate.  And judging by some of the extreme numbers against Trump summarized last week in the Washington Post ("Three-quarters of women view him unfavorably. So do nearly two-thirds of independents, 80 percent of young adults, 85 percent of Hispanics and nearly half of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.") he will lose the presidency.

Trump has triumphed by being the Joker, the wild card.  But he's in danger of becoming the joke.  Many Republicans are completely open about wanting to stop him.  They will however need the cooperation of voters. And if Trump loses the protection of his mystique and people start seeing him as a dangerous loudmouth crank, they may get it.

Update: I hadn't realized when I wrote this that Adam Gopnik at the New Yorker had even more pointedly referred to Trump as the Joker, more specifically the one in Batman (which I'd hoped was implied as a doubled image in my use.)  But Gopnik's piece is a fun read, especially as it begins with the saga of the prank petition to allow guns to be openly carried into the Republican National Convention.

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