Who loves Donald Trump? Perhaps not the students he conned at Trump University, the branding partners who paid to use his name or the investors/gamblers who lost money at his now-bankrupt casino. Certainly not the Republican establishment, whose prissy functionaries see him as the devil incarnate. And absolutely not Hillary Clinton, who can't figure out whether to welcome him as an eminently beatable opponent or fear him as an unpredictable force of nature.
I'd better come clean; I grudgingly admire The Donald. I love that he's blown apart the Kabuki theater of national partisan politics and that he's stripped the bark off of billionaire-worshipping boy toys like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. I admire his utter shamelessness, his refusal to engage with facts, his willingness to get in public pissing matches with almost anyone, his spectacularly bad taste and even his Clairol blond hair dye.
I particularly admire his ability to throw up multiple smokescreens, and to confuse, disorient and baffle his foes and the media. The serious, responsible folks who write and opine for The New York Times can't easily deal with Trump, who is neither. He's sui generis — a celebrity billionaire, a self-generated reality show. You can't use traditional metrics to predict his trajectory or understand his beliefs.
Explaining Trump by analogy isn't very useful, either. Is he a racist demagogue, ready to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, close off America to Muslims and build a wall along the border? A trigger-happy interventionist, ready to kick terrorist ass? Is he a protectionist, ready to close American markets to Chinese products and strengthen our economy?
Words, beliefs, facts — who cares? Trump has the media right where he wants them. Like a pack of skinny curs desperate for a treat, all woof happily when Donald tosses a tweet. Trump's political playbook is his alone. He doesn't consult with staffers, big donors, political kingmakers and influential commentators. So what will he do?
We know that the GOP hierarchy will do anything to stop him. If he goes to Cleveland 100 delegates short, they may select a non-candidate like House Speaker Paul Ryan to save the party. The slick Wisconsin congressman knows how to lose; he served as Mitt Romney's running mate in 2012. Having anointed an undamaged conservative to take on Hillary, traditionalists would expect the Donald to gracefully exit and support Lil Paul.
Dunno about that, but what if Trump gets the nomination? What will he do to expand his base and peel off Hillary votes?
He could, for example, select a Democratic elected official such as 44-year-old Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo as his running mate. He could soft-pedal his crazier positions and present himself as a healer, not a bomb-thrower. No more legislative paralysis, no more Washington party politics. Would Raimondo, a fiscally conservative former venture capitalist, consent to be on the ticket? Stranger things have happened.
Meanwhile, those scheming GOPsters are planning to field a properly conservative third-party candidate. With luck, their guy might win enough electoral votes to throw the election into the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, which (thanks to our Constitution) could choose from the top three.
If this feels familiar, it should. Remember the Colorado gubernatorial election in 2010, during the Tea Party's early days?
Insurgent candidate Dan Maes wrested the GOP nomination from scandal-plagued Scott McInnis. Maes subsequently imploded, as GOP loyalists supported Tom Tancredo's Constitutionalist Party candidacy. Democrat John Hickenlooper prevailed with 51 percent of the vote in a three-way race, and he's still in charge. Luckily, our oft-amended Colorado Constitution doesn't contain an electoral college consisting of county commissioners, or Gov. Tancredo might be gliding through his second term.
Suppose Trump wins the election: Will it be the end of our great republic? Not quite. Authoritarian rulers such as Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung and even Vladimir Putin came to power amid extreme economic and social turmoil, with their own military arm or the enthusiastic loyalty of armed forces. Trump has neither. He'll fight the bureaucrats — and the bureaucracy will win. But he'll have fun, as in this 2017 NYT headline:
"Trump names Megyn Kelly to Supreme Court — says young, hot women underrepresented in judiciary."
I can't wait...
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