Is Donald Trump Hurting the GOP?

As anyone who has read any of my entries here, I am not a fan of Donald Trump.  The back-and-forth here on Redstate and other sites over Donald Trump’s candidacy would be amusing at any other time but for the stakes involved in 2016.  Historical trends alone indicate a favorable atmosphere for a Republican presidential victory in 2016.  Trump’s refusal to pledge against a third party run could seriously complicate matters.

But, it goes beyond that.  Obviously, a third party run by Trump would create two results: a slice of humble pie for Trump and a Democratic President.  Emotions run strong both pro and con when it comes to Trump.  One can almost guarantee that the worries of some of the “cons” could be lessened if he would pledge against a third party run.  However, he is treating his candidacy like a business deal where he does not want to give up any leverage.  This isn’t a business deal!

There are many good reasons to fear or reject a Trump candidacy whether as an independent or as the GOP nominee.  But before we get to that juncture, we need to ask whether Donald Trump is hurting the Republican Party itself by virtue of his inclusion in the process.  There are two major areas where I personally believe that Trump is actually helping the GOP.

The first debate drew 24 million viewers- the most ever on cable for a non-sports event.  The prime time debate lived up to the hype right from the first question about a third party run followed by Megyn Kelly’s now infamous question of Donald Trump.  This led to some interesting post-debate comments and ensuing controversy involving Redstate itself and Erick Erickson in particular.  He has chronicled some of the comments directed his way.  Hopefully, those expressing those views are the extreme fringe of the GOP- so “extreme fringe” that they do not belong in the Republican Party.

There is great interest in the 2016 race.  Some of this is attributable to what a post-Obama America will look like and in which direction it will go.  Even so, that alone cannot explain 24 million people viewing a debate among ten candidates for the GOP months before the first caucus or primary is held.  Trump exploded on the scene with his presidential announcement and almost immediately created a stir and controversy.  In his unapologetic manner, he remained in the limelight since.

Then came the debate and its record viewership.  If the presence of Donald Trump in the race brings in that type of viewership, then all the candidates benefit.  I hate to use this analogy, but its like a great comedy tour.  You really come to see Andrew Dice Clay (Trump), but during the show you discover a Jeff Foxworthy or a Ron White.  The Republican field is diverse in terms of demographics and ideology.  It runs the gamut from the principled conservatism of Cruz to the hawkishness of Graham to the perceived moderation of Bush and everything in between.  America is being exposed to ideological diversity within the the Republican Party which is something lacking among the Democrats.  Anything that increases that exposure is a good thing and if Donald Trump is the magnet, then he’s a good magnet- he serves a purpose even if we reject him as a candidate or his views.

However, that advantage is negated if Trump becomes the story in and of itself.  If the reasoned debate and the policy solutions of the candidates is overshadowed by Trump, then the added exposure is all for naught.  In a sense, the Fox debate kind of set the table for that scenario.  From the opening question to the now-infamous Megyn Kelly controversy, Donald Trump- not Republican ideology and policy solutions- has been the story.  Network television spent more time on his appearance for jury duty than they did on Scott Walker’s health care plan (which has received begrudgingly favorable reviews from some unexpected quarters).

Donald Trump can serve a very important service for the Republican Party- drawing in viewers and potential converts.  It becomes a problem when Trump exclusively becomes the story.  And the mainstream media will make it so since it fits into the “Republicans at war with themselves” meme.  That is the drawback.

The second area where Trump serves a purpose is that he says things that spur debate.  Would we be talking about birthright citizenship and mass deportations without Trump?  Instead, the candidates would be pussy-footing around the issues, or not even considering them.  Even if it is thrown out there by Trump and rejected by 16 other GOP candidates, it serves a very important purpose: confronting and rejecting the notions.  His declaration of negating the DACA executive order is another area where debate has occurred.

This helps to focus on the initial lawlessness of Obama’s original executive order.  Hillary Clinton is on record as not only being for it, but going further.  What better way to bring attention to these facts than through a bombastic statement by Donald Trump?  Trump brings not only viewers and attention to the GOP, but he helps them to confront and explain their positions on certain items that they would rather not talk about, but nevertheless exist.

Trump does provide ample fodder for the Democratic Party and their proxies in the mainstream media to portray the GOP as sexist or racist.  To them, he is the personification of what they think of the Republican Party which is why they portray him as the face of the party and give him so much attention.  But,there is an irony here and that is Trump’s recent past which shows that he is really not that conservative.  Notice how the media is quick to point out flip flops by Christie, Walker, Rubio and Bush on particular issues, but totally ignore broad ideological flip-flops by Trump?  Going from a pro-choice supporter of partial birth abortion to declaring oneself pro-life is a huge ideological jump that is ignored.  Yet, Christie with Common Core, Walker with ethanol subsidies and Rubio with immigration are magnified by the media.

Polls this far out are dubious at best.  We can only go by the past and we know that although a certain percentage may support someone in the August before the Iowa caucuses, things change.  We also know that primary and caucus turnout is very small.  When one hears of 22% support for Trump in August, keep in mind that real turnout for Trump is more realistically 10% of 22% which leaves very little room for error.  A few real votes here or there mean the difference between winning a primary, caucus, or delegates.

In the interim, the Republican Party would be well-served to play the Donald Trump publicity machine for all it is worth.  Rumors that the RNC may ban candidates from future debates unless they swear to forego a third-party run (a policy aimed at Trump) would seriously backfire.  That is a surefire way to win more converts to Trump, bolster his ego and standing, and almost insure a third party candidacy which would be the worst scenario for the Republican Party in 2016.  It is not a question of treating Donald Trump with kid gloves or walking on eggshells around his name or ideas, but using him for the interest it generates in the race.

It is a question of using Trump to increase ratings, to bring in more viewers, to crystallize positions pro and con, to spur civil and reasoned debate, and showcase Republican ideas, ideals and a vision for America after eight years of Obama.  Instead of viewing Donald Trump as the GOP pariah, the party should ride the Trump publicity wave.  After all, Andrew Dice Clay’s act fizzled out after a while and there are better comedians today.

{NOTE: I do not view this process as a comedy nor any candidate as a comedian.  It is simply an analogy.}




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