The Greatest Con Ever: Donald Trump Convincing Conservatives He's Not a #RINO

Donald Trump Bill Clinton Golfing

Republican In Name Only. Donald Trump is the paragon, the epitome of the phrase. He’s conservative on immigration. On every other topic, he’s moderate at best and often more liberal than even Hillary Clinton. He pulls his calls for tariffs straight out of Bernie Sanders’ playbook. Why, then, are so many Republicans and likely a good number of conservatives supporting him?

The answer is simple: he’s an incredible salesman. We’re not talking about Don Draper in Mad Men. We’re talking about the hard sale. It’s the long con. We’re talking about a man who has assumed a new identity in the guise of a Republican in order to achieve his greatest ambition: sitting in the Oval Office.

I’m not going to bore everyone with details of his extremely liberal past. Either you’re already aware of it or you’re a Trump apologist who does one of three things:

  1. Ignore the facts because Trump is going to make America great again.
  2. Suspend disbelief by falling for the idea that a hardcore Democrat for several decades saw the error in his ways just in time to get onto an easily manipulated ticket (more on that in a moment).
  3. Cover your ears, avert your eyes, and post memes on Facebook about Donald Trump’s awesomeness, incredibleness, supermegacoolness, or whatever it is you have in those single-panel cartoons with small writing, all caps, bad font, and grammatical errors.

Let’s assume that if you’ve read this far, you’re either against Trump or you’re an intelligent, open-minded Republican who supports Trump but who has started wondering if there’s really something to all of this talk about him being a RINO.

To fix this before it’s too late, we have to recognize why we’re here in the first place.

The Republican Establishment’s Failures

Mitt Romney Donald Trump

Let’s face it. The Republican Establishment that gave us Bob Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney, John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the long string of weak RINOs are the people who have controlled the party since Ronald Reagan left the White House. What many don’t realize is that they’ve only had one major loss in the last four decades and that happened to be Reagan. They vowed after that loss to never let it happen again and unfortunately they’ve succeeded.

Their success has bred their failure. Enough is enough and thanks to sites like this one, Republicans are waking up to some new concepts that go against the Establishment. For example, today one does not have to be a far-right extremist to believe that the Tea Party has some great points. One does not have to be an isolationist to realize that the Libertarians have some good ideas. One does not have to buy into the idea that it takes a moderate to make things happen in Washington DC. In fact, we’re now seeing the truth that moderate Republicans controlling the House and Senate have been impotent against President Obama.

The Republican Establishment got their wish: control of Congress and most governorships. Unfortunately for them (and fortunately for conservatives), they no longer have an excuse about why it’s not working. They think they do. They believe if they can get Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, or even John Kasich into the White House, they’ll be able to prove that they haven’t been wrong for the last 40 years. They’ll be able to demonstrate that Ronald Reagan was a fluke. They’ll have solid control over the Republican Party.

That won’t happen, at least not the way they had planned. Thanks to their failures, the Republican electorate is ready for a conservative. For the first time since 1980, the conservative base is strong enough and has facts to back the idea that we need a true conservative in the White House.

Donald Trump saw this. He’s been banking on it. He knew that the only way that he could appease his own ego and get into the White House was through the only path that suits his skills: emotion. You can sell emotion. You can sell anger. You can sell passion. President Obama sold emotion. He sold hope. This might not seem very similar to what Donald Trump is selling, but the difference between hope and anger is simply a degree of separation along the same parallels. The sales pitch for both are actually quite similar even if the delivery is different.

A case study on how Obama and Trump sold their emotional merchandise to the American people could go on for several pages. For this post, please stipulate for the sake of time that Barack Obama was the greatest emotional Presidential salesperson of the modern era and that Donald Trump could usurp him if he had more merchandise. Obama had tons of wares. Trump has two. That may be his Achilles Heel. Then again, it may be enough for him to win the nomination and ruin the country.

Trump’s Two Products

Donald Trump WWE

Every great salesman needs a good product. It doesn’t have to be a great product; the Chrysler PT Cruiser was very popular and sold like crazy until people realized it was a just a fad vehicle on a Dodge Neon frame.

Trump knew that he had two choices: fight the Democrats for their nomination or grab the hot potato – immigration – and say what the Republican Establishment has been unwilling to say based upon their playbook of being kinder and gentler for the sake of Independents. This is the “easily manipulated ticket” that I referenced earlier.

I would contend that Donald Trump has been considering a run for a long time – over a decade. I would also contend that he’s strategically brilliant enough to watch for the best opening. Historically, the best time to run is either against a weak incumbent (a la Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush) or as the opposition following a second term.

Not to paint too much of a conspiracy, but I believe he considered running against George W. Bush as a Democrat in 2004 but decided against it based upon support for the war. He also considered running as a Democrat in 2008, but didn’t want to go up against his good buddy Hillary Clinton. Had John McCain won the election and had his first term not gone well, I would almost guarantee he would have run against him as a Democrat in 2012.

Barack Obama won in 2008 and Trump saw his opening. He knew he would run as a Republican. He also knew that his path was to go after immigration. It’s the ultimate smokescreen. One can do all of the liberal things that Trump has done over the decades and erase them all by tackling immigration as a conservative on the issue. It was a masterfully conceived plan. The only question that remained was whether to run against Obama in 2012 or to wait until 2016. The rest is unfolding as we speak.

His other product was handed to him by the terrorists in Paris and San Bernardino. They filled Americans with enough outrage that all of the other issues such as his progressive tax plan, his proposals for trillion-dollar infrastructure fixes, or his Sandersesque positions on “free” trade don’t register as a blip on his supporters’ radar. His history has been obscured or excused because (and I quote from a Trump supporter’s Facebook comment), “Trump will stop the Mexicans and the Muslims and that’s all I need to know.”

The Solution

Ronald Reagan Ted Cruz

At this point, there is thankfully no path to the nomination for any of the Establishment’s options. Ben Carson, for all of his good qualities, is just not Presidential material. That means that there are two choices: Trump or Ted Cruz.

For the Establishment, this poses a terrible scenario. I don’t fear Trump’s current supporters. As we’ve now learned, his net favorability is low enough for Republicans that there won’t be much of a natural migration towards him when candidates drop out during the Primaries. My fear is the Establishment thinking that they’d rather have a liberal like Trump than a conservative like Cruz. As insane as it may sound, that’s currently the most likely scenario. They would never admit it, of course, but they fear Ted Cruz more than they fear Hillary Clinton.

At this point, you may be thinking I’m crazy. Here’s why I’m not: a Trump nomination, by the Establishment’s estimation, is still a victory because it gives them credibility in the long run. Stop and think about it. If he gets the nomination and loses to the Democrats, they’ll have all of the proof they need to point to their milquetoast candidates of the future as the best path to winning the White House. If he wins the nomination as well as the Presidency, they’ll be able to either control him or not. If they control him, they win. If they don’t control him and he loses after his first term, they’ll again have ammunition for future elections.

The same doesn’t hold true for a Cruz nomination. First and foremost, he would most likely win against the Democrats. Second, he’s demonstrated that the Republican Establishment is incapable of controlling him. Third, he would probably win a second term. In other words, he’d be Ronald Reagan all over again and the Establishment has worked so hard to erase that anomaly from their record.

Donald Trump is conservative on immigration. On every other issue, he’s very clearly liberal. His views on affirmative action, the economy, Medicare, foreign policy, and infrastructure go against everything Republicans stand for. In other words, he’s the ultimate Republican In Name Only.