Quotes of the day

Quiet conversations have begun in recent weeks among some of the Republican Party’s biggest donors and normally competing factions, all aimed at a single question: How can we stop Donald Trump?

Republican strategists and donors have assembled focus groups to test negative messages about Mr. Trump. They have amassed dossiers on his previous support for universal health care and higher taxes. They have even discussed the creation of a “super PAC” to convince conservatives that Mr. Trump is not one of them…

In phone calls, private dinners and occasional consultations among otherwise rivalrous outside groups, many have concluded that Mr. Trump’s harsh manner and continued attacks on immigrants and women were endangering the party’s efforts to compete in the general election. Yet after committing hundreds of millions of dollars to shape the Republican primary contest and groom a candidate who can retake the White House, the conservative donor class is finding that money — even in an era of super PACs and billion-dollar presidential campaigns — is a devalued currency in the blustery, post-policy campaign fashioned by Mr. Trump, driven not by seven-figure advertising campaigns but by Twitter feuds and unending free publicity.

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Trump has emphatically rejected the consensus view of Republican elites that the party must moderate its tone and positions to reach minority voters, young people and women. He has repeatedly criticized one of the most famous female journalists in the country, clashed with perhaps the leading Hispanic commentator and rolled out a series of proposals aimed at not only stopping future illegal immigration but sending people already here back to their home countries…

The official Republican Party has a theory about effective politics, and it’s much different than Trump’s. Five months after Mitt Romney’s 2012 loss to President Obama, the Republican National Committee produced a detailed report calling for a series of changes, particularly increased outreach to minorities, for the GOP to win in 2016…

So the path is set for a real clash between what some have dubbed “Trumpism” and the views of the Republican elite. If Trump wins, the party elite, which strongly opposes the election of a Democrat, would have to rally behind a nominee who has rejected all of their ideas and their vision of politics. The party would be led by a candidate in Trump who is trying to build a coalition through disaffected white voters, many of whom are wary of the increasingly diverse America. Republican powerbrokers in Washington would have to dump their strategy, which has been fixated on getting more minorities, young voters and women to vote for the GOP.

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A fiery Jeb Bush ramped up his rhetoric against presidential rival Donald Trump Thursday night in yet another show of force as the former Florida governor changes tactics to go after the Republican front-runner…

“I’m going to push back when he says things that are ugly, that I think will damage our brand, damage our ability to be successful,” the former Florida governor said. “I’m sure as hell — when he attacks me personally or disparages my family — you’re damn right I’m going to fight back.”…

Bush said that perhaps what was more offensive “was the notion that somehow I went down to the border and spoke Mexican.”

“Those are dog whistle terms,” Bush continued. “He knows what he’s doing.”

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While that may be, interviews with some of Bush’s biggest donors reveal that while most Bush supporters are relieved that his campaign and super-PAC are finally blasting Trump, they are cautious about the risks involved in confronting a man who pays no heed to civility or the normal rules of politics. 

“Do I think they’re afraid [of counter-attacks from Trump]? Of course,” said a major donor, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the Bush family…

It’s unlikely that disaffected Trump voters will flock to Bush’s camp — the two hardly share a core constituency. But Republican strategists think the move is more about creating the perception of a narrowing field by setting up Bush as Trump’s diametric opposite and rallying those repelled by Trump around the Bush banner. 

“The Bush team feels very good about a two-way race with Trump, that conservatives that don’t like Trump and the mainstream of the party will unite,” Matt Mackowiak, a GOP strategist, said. 

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Here is Jeb Bush’s core message in every event he does: It’s the greatest time in history to be alive. America is poised for decades of growth and prosperity if we can just fix a few big things: tax reform, entitlements, immigration, health care. We face big challenges, but the fundamentals of the world economy and of our own have positioned us for a brighter future than we thought possible in the dark days after the 2008 economic crisis. The way Republicans move forward is by being a party that brings new people in by reaching out to them, to inspire and lift them up.

Bush preaches optimism, and while he doesn’t come out and say it, the inevitable conclusion of his analysis is that Washington needs more cooperation, not more intransigence, fighting, and inflexible opposition…

Trump’s message, meanwhile, is 180 degrees opposed to Bush’s. Everything is terrible. America can’t do anything right. The only way to fix the nation is to drive out 11 million brown people and build a wall so they can’t get back in…

“Trump is a vehicle for the expression of anger, and so in that sense, very similar to the Pat Buchanan crusade or Ross Perot in ’92, but with the additional element of some kind of hypermasculinity as the driving force,” Moore told me. “There’s this caricatured picture of the alpha male, unleashed ego, bragging on himself and on his wealth, sexually predatory.”

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This is Trump’s emotionally manipulative secret.

I suspect he knows that parents instinctively talk to their young kids this way to comfort and reassure them. We moms and dads may not promise to make America great again, but we’ll happily tell a child what they want to hear: “Mommy will fly to the moon with you later, darling.”

By imitating this speech style, Trump plays to the idea that America wants a father figure in the White House. We want one person who can sit in the Oval Office and single-handedly solve all our nation’s problems while we play in the yard. Trump promises to be that president — America’s ultimate dad.

It’s not just his use of the third person either. His blanket pledge to fix stuff — from crumbling bridges and airports to immigration — while not bothering to trouble us with grownup details, like policy or budget, is oddly comforting to a huge number of people. Of course, Trump’s content-free pronouncements — and the fact that so many people seem impressed by them — make a significant number of us roll our eyes like angsty teenagers. But, alas, this isn’t putting much of a smudge on his luster.

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Part of the reason for the Trump phenomena can be seen in the contrast between the attack ads released this week. Bush’s was conventional while Trump’s was nothing short of vicious, implying that the former Florida governor brushed off immigrant-committed murders as acts of love. “While Jeb’s message is that Trump isn’t a real Republican, Trump’s message is that Jeb loves illegal aliens who are coming to kill your daughter,” as Paul Waldman put it in The Washington Post. This is knife-to-a-gunfight stuff and Trump’s not shooting blanks.

And that gets to the heart of Trump’s appeal. It really is post-ideological in a sense. “He can sound like Pat Buchanan on trade and Bernie Sanders on health care,” as The New York Times’ Ross Douthat put it last weekend. It’s not about the details, however, but about the sound. Trump is presenting himself as the perfect storm candidate for a certain swath of disgruntled, discomforted conservative voters: He’s a self-styled “leader” for voters who have decried lack of same from President Barack Obama while also fulminating at the GOP Congress’ inability to get anything done…

Trump’s focus on restoring American greatness while kicking out those damned illegal immigrants also zeroes in at a more primitive level at white Americans whose economic insecurity is only matched by their influence has declined in the face of changing American demographics (hence the focus on building a southern wall and chastising Bush this week for speaking Spanish while in America).

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Does Donald Trump represent the ascendancy of white nationalism on the American right? I’m skeptical, for a number of reasons. While anti-immigration rhetoric is certainly a big part of Trump’s appeal, it is also true that he fares particularly well among the minority of Republican voters who identify themselves as moderate or liberal. As a general rule, moderate and liberal Republicans are more favorably inclined toward amnesty and affirmative action than their conservative counterparts. Moreover, as Jason Willick of the American Interest has observed, the leading second-choice candidates are Ben Carson, the black neurosurgeon, and Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, both of whom are senators of Cuban descent, the latter of whom played a leading role in crafting immigration reform legislation. Granted, it could still be true that Trump is benefiting from white racial resentment. It’s just not clear to me that Trump is anything more than Herman Cain with an extra billion or so dollars in the bank and over a decade’s worth of experience as host of one of network television’s most popular reality shows.

Nevertheless, I believe that white identity politics is indeed going to become a more potent force in the years to come, for the simple reason that non-Hispanic whites are increasingly aware of the fact that they are destined to become a minority of all Americans…

It should go without saying that white Americans have been quite effective at advancing their interests, even without overt expressions of ethnic pride. You could cynically suggest that it is all well and good for Bengalis to have their Bengali pride as long as whites have all their power. The majority does not need to assert itself, as members of the majority can be serenely confident that their interests will always be served. The trouble is that this serenity is much harder to maintain as majority-group status slips away.

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The Trumpists are our equivalent of Britain’s U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) and France’s National Front, both anti-immigrant, nationalist parties. For the past five years, Trumpists have clocked in at about 20 percent of the electorate, if one tracks numbers of committed “Obama is a Muslim-ists.” This makes them even more powerful than Britain’s UKIP, which won 12.6 percent of the vote in May’s parliamentary election. These numbers put the Trumpists on par with the National Front in France, which in March elections took 25 percent of the vote to the 32 percent that went to the center-right party of Nicholas Sarkozy…

[T]here is the dramatic movement of the United States toward becoming a majority-minority country, where no ethnic group is in the majority. We have already crossed several Rubicons. In 2011, new births were majority minority for the first time, and 2014 was the first year that minority students were in the majority at U.S. public schools. Several states are already majority minority.

Predictions for when the country as a whole will become majority minority continually shift, but there is no question that this will happen within the lifetimes of today’s young people, and perhaps even within my own lifetime, if I should be blessed with longevity. It is unsurprising that our clear movement in this direction should provoke resistance from those whose well-being, status and self-esteem are connected to historical privileges of “whiteness.”

[W]e would by now have Trumpists, libertarians and netizens in government, if we had a parliamentary system. But because we don’t, we have a very weird, historically important presidential campaign. The weirdness comes from the fact that it is unfolding inside the structure of our creaky, 19th-century two-party framework.

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Trump’s glass-bottom id lets the whole world see his megalomania. He talks about himself in the third person all the time. He explains that Trump is great because Trump is rich and famous. He’s waxed profound on how he doesn’t want blacks counting his money (he prefers Jews in yarmulkes). He makes jokes on national TV about women fellating him. He pays famous people to attend his wedding and then brags about it as if he got one over on them. He boasts in his books how he screwed over business associates and creditors because all that mattered was making an extra buck.

If your neighbor talked this way, maybe he’d still be your friend, because we all have friends who are characters. But would you want him to be your kid’s English teacher? Guidance counselor? Would you tell your kids you want them to follow his example? Would you go into business with him?

Would you entrust him with nuclear weapons?…

I don’t buy the idea that anybody — never mind a whole class of people — are beyond persuasion. But I am tempted to believe that Donald Trump’s biggest fans are not to be relied upon in the conservative cause. I have hope they will come to their senses. But it’s possible they won’t. And if the conservative movement and the Republican party allow themselves to be corrupted by this flim-flammery, then so be it. My job will be harder, my career will suffer, and I’ll be ideologically homeless (though hardly alone). That’s not so scary. Conservatism began in the wilderness and maybe, like the Hebrews, it would return from it stronger and ready to rule. But I’m not leaving without a fight. If my side loses that fight, all I ask is you stop calling the Trumpian cargo cult “conservative” and maybe stop the movement long enough for me to get off.

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Maybe as fall begins, as the summer in which he was eclipsed by Donald Trump ends, [Jeb Bush is] going to get comfortable. Maybe he had to find himself in reduced circumstances to wake up. Maybe he had to look into the abyss to realize it’s not an entitlement, it’s a battle.

We’ll see if that becomes an autumn storyline. I still don’t see it working for Mr. Bush, but with money and organization like his you don’t just disappear like Herman Cain. You stay and fight. It would be humiliating not to. So you go at Mr. Trump, maybe start having fun, maybe come to see a deeper rationale for your candidacy. At least you’re trying to stop that Vandal, that Visigoth. You have a purpose. You’re not just next in a dynasty…

Six and nine months ago at various events people would cross the room and ask me, with some urgency, “Can Jeb win the nomination?” They were so hopeful. And they were all Democrats. They wanted an alternative to Hillary. I realized Jeb is a Democrat’s idea of what a Republican contender should be. Among Republicans of course he has some supporters, but the only really rabid pro-Jebbers I’ve met the past few months are former Bush 41 and 43 ambassadors who want back in the game. Of more immediate possible import, talks with Jeb donors suggest theirs was not passion money but canny financial bets placed when he was inevitable.

Neither Jeb nor Hillary embodies the current spirit of their party. Among Republicans that spirit includes hunger, anger, joyful aggression, a mood of “tear it down” competing with a mood of “build something up.” Among Democrats there’s a tilt leftward, against power centers, rebelling against inevitabilities. Neither party seems all that invested in continuing dynasties.

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