The New York Times has a pretty interesting piece looking at the Republican Party’s failure to put together a strategy to beat down Donald Trump. One thing is for sure: the GOP had a shot at removing Trump from the equation, but whether it was hubris or just plain fear, never did it (emphasis mine).
In public, there were calls for the party to unite behind a single candidate. In dozens of interviews, elected officials, political strategists and donors described a frantic, last-ditch campaign to block Mr. Trump — and the agonizing reasons that many of them have become convinced it will fail. Behind the scenes, a desperate mission to save the party sputtered and stalled at every turn. ..
Despite all the forces arrayed against Mr. Trump, the interviews show, the party has been gripped by a nearly incapacitating leadership vacuum and a paralytic sense of indecision and despair, as he has won smashing victories in South Carolina and Nevada. Donors have dreaded the consequences of clashing with Mr. Trump directly. Elected officials have balked at attacking him out of concern that they might unintentionally fuel his populist revolt. And Republicans have lacked someone from outside the presidential race who could help set the terms of debate from afar.
The last sentence is obviously a shot at talk radio, new media, and the mainstream media, which have been giving Donald Trump plenty of free advertizing through interviews or just plain promotion. The media has really become a celebrity-driven medium (see how they covered Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign), which is why they’ve been lapping at Trump’s heels like a Maltese dog. Trump used this strategy to his advantage by either saying ridiculous things to get the focus back on him, or making a “bombshell announcement” (see Chris Christie’s endorsement) a day after appearing weak in a debate. Talk radio and new media, specifically the national shows, let their anti-establishment anger become their own foible by talking up Trump before abandoning him when he turned his wrath on Ted Cruz. There’s nothing wrong with wanting the Republican Party to realign or completely disappear, but the talk shows and prominent conservative-leaning outlets failed to consider the dangers of Trump. They seemed perfectly fine with treating him as an outlier, even when the polls refused to show Trump was going away. Some outlets even appear to be in Trump’s pocket by doing outright promotion of his agenda. It’s possible it’s only happening for hits, or to just stick the GOP in the eye, but at what point do they have to take responsibility for his rise?
As for elected officials not wanting to attack Trump, that’s all on them. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s swipe at Trump during the State of the Union rebuttal wasn’t the right place or time. Haley should have been focused on what Obama said that night, not what Trump had been saying. The fact other politicians are afraid of possibly causing the Trump phenomena to get larger, just shows how little of a spine they actually have. Those with legitimate anti-establishment roots should have been out there banging the drum and saying, “No, Trump is dangerous and here’s why!” instead of remaining silent. It shouldn’t have been left up to former candidates like Mitt Romney to go after Trump (unless he’s seriously hoping to ride in on a white horse to “save” the party). A part of the problem is obviously the fact the leading anti-establishment politicians were running for president (Cruz and Rand Paul), but that doesn’t mean others couldn’t have stepped up. It’s their failures which is why Trump is succeeding.
The rest of The New York Times piece looks at other attempts to get a coalition together to stop Trump, which failed completely. It chronicles the inability of politicians and thinkers to come up with an actual strategy to stop Trump. Is there any wonder why some of Trump’s backers like to derisively call the group the “GOP Smart Set”? Are they that afraid of backlash that they aren’t willing to step out and attack, except for those few pundits who have been willing to do so? It just shows the party got so comfortable in its position as, “Hey we can stop Hillary with our deep bench,” they completely forgot what might happen if the threat came from within.
There probably isn’t a solution in the short-term, but there certainly is a long-term one (unless Super Tuesday ends up horribly for Trump and pops his balloon). Those in the freedom and liberty movement who are legitimately concerned with the ideals they claim to espouse, can’t give up. I wrote before how conservatives and libertarians need to be ready to snatch up millennials once they become disillusioned with Bernie Sanders. The same goes for those who eventually walk away from Trump. It means finding the top three issues people care about and explaining things from a freedom and liberty standpoint. It means saying why a strong man isn’t the right way to go, and how just because one party does it doesn’t mean the other one has to. But the message has to be tailored correctly because if it isn’t, then the danger will just keep spreading.