Will the political establishment be Trumped by the Donald?

As the sustainability of Trump’s bloc becomes more apparent, the chattering class may soon shift from laughing at Trump to taking him too seriously. Despite his standing, he’s not the favorite for the GOP nomination. That’s not because Trump’s too careless with his words or that most Americans dislike him. True, nearly six in ten Americans have an unfavorable view of him. But Trump’s image remains malleable. He’s new to the main stage of American politics. Trump’s unfavorable standing is also only slightly worse or, depending upon the poll, equivalent to Bush and Clinton. Pundits are not declaring the demise of those dynasties.

Ronald Reagan’s path to the White House reminds us that outlandish comments do not sink all candidates. Reagan also demonstrated that debates are won by broad strokes, not fine points. But many forget today how practiced Reagan was by the time he won the presidency. He had been at the fore of the conservative movement since the sixties.

Trump’s challenge is sailing on his Reagan-esque slogan of “make America great again” without sounding un-presidential and un-American. In 1996, Pat Buchanan trumpeted views on immigration similar to Trump. He soared but soon crashed. Trump has far more staying power than Buchanan. That’s where Trump’s money matters. He also befits the television age. But Trump lacks Buchanan’s verbal dexterity and depth, and he lacks not only Reagan’s experience but also his grace.