For quite a while now a popular joke in DC has been that Donald Trump will continue to run for the Republican nomination as long as the Democratic Party pays his bills, and it’s clear that Trump attracts and energizes what Senator McCain so eloquently calls the ‘crazies’ in the GOP electorate. The fact that Trump now leads in the national polls doesn’t reflect well on the Republican Party as a whole, and the cowardly attitude of the party’s leadership and its other candidates, who were either too scared or too opportunistic to criticize Trump for his outrageous statements about illegal Mexican immigrants, doesn’t make things any better. It took Trump’s mistake to attack McCain – who would have given the U.S. Vice President and potentially President Palin – on the one thing you cannot attack him on to make the Republican establishment start looking for its testicles and mount a counterattack on Trump. Electorally it would have been better for the GOP to strongly denounce Trump’s original sins of racism and xenophobia, which might have given the party some much needed inroads with Hispanic voters, because the veterans who are now offended by Trump’s remarks about McCain’s service during the Vietnam War probably already vote Republican.
The GOP leadership fears not only that Trump is damaging the party, but even more that he’ll damage its future nominee, once he gets on stage with the other candidates during the televised debates. There is an aspect to Trump’s taking all the oxygen out of the campaign, however, that the Republican Party should properly appreciate: by drawing all the attention to himself Trump is keeping media coverage away from the other candidates, whose statements and actions are now ending up on the back pages of papers and generally don’t make it to TV. And they all have reason to be grateful for that, because insanity doesn’t just rule in the head of the Donald but is widely in supply among his rivals. For a small selection, Jeb Bush just revealed an economic plan based on a theory his father once justifiably called ‘voodoo economics,’ with forecasts that make the Greeks achieving their bailout goals look like a cakewalk. Scott Walker is taking tenure away from faculty at Wisconsin universities and already announced that he would cancel the Iran agreement on day one of his presidency. Lindsey Graham did him one better and declared, probably with McCain’s approval, that bombing Iran would be inevitable, and a governor like Bobby Jindal is running his state into the ground to improve his chances.
It’s almost redundant to mention the reactionary positions of all GOP candidates regarding a woman’s right to choose and same-sex marriage, but it’s worth observing that they share a fondness of trickle down economics, a blessed ignorance in matters of climate change, every intention to dismantle the health care that millions of Americans are finally receiving, and all would sign a contract with Trump to have him build a wall on the Mexican border.
At this point in time nobody knows if Donald Trump’s candidacy will survive the furor, some genuine and some pragmatic, caused by his remarks about Senator McCain, but the Republican Party may very well regret it if it doesn’t.
And for those who watch the GOP horror show with anguish there is the comforting thought that all of this is playing in a party that represents a shrinking minority in the U.S., and that will receive its third licking in a row in 2016.