The debate over Donald J. Trump’s charges of a “rigged” Republican primary system demonstrates that Trump wasn’t a Republican to begin with. As a Democrat who became a Republican just to seize the nomination, he seems to have had no understanding of how the Republicans operate and manage their presidential nominating process. He has been forced to bring a former top Republican, Paul Manafort, into his campaign organization to help him compete for delegates.
Rush Limbaugh and Joseph Farah maintain that Trump, the master of complex real estate deals, completely understood the Republican rules but chose to ignore them so that he could accuse the GOP of being corrupt.
If this is the case, then Trump’s campaign is even more of a hostile takeover than anyone imagined.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and his followers have been able to work within the system because they have contacts with the elected officials and other activists who make up the Republican Party base.
“The people’s vote is meaningless,” cry the Trump supporters. But a political party has to have so-called “party bosses” who maintain the integrity of the system that has been in place. They have every right to run a system and a party that serves the interest of Republican principles and voters.
In the same way, the Democratic Party has its own bosses. Candidate Hillary Clinton has occasionally pointed out that Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wasn’t a Democrat until he decided to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. In this case, however, the party bosses have selected superdelegates to ultimately swing the contest in Hillary’s favor. Furthermore, Mrs. Clinton’s positions on domestic issues are only a little less socialistic than those of Sanders, but they have significant disagreements on foreign policy matters like Israel, NATO and Russia.
Trump represents a radical departure from the GOP’s “peace through strength” foreign policy that Ronald Reagan made famous. Trump insults American allies on a regular basis, lavishes praise on Russia’s Vladimir Putin, suggests pulling back from support for NATO, and urges more nuclear weapons for more countries—as if that would make the world safe.
If the party bosses in the GOP deserve criticism, it is that they haven’t acted quickly enough to expose and stop Trump as the dangerous demagogue he is.
Republican officials such as Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), have responded factually to Trump’s latest wild charges. “I have to respond when the party I’m chairman of is being attacked,” Priebus told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Priebus noted that the rules of the nomination process have been known for more than a year. Regarding Trump’s complaints, he said, “Give us all a break.”
Priebus may finally be catching on that Trump’s “Republican” campaign is a masquerade and that the long-time Democrat has been in the business of a naked seizure of power from the party apparatus. It may be too late to stop Trump from breaking the GOP, with a plurality going for the billionaire and a majority going for other candidates.
Yet, Trump is demanding the nomination even though he may not even get the majority of the delegates.
Liberal Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank is hardly an objective observer, but he notes that Priebus seems to be in over his head. Milbank says that with or without Trump as the nominee, the Republican Party is finished, and that the Republicans will go the way of the Whig Party.
This would be an incredible development. With the weak Democratic field, and frontrunner Hillary Clinton in deep trouble on multiple fronts, it should have been an easy Republican win. Trump has changed all of that.
Milbank writes that “Priebus failed to act to stop Trump when he could have, or to coordinate Republicans to clear the field for a mainstream alternative. And now he compounds the damage by sticking with the same moral neutrality and happy talk of GOP unity that allowed the situation to develop.”
But Priebus faced the problem that anyone can claim to be a Republican and run for president. There is no eligibility test to make sure a candidate is truly a Republican.
Trump, for a while, was harping on the fact that Cruz was born in Canada, as if that had any bearing on his credentials as a Republican. It was a diversion from the fact that Trump really wasn’t a Republican and had no business in the race. The real question, therefore, is not the eligibility of Cruz but the eligibility of Trump. After flip-flopping on his political party affiliation (and most of the major issues), Trump decided this time to run as a Republican, after consulting with Bill Clinton about what to do. Trump apparently forgot to tell his children. Two of them failed to register as Republicans to vote for Daddy in the New York primary on Tuesday.
Since there is no eligibility requirement to be a Republican, a good question to test Trump’s commitment to the party would be whether he believes in the Republican platform and has announced policies that correspond to that platform. Phyllis Schlafly, the president of Eagle Forum and a long-time Republican, claims that Trump told her that he did support the platform.
Several Eagle Forum board members don’t buy it. They include Schlafly’s own daughter, Anne Cori, the state leader of Missouri Eagle Forum. She was one of 20 Eagle Forum state leaders and activists who had earlier endorsed Senator Cruz for president. They realize Trump is not a Republican or a conservative.
“This could be the first time in 160 years that a major American political party splits,” notes Dana Milbank. He would, of course, welcome this outcome, since it could leave both major parties in the hands of Democrats. The party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan would go down in history as the personal plaything of a New York businessman bent on political power, while America’s two-party system would disintegrate.
Before that happens, Trump can do a lot more damage to the party. The latest victim is a Republican strategist by the name of Cheri Jacobus, who got an inside look at how campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was running the operation. She was attacked by Trump personally as a “dummy” when he claimed she had sought a job with them. She had actually been invited to Trump Tower by the campaign for an interview. She has filed suit against Trump, asking for $4 million in actual damages and additional punitive damages, because of the harm done to her career as a political strategist and pundit.
Whatever one may think of the merits of the lawsuit, there is no doubting the Republican credentials of Jacobus. She is a former spokesperson for the Republican National Committee who has worked for Republicans on Capitol Hill and with conservative organizations such as Judicial Watch. She has worked for the GOP a lot longer than Trump.
Her lawsuit is full of interesting information about Trump’s power in the media, including with Fox News chief Roger Ailes and Trump’s “great friends” Bill O’Reilly of Fox News and Joe Scarborough of MSNBC’S “Morning Joe” program. Lewandowski reportedly boasted about how Ailes had offered to help Trump during his presidential campaign.
This is clearly how Trump works and operates. If you don’t play his game, you become a target of vitriol and venom. The Southern Poverty Law Center uses the same kinds of tactics against conservatives they don’t like. This is how their smears got me disinvited from a debate at the State University of New York at New Paltz.
We are just going to have to wait and see if Trump’s politics of personal destruction can help the long-time Democrat Trump capture the Republican Party nomination for president.
Whatever happens, the history books will record the names of Trump’s enablers in the Republican Party and the conservative movement who were members of his mission to “fundamentally transform” the GOP.