Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for President, it’s time to do the quadrennial, “What We Learned” reflection on the nomination of Donald Trump. What went wrong?
I, like many of you, would vote for the Easter Bunny before I would vote for Hillary Clinton. But, like many of you, if serious and significant changes are not seen in the next six months, I also cannot and will not vote for Donald Trump.
As someone who strongly opposed Trump’s candidacy, I believe there are still things we can learn, despite the fact that Donald Trump makes snake oil salesmen look like honest by comparison.
Apart from trade, the issue Trump talked most about, by far, was immigration.
Trump’s rise based on exploiting this issue, however, should not be a surprise. To say that Republicans outside of the East Coast bubble are tired of illegal immigration would be an understatement. For years, politicians have promised to fix the illegal immigration problem, but never have. People don’t buy the argument that a wall is financially impractical, so why has nothing happened?
Bernie Sanders can promote trillions of dollars in new spending, and the government can give out money to study the history of smoking in Russia, but there’s not enough to build a wall on the border?
People should not lie to themselves. Yes, a serious and effective wall needs to be built, but people who support Trump need to know that a wall itself is not the solution. About 40% of illegal immigrants entered legally, but have overstayed their visa.
When you criticize Donald Trump, he somehow gets stronger. Personally, I believe he and some of his supporters do not understand the difference between being politically incorrect and being a pompous loudmouth. However, despite my personal opinions, Donald Trump has successfully billed himself as the only candidate for those who want to take a stand against political correctness.
For example, banning Muslim immigration is a rather sensible solution in the eyes of many. Americans reject the rhetoric that tries to disassociate ISIS from Islam, or that all religions are equally violent. They see what multiculturalism and unassimilated Muslim populations have done to Europe, and they don’t want that to happen here. While professional politicos would never use language such as, “Bomb the s*** out of [ISIS])”, it seems to many like a much better idea than the slow, methodical approach of the current day.
When you assassinate the character of good, well-meaning people because of disagreements over policy, you open the door to people like Trump — people who trash war heroes for their service, mock disabled journalists, and talk about their genitals during nationally-televised debates.
Conservatism and Nationalism
According to Trump, the problem with American foreign policy is we have not made “good deals.” In other words, if Barack Obama had not picked the door with the donkey behind it on the global version of Let’s Make A Deal, all would be well.
Donald Trump took the Party of Reagan and convinced it to nominate himself — a man who has floated the idea of abandoning our allies. He took the party that claimed to be conservative and convinced it to nominate a nationalistic populist. He’s flip-flopped on abortion more often than Barack Obama has on same-sex marriage.
Yet, he still gathers support from those who are considered to be part of the “evangelical base.”
The party that claims to be for free market solutions has nominated a man who has praised Canadian and British style health care and used left-wing straw man arguments about people “dying on the streets.”
It is very possible that Trump will be clobbered from sea to shining sea in November and, for the fourth election cycle in a row, the Republicans will hold a competitive presidential primary in 2020.
Trump’s rise is, in part, due to the Republican establishment’s lack of delivery on its promises. But it also signals a need for new messaging.
If the U.S. has really shifted away from being a center-right country, conservatives are going to need to make drastic changes. The current messaging apparatus has crash and burned, and if true conservatives want to start winning elections again, they had better quit bickering amongst themselves and figure it out quickly.