Behold the fruits of their labors. Just about any news-oriented web page you visit today will present for your enjoyment the belligerent mug of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, mouth agape and bellowing some half-baked thought to drag the GOP brand through the mud one more time.
But Trump’s views are not so far out of line with the rest of the Republican field of president-wannabees, just more crudely-stated. Dana Milbank takes a stab at explaining the Trump phenomenon in his Washington Post column, “Donald Trump is the monster the GOP created“:
It has been amusing to watch the brands — the PGA, NBC, Macy’s, NASCAR, Univision, Serta — flee Donald Trump after his xenophobic remarks. Who even knew The Donald had a line of mattresses featuring Cool Action Dual Effects Gel Memory Foam?
But there is one entity that can’t dump Trump, no matter how hard it tries: the GOP. The Republican Party can’t dump Trump because Trump is the Republican Party.
One big Republican donor this week floated to the Associated Press the idea of having candidates boycott debates if the tycoon is onstage. Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham and other candidates have lined up to say, as Rick Perry put it, that “Donald Trump does not represent the Republican Party.”
But Trump has merely held up a mirror to the GOP. The man, long experience has shown, believes in nothing other than himself. He has, conveniently, selected the precise basket of issues that Republicans want to hear about — or at least a significant proportion of Republican primary voters. He may be saying things more colorfully than others when he talks about Mexico sending rapists across the border, but his views show that, far from being an outlier, he is hitting all the erogenous zones of the GOP electorate.
Anti-immigrant? Against Common Core education standards? For repealing Obamacare? Against same-sex marriage? Antiabortion? Anti-tax? Anti-China? Virulent in questioning President Obama’s legitimacy? Check, check, check, check, check, check, check and check.
But Milbank then recounts Trump’s more progressive views back in 1999, when Milbank interviewed him on a flight:
I flew on his 727 with the winged “T” on the tail and the mirrored headboard on the bed, and I learned all about his prospective platform: progressive on social issues such as gays in the military, for campaign finance reform and universal health care, in favor of more regulation, opposed to investing Social Security money in the stock market. Most of all, he preached tolerance — contrasting himself with Pat Buchanan, his rival for the nomination, who had made statements considered anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant.
…Trump back then issued a statement saying he hates intolerance because in New York, “a town with different races, religions and peoples, I have learned to work with my brother man.” I accompanied him as he underscored the point by touring the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.
Quite a contrast from Trump 2015, who has viciously disparaged Mexican immigrant workers, whose construction labors have helped make him filthy rich, as Milbank points out. But Trump is not the lone immigrant worker/Latino-basher in his party. Far from it:
…Scott Walker talks about self-deportation, Graham talks about ending birthright citizenship, Ben Carson blames illegal immigrants in part for the measles outbreak, Rand Paul describes as lawbreakers those who were brought to the United States illegally as children, and even relatively moderate candidates such as Bush and Marco Rubio have hardened their immigration positions. Ted Cruz actually praised Trump.
Trump’s position also closely follows those that came from Arizona in 2010 when then-Gov. Jan Brewer and other Republicans attempted an immigration crackdown. They spoke about illegal immigrants on the border as a source of beheadings, kidnappings and police killings.
Nor are Trump’s other positions so dissimilar from those of his fellow GOP candidates
..The mogul’s broader basket of issues is also in tune with those of a slate of candidates who have compared homosexuality to alcoholism (Perry), likened union protesters to the Islamic State (Walker) and proposed elections for Supreme Court justices (Cruz), and who virtually all oppose same-sex marriage and action on climate change.
Further adds Milbank, “The previously tolerant Trump may be a phony, but he’s no dope: He recognized that, in the fragmented Republican field, his name recognition would take him far if he merely voiced, in his bombastic style, the positions GOP voters craved…It worked. Trump placed second in national polls by Fox News and CNN, virtually guaranteeing him a place in the first debate, on Aug. 6 — unless the GOP persuades Fox News, the host, to dump Trump.”
“That would be hard to justify,” concludes Milbank. “Trump may be a monster, but he’s the monster Republicans created.”