Donald Trump appears to be caught in a trap of his own making aided by his political stupidity and that of his team. My lack of respect for the late Ronald Reagan is well known to my regular readers. Yet, all Trump would have needed to do was follow Reagan’s advice on pivoting but he was too politically inept to.
Reagan famously said that a Republican had to run to the political right to win the primary and then immediately pivot to the middle to be a viable general election candidate. Times have changed in the GOP since the 1980’s but the bigger difference is that Reagan managed to win the primary without alienating the entire GOP establishment.
Despite Republican rhetoric Trump won in a very large and incredibly untalented field. In a normal year the only two Republicans who would have been taken seriously were Jeb Bush and John Kasich. Bush seemed to be running out of some combination of entitlement, expectations and obligation. Kasich has a terrible temper which he did manage to control very well this time around.
Trump should have pivoted as soon as he locked up a sufficient number of delegates to secure a first ballot nomination. Aside from his and his staff’s political ineptitude, my theory is that he didn’t because he was afraid of a revolution at the convention and never really felt he had it locked up.
Even post-convention he never really pivoted. As late as Wednesday night in an interview with the Washington Post’s Robert Costa he refused to admit that President Obama was born in the United States. When Costa queried him about it he replied, “I’ll answer that question at the right time. I just don’t want to answer it yet.”
Friday morning – in conjunction with the opening of his new hotel in Washington – he finally admitted that Obama was born in Hawaii. (That did get a lot more reporters to his hotel opening. I’m cynical about the timing; how about you?) Remember Trump has been the birther-in-chief for years; (more about that later in this article.) However it was far from a mea culpa or even a clean admission of long established fact. No, Trump blamed the whole birther controversy on Hillary Clinton. He said, “Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it, you know what I mean.” That would make for a compelling argument except the Hillary started it tale has been long and frequently debunked. Another zombie lie from Trump. Incidentally, the brave and patriotic (sic) Trump refused to take any questions from the assembled reporters who I’m sure would never have covered the hotel opening if Trump were not a major Party nominee.
Trump has a birther history. Let’s take a brief and incomplete look at it.
When he teased a presidential run in 2011 Trump talked of having an investigator in Hawaii who had uncovered some very interesting facts about Obama’s birth. As of this date neither the investigator nor the alleged facts have ever been made public. I suggest that is because neither ever existed.
In April of 2011 when Obama released his birth certificate Trump proclaimed victory saying the he had “Accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish.” What exactly might that be Donald: proving something that any reasonable American already believed or just making a fool of yourself?
That October during a CNN interview he said, “You check out the Internet, many people say it [Obama’s birth certificate] is not real.” Perhaps that explains the hiring of a Breitbart guy to run his campaign.
In August of 2012 Trump tweeted, “An extremely credible source has called my office and told me @Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud.” Of course we never learned who this “extremely credible source” was or what their evidence was. My assumption of why is identical to the Hawaii investigator situation.
Why did Trump wait so long to admit the obvious? My theory is that he is not confident in his base showing up to vote; not the GOP base but his primary base. Some four years ago I wrote that Mitt Romney was in trouble because he was still shoring up the GOP base in August. Trump is still shoring up his primary supporters in September. In the latest polling 26% of self-identified Republicans are birthers and 34% of those who self-identified with the Tea Party. That extreme right is Trump’s base from the primary or as Hillary put it the deplorables. Make no mistake racism is the root of birtherism.
Trump cast his lot with the most extreme of the GOP and is hoping to expand the racist, homophobic, xenophobic, old, less educated, white, mostly male vote. That is his only chance to win. He needs Bubba to show up. Whether he personally believes some of this garbage or not he has to keep that crowd motivated. Trump set a trap that he is now snared in.
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