Listen, there are a lot of laughable figures insisting they’re the right person for the job of President of the United States. The GOP field right now is an absolute circus, and there’s no doubt that the upcoming debates will be an unmitigated disaster — both for who is and who is not on the stage.
But there is one candidate who announced today that takes absurd to a whole new level. He’s got more money than God, hair that would make angels weep, and a way with words that basically makes me ill. If you haven’t figured out who I’m talking about yet, well…
Wooh, buddy. Fasten your seat belts.
It’s not just that Trump is running; he’s done this five times before. And it’s not just that he’s a cartoon character entirely unsuited to lead the country. No, it was the way in which he announced that really made today a special one. In true Trump fashion, he decided he didn’t need any fancy speechwriters or strategists helping him out on the big stage. Instead, he decided to wing it.
That went about as well as you might expect. It was one of the single most incoherent pieces of garbage I’ve ever laid eyes on, frankly. At first, the prospect of off the cuff remarks had me reaching for popcorn, but the humor started to fade as Trump started in on building a large wall along the Mexican border. I snickered at his proposal, but then he said this:
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.
My mouth hung open for a moment, trying to process what he’d just said. Had I heard him wrong? Was there some misunderstanding? He couldn’t possibly have said what I think he did, right? Not as a presidential candidate for one of the major parties in the U.S. No way. Right?
Wrong. That was exactly what he had said, and really, it shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise. As just a more recent example of his racism, at CPAC last year, Trump spent time warning Republicans not to pursue immigration reform. Do that, he reasoned, and you’d shoot yourself in the foot electorally, because immigrants would never vote for the GOP.
And don’t get him started on “anchor babies.”
It shouldn’t have been surprising, but to hear him speak those words made my stomach turn. To argue, in a nation with more than 40 million immigrants living in it, that immigrants are all rapists and drug dealers is about as tone deaf as one can get. And I say this less than a week after Jeb! doubled down on the idea that hetero nuclear families are the only ones that should raise kids. It’s that bad.
Jeb! and his PR team have gotta be breathing a deep sigh of relief right about now.
It’s also a startlingly disgusting comment given his company in the field. To cast all immigrants as criminals when you have multiple candidates running in the same race as you who come from families of immigrants… it’s inconceivable to me that he’d think that was even remotely appropriate. Could you imagine if Hillary had gone on a rant about the violent tendencies of Black people in the ’08 election?
Rubio really should pick this one up and run with it. He likely won’t. Jeb! would be in a good position to call Trump out as well, but he’s a little preoccupied with his own punctuation at the moment. Realistically though, most of the GOP field is trying to play nice until they can figure out who’s going to be up on the debate stage in a few months. Nobody wants the final candidate to come out as bruised and battered as Romney did. That means you have a whole party of presidential contenders who will do little more than collectively shrug at one of their compatriot’s vile racism. It’s enough to make your mind implode.
But that whole debate thing is the real sticking point here. In election cycles past, comments like these from Trump would have produced a flare of anger in me followed by the relief in knowing that the man isn’t a serious contender. Unfortunately, with the size of the field this year and the necessary pruning of the debate stage, Trump is in a position to make the GOP very scary indeed. As Politico reports:
Fox News, the sponsor of the first Republican debate, has said that candidates who finish “in the top 10 of an average of the five most recent national polls, as recognized by Fox News leading up to August 4th at 5 PM/ET,” will be included in the primetime debate at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
And where might the pleasant Mr. Trump fall in those rankings? As of right now, looking at Real Clear Politics’ aggregations, he’s in the nine slot:
The fact that he has the support of even 3.6% of a fraction of registered voters is horrifying, but his presence on the debate stage has the potential to push candidates that would otherwise at least have the possibility of engaging in a productive, substantive debate of the issues to the far, far right. As the Washington Post points out:
Donald Trump will say almost anything to get a rise out of people. He is in the entertainment business, a professional provocateur of some renown. The business he is not in, of course, is politics.
That’s a big problem for a party desperately working to prove it is ready, willing and able to take the reins of government back from Democrats. The most important thing for Republicans to accomplish in this debate season is to show they are serious about governance and have ideas on how to do things better than Barack Obama has done over the past eight-ish years. It’s why Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus moved very early in the 2016 race to limit the number of debates and to have a much more active role in choosing who gets to host them. He wants to put the best face of the Republican Party forward.
Trump has the potential to blow up those well-laid plans. He will interrupt, bully and seek to dominate the debate in ways that will make it impossible to get a word in edge-wise. And, if past is prologue, the sorts of things he does say when he gains control of the debate floor will be stuff that appeals heavily to the Republican base and turns off, well, almost everyone else.
Take a moment to process what I’m saying here. Donald Trump — a man known for his bigotry — is one of the top ten GOP presidential hopefuls. If the trend continues, he will be part of the debates intended to help GOP primary voters decide with whom they want to cast their lot. The Republican Party has already swung extremely far to the right, but Trump’s presence is likely to push them even further off the rails in order to maintain favor with the extremist base that controls primary results. And all over a candidate that never stood a chance to begin with.
The risk is not that Trump is the last candidate standing. The threat is what he could do in shaping that last candidate, and what that means for the election as a whole.
Never has a man in a toupee been so terrifying.