The GOP reality gap

Posted on March 4, 2016. Filed under: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Columns | Tags: , , , , , |

I’ve watched many presidential primaries, but I’ve never seen one quite like this.

To begin with, I can’t remember a time where the party establishment bashed its own front-runner with such venom—only to have him gain in popularity. Typically candidates need their party’s support to be successful. Donald Trump is a rare exception, but an even more pertinent issue than his financial independence is the growing disconnect between the Republican Party and its own voters.

GOP brass doesn’t seem to like either Trump or Ted Cruz, and yet 80 percent of the delegates so far are pledged to those two. Together they have trounced the presumptive establishment favorite, Marco Rubio, by a five-to-one margin.

Arkansas Republican primary voters followed suit to a slightly lesser degree—Trump/Cruz got 70 percent of the ballots, despite state party officials and officers pulling behind Rubio.

The fact that top national GOP pundits and leaders are trashing Trump at every turn, even calling him “unacceptable” as a candidate, begs the question: at what point does party establishment criticism reach beyond the people’s choice, and fall on the people themselves?

Some revelation and realization on the upper floors of the GOP hierarchy is direly needed, because this is what the primaries are essentially saying: A lot of Republican voters don’t like you. And for good reason.

You’ve been in charge of Congress for a while now, and what changed? Big government got even bigger. The national debt is higher. Where’s the conservatism in that?

There seems to be a wholesale preoccupation at the party level with pandering for votes, something GOP candidates used to accuse Democrats of doing. The party has lacked luster on everything from political effectiveness to presidential candidates last time around, and now it condemns the candidate who has energized the electorate.

Republican turnout has been record-shattering, not just record-breaking. Here in Arkansas, polling was 73 percent higher than the previous record. In Texas it was nearly double the former record—95 percent higher. Seventy percent higher in Nevada, 54 percent higher in Virginia and Tennessee.

These are phenomenal increases. And the GOP establishment can take no credit whatsoever for the spikes.

Which begs another question: how can a party’s top strategists fail so miserably to understand its own voter base?

Donald Trump is polling well across the spectrum of voters; it would be impossible for him to be winning otherwise in a crowded field.

What’s being shouted from the election places—and falling on deaf ears at GOP central—is a simple no-confidence message. Instead of ignoring it, denying it, avoiding it, Republican leaders would do far better to hear it, acknowledge it and try and correct it.

How long has immigration reform languished in congressional limbo? Even with sensationalized lies leading the headlines every time Trump talks about the border wall, many voters clearly want our laws enforced on illegal immigration.

That sentiment wasn’t stirred up by Trump yesterday. It’s been there for years. In Trump, voters see someone—finally—who’s willing to do something about it. Overall, that seems to be the biggest allure of Trump’s candidacy. He talks in terms of results, which is what our laws are supposed to produce.

For example, in the garish light of honest examination, unfiltered by fear of politically incorrect backlash, it’s remarkably silly to have legislation on the books governing immigration that goes utterly unenforced. Trump toes the line that many Americans want toed when he says either you have laws and borders, or you don’t.

Yet the GOP establishment hasn’t had the courage, or the smarts, or whatever, to address the issue. Indeed, it’s seemed happy to simply punt on it.

People are tired of so-called conservatives throwing their hands up on tough issues, or worse, going along with special interests being shoved down the mainstream’s throat over fear of offending fringe-group voters.

Trump has surprised a lot of political observers, but the most surprising thing is the GOP leadership’s reaction to the Trump phenomenon. It reflects a reality gap of unfathomable proportions. Has no one in GOP management had their finger on the pulse of constituents the past eight years?

It’s ridiculous to blame a candidate for fracturing the party. The fissures were there before Trump.

Racism and assault

The nation seems to be in need of a constitutional refresher after an incident involving the Ku Klux Klan in Anaheim, Calif., over the weekend.

KKK members obtained a legal permit to stage a protest. But a large group of counter-protesters showed up early, and attacked the Klan members as soon as they arrived.

It was no fair fight—what mob violence ever is?—with more than 30 counter-protesters beating six KKK representatives with sticks, fists and kicks. When police arrived, they made several arrests from both camps.

Assault is a crime, and victims have a right to defend themselves. That’s why, even though they injured three of the attackers, the KKK victims were rightly released from custody.

Everyone has a constitutional right to offensive or bigoted beliefs. No one has the right to assault another person because of their beliefs.

Our republic rests on this foundational point.

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