Why the attacks on Trump are increasing his support.
Editors’ note: The Freedom Center is a 501c3 non-profit organization. Therefore we do not endorse political candidates either in primary or general elections. However, as defenders of America’s social contract, we insist that the rules laid down by both parties at the outset of campaigns be respected, and that the results be decided by free elections. We will oppose any attempt to rig the system and deny voters of either party their constitutional right to elect candidates of their choice.
The Republican primary has come to look more like a gang rape than a political debate. This week the assault began with an orchestrated attack on Donald Trump by Mitt Romney, who recently lost an election to a failed president. His defeat led directly to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Syrians, and a refugee problem in the millions that has become a threat to Europe and – if there is another Republican loss in November – possibly to the United States. Four years ago, as he ran for the presidency, Romney praised Trump as a business genius with a masterful grasp of the economy, and accepted Trump’s financial support for his campaign. Yesterday, the same Mitt Romney denounced Trump as a “phony” and a “fraud” who would wreck the economy and who must be stopped by any means necessary. This assault, which occupied the news cycle for the entire day, was followed by an anti-Trump ambush conducted by Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz at the evening Fox debate. The two rival candidates accused Trump of being a phony and a fraud. Their attack was supported by Fox “moderators” Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace who came armed with videos designed to discredit Trump (and only Trump) as – what else? - a phony and a fraud.
The anti-Trump crowd seems to have missed the irony of this primary season. From the outset, instead of destroying Trump such bare knuckle assaults have increased Trump’s support while inflicting notable damage on the reputations of his attackers. Like many, I regarded Romney as probably the most decent man to run for the presidency in recent times. Even though I wasn’t a fan of his politically I held this view until his attack on Trump, which simultaneously exposed Romney as a hypocrite, a liar, and a treacherous fair weather friend.
Marco Rubio is another victim of his anti-Trump attacks which mark his transformation from the passionate conservative who had inspired many (including myself) to think of him as probably the best face for Republicans in the coming election, into a political hatchet-man. Ted Cruz has also diminished himself through his immoderate attacks on Trump. Cruz has won the admiration of conservatives, myself included, by showing the kind of political courage that has been so missing in congressional ranks, and Trump it should be said is wrong to have dismissed his lonely stands as accomplishing nothing. Ted Cruz is also very smart – smart enough to know that when businessman Trump contributes to powerful Democrats he is buying influence and not “funding the architects of Obamacare,” as the senator claims. Cruz is smart enough to know that since Trump was not a politician or political activist until this year he was not “flip-flopping” as a politician who supported both sides would be. But this knowledge hasn’t prevented Cruz from attacking Trump over and over for that very sin.
Voters are not stupid, and they can recognize a gang rape when they see one. If you watched the debate, it was evident that Trump did not win it. He was beaten up, testy, and didn’t defend himself as effectively as he normally does. On the other hand, Trump prevailed in the Drudge poll asking who won the debate according to more than 50% of those responding. Cruz came second with 26% and Rubio came in last with 5%. How could this be so? The answer is that voters saw the pile on and didn’t like it. His attackers have turned Donald Trump the bully into the victim. In the fight to stop Trump, Trump is seen as the underdog, and voters are rallying around the underdog as they normally do.
There is another dimension to this reversal of fortune, a matter of style. When Trump directs a personal attack at “Little Marco,” voters see that it is done with humor and forgive the nastiness. But when Rubio turns his conservative idealism and passion into below-the-belt attacks on Trump as a “con-man” and a “liar” who will wreck the country, voters see his behavior as a betrayal of the Marco Rubio who once inspired them. It is true that Trump started the personal insults and introduced this regrettable trope into the Republican primary season. But the collective assault on Trump’s character by Republicans - who would never get so nasty with Democrats - serves to create sympathy for Trump and turn the tables on his attackers. Another way to look at it: Trump’s personal attacks on his Republican rivals were and are unbecoming; but the anti-Trump crowd has inadvertently leveled the playing field.
There is another reason the personal attacks on Trump seem to bounce off him with such alacrity. Trump is a celebrity outside the political arena. He has been a familiar personality to Americans and has been for decades. So how can you hope to destroy him by misrepresenting that personality as though he were someone the public was just beginning to know? Republicans have seized on Trump’s delay (or alleged delay depending on who you listen to) in disassociating himself from David Duke. On the basis of that gotcha moment they have insinuated that Trump is a racist. This only makes them look as though they are trying to impersonate Democrats who make this accusation against all Republicans all the time. Americans know and generally like Donald Trump, and they know that he is obviously not a racist. So once again the insinuations reflect badly on those who make them.
Trump’s supporters are grateful to him for warning about threats to our nation in a way no other Republican has. Specifically he has sounded the alarm over the influx of millions of un-vetted and undocumented aliens, and prospect of mass immigration from terrorist regions, which Democrats want to encourage. Has Trump framed these confrontations in ways that open him to attack and that he should correct? Yes he has. And yes either he or someone else should correct them. But what voters also see is that the Republican attacks on Trump are equally reckless and extreme.
Are criminals coming across our open border from Mexico? In fact there are an estimated 400,000 convicted criminals in this country illegally, and only half of them are in prison (and that at our expense). Even if Trump erred in posing this issue, he is right, and the other Republican candidates should have supported his concern instead of joining Democrats in their attacks. Calling Trump racist for exposing the problem just reinforces the political correctness that is designed to bury it, and thus prevent Americans from knowing that there are hundreds of thousands of Mexican criminals in their country illegally.
Conservatives are upset at the fact that Trump’s speeches aren’t full of words and phrases like “constitutionalism” and “constitutional principles.” But the average voter is not going to understand how “constitutional principles” are going to stop the invasion of illegals. What they will understand is, “I’m going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it.” Republicans finally have a candidate who is both a fighter and a salesman – fact that has already dramatically expanded the Republican ranks. Yet a formidable coalition of Republicans is determined to destroy him in a way that will take down their party if it continues, and possibly the country as well. There is a right way for the other Republican candidates to beat Trump, if that is your agenda - one that will prevent the loss of another election that Republicans have a chance to win. That way is to show that you can fight the Democrats better than he can, and win Republican primaries in the process.