His run for President stalled by bizarre missteps and stunted by a refusal to spend real money in an all-out national campaign, the Don Juan suddenly equivocates on immigration and edges ever closer to a November debacle
By Mark Cromer
What a bummer for Ann Coulter.
Less than 48-hours after her new book was published last week, surreally entitled In Trump We Trust, the candidate she thought was meeting her at the altar of ending mass immigration appeared to be getting cold feet.
Of course it’s also a drag for the tens of millions more Americans who delighted when they saw Trump appear like an unexpected and uninvited party crasher at the GOP’s black-tie gala where he started swinging the sledgehammer of illegal immigration—a mallet that crackles and sparks with the high voltage of class, race, economic and cultural crosscurrents—demolishing one Republican establishment mannequin after another, ultimately laying waste to the entire ensemble to stand triumphant amid the smoldering rubble as the Wall Street hosts shrieked and wailed and vowed revenge.
But it was Coulter that had introduced Trump at an early campaign rally with a blushing school girl gush of “Be still my beating heart…” as if she just allowed him to make it past second base and was considering waving him on to third and who was now rushing to publish a lengthy love letter to the most unlikely suitor of working and middle class citizens everywhere: the good folk that have long given up on Bill Clinton’s ‘place called hope’ but still believe in a country called America.
As a whip-smart and engaging writer with a deep grasp of modern American politics and armed with an unflinchingly wicked sense of humor and a candid conviction that has taken her eyes wide-open into many politically correct coliseums for liberal gladiator shows, Coulter should have known better.
She should have seen him coming and her politically love-struck demeanor suggests a desperation more akin to a duckling a la Cinderella that’s unexpectedly asked to the prom and then left waiting on the porch, oh so certain those approaching headlights must be him, only to watch them pass by as time drips off the clock and she smolders red with rage like the low glow of the tail lights as they fade away.
But her Don Juan’s fundamental focus on mass illegal immigration and its impact on the American working class, disjointed and frequently burped forth by Trump in simplistic non sequiturs that he repeats like a booze-addled mantra, came across to Coulter as sugar-frosted sweet nothings that Trump whispered in her ear that set free to fly the border wall butterflies in her tummy. Without question, Trump is tragically the most inarticulate standard bearer for populist American nationalism in modern times, a handicap his aids attempt to disguise as a plainspoken style that reaches back to the folksy manner of President Harry S. Truman.
Trump is no Harry Truman, nor is he the firebrand populist poet that George Wallace proved to be on the stump in 1968 and he surely is no Richard Nixon, who is often portrayed as a political stiff but in reality possessed the ability to speak effectively in a vernacular that resonated with the common man and yet was extremely articulate when delving into the details of his policy initiatives—Nixon could address the average American without either patronizing them or losing them.
Trump’s free association riffs catch a good run now and again, he comes up with some memorable quips or clever observations while on the odd jag, but his speeches in the main hinge largely on stupefying repetitions of meaningless digressions like: “We’re going to make America great again, so great, I’m telling you folks, we’re going to be so great again you’ll be tired of being that great, because if I do one thing great it’s greatness, it’s gonna be so great, I tell ya, isn’t it time for us to be great again…”
To be fair to Coulter, Trump may have come across as a politically clumsy lover, but ‘small hands’ or not he seemed a man on a mission by harnessing Americans escalating anger over mass immigration, illegal and otherwise. So perhaps Coulter saw him as not necessarily Mr. Right, but a good enough Mr. Right Now to get the job done while there was still time to secure the border and save what remains of a sovereign nation-state.
Yet as Coulter’s summer valentine was shipping to bookstores, Trump seemed to suggest that the past fourteen months he has spent evangelizing the gospel of a hardline position on immigration that included significant deportations of people living and working in the country illegally, was perhaps actually more of a warm up, like backstage vocal exercises, and not necessarily the actual show. More crib notes written in Play-Doh than ironclad policy initiatives chiseled in stone.
While insisting he was still going to build an effective security wall along the southern border, Trump’s disjointed language became more opaque when it came to what sort of immigration enforcement program he would pursue if he were to find himself in the Oval Office next January. Departing from his previous flat, non-caveated assertions that illegal immigrants would simply be identified and deported, Trump was suddenly found to be sputtering how “very hard” it would be to undertake deportations of immigrants who had been living illegally in the country for a decade or more during a ‘town hall’ broadcast on Sean Hannity’s FOX News program last week.
Not surprisingly, Trump made no reference to the millions of illegal immigrants in the country that have arrived here over the past three, four or five years. What of them? At face value, Trump’s comments on Hannity were peeled from a template employed by Obama, Bush, Clinton and McCain among other mass immigration advocates that denote only two kinds of illegal immigrants: a) convicted criminals who should be deported, and b) law-abiding, hard-working immigrants who have long and abiding ties in their American communities. Of course both categories exist, but they are hardly the only populations of immigrants illegally in the United States today. There are millions of illegal immigrants that have arrived in America since Obama’s reelection in 2012.
What does Trump’s policy hold for them?
For Coulter, Trump’s equivocation on Hannity’s show struck like a thunderbolt, the sort of humiliating shock that other celebrities have suffered while learning they were being dumped by their beau while listening to the Howard Stern show. Coulter rushed to Twitter to mock Trump’s apparent vacillation, but has since indicated that she will apparently stand by her man, for now at any rate.
The real question is whether Trump will stand by the voters that brought him the nomination of a national party whose establishment feverishly sought to kill his candidacy every step of the way and through every manner of subterfuge imaginable? Or will he in fact carry out a pivot on immigration in an to attempt to placate the very GOP suits that continue to wage a low-grade campaign of behind-the-lines resistance designed to deny Trump the White House without permanently alienating the tens of millions of voters that support him?
Regardless, the long electoral death march of the Republican Party draws ever closer to its end, something that has seemed to escape its leadership as they have whistled their siren song of ‘free trade’ all the way into the graveyard and right up to the steps of the GOP’s crypt still wearing their party hats and swigging from their bottle of open borders.
Trump’s ascension to become the GOP’s nominee was more meteoric than Barack Obama’s wildcard win in 2008 and it was fueled not by some starry-eyed love for or trust in the billionaire businessman from New York who was previously known primarily as a loudmouth real estate tycoon that made the tabloids as he traded-in his wives every five years or so. Far from it, Trump’s stunning rise was propelled by the searing contempt that’s deeply felt by the vast swath of the so-called Republican ‘base’ that understand they have been sold down the river by the sneering suits that run the GOP, the Democratic Party (though its operated by a different management team) and the nation. It was, at its core, virtually identical to the popular ire that carried a previously politically invisible Senator from Vermont named Bernie Sanders on a breakneck campaign for the Democratic nomination that briefly turned Hillary Clinton’s blood cold once more as the prospect of losing yet again to a political backbencher bloomed throughout the spring.
Trump has been riding a tiger that is seething over the betrayal it has rightly determined Washington’s political elites are guilty of: selling out the nation’s workers while selling off the nation’s sovereignty. If he tries to dismount now, ostensibly to saddle-jump to a bigger electoral steed, he risks not so much the tiger devouring him once he falls, but rather abandoning him to face his grim political fate at the polls with the rest of the Republican ticket in tow.
As Coulter must no doubt be now mulling over amid the comfort of a crate of cabernet and several boxes of See’s Candy 172-piece variety pack, Trump’s late summer loss of religion on immigration—something akin to Billy Graham suggesting that he might be agnostic during one his stadium revivals—is perplexing and begs a variety of questions.
Among major media operations such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, which are all waging a journalistic jihad against Trump’s campaign and in the process have turned their newspapers effectively into ancillary oppo-intel operations for Clinton’s campaign, the narrative management controls that shape how news stories are reported and written will dictate that Trump’s effort to reposition himself on immigration policy be presented as nothing more than his belated acquiescence to the idea that a general campaign for the White House can no longer be won with white voters alone for the GOP.
While rolling up a staggering margin of white voters is now in fact the only way the Republicans can win a general election in 2016, the media will spin it counter-clockwise.
They will herald it as a vindication of their editorial positions on immigration, race and culture while simultaneously deriding Trump for an insincere, empty gesture that cannot be trusted. This in fact is already happening on their pages and throughout a wide swath of establishment media outlets across the country.
And at least in regards to Trump’s sincerity, as Coulter is learning, they may be proven right.
If Trump truly attempts to ‘pivot’ on immigration and announces a comprehensive policy approach that doesn’t include vigorous enforcement of immigration laws in the interior of the country (particularly in the workplace) as well as on the border, then he will learn in short order what that ruse will earn him: for every voter that such a cynical policy contortion would bring onto his side of the ledger, he’ll hemorrhage 10 voters he spent the past year selling his promises of ending mass illegal immigration into America.
It’s hard to believe that Trump isn’t acutely aware of this and is somehow intent on trying to thread that needle anyway. But then a lot about Trump’s insurgent campaign hasn’t made much sense since it became clear he would be rolling into the Republican’s Cleveland national convention with enough delegates in hand to clinch the nomination on the first ballot. The fantastically desperate musings of neocons like William Kristol and establishment soothsayers like George Will aside, Trump could not be stopped from the nomination by May—two months before the convention.
In the four months that have passed since then, critical actions that should have immediately started happening have never materialized; central among them producing coordinated ad campaigns that would saturate the key battle ground states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, Florida and North Carolina among others that Trump had a real opportunity to capture as he emerged from the convention. Illinois, New Jersey, New York and California should also have been targeted with ad blitzes focused on crime and the deep impacts on social services and quality of life for the working class citizens that mass illegal immigration has had in these states. These states may not have ultimately broken his way in November, though New Jersey certainly could have, but these are such target-rich environments it wouldn’t have taken much for Trump to keep Clinton looking over her shoulder in states she otherwise assumed were safe.
Trump was the first presidential candidate in history who could have written his own campaign a check for $500 to $700 million in May and, with the nomination cinched, launched a massive carpet-bombing advertising campaign on key issues (think jobs, crime and illegal immigration) against Clinton that focused on the white working and middle class in the states that he has to roll up with deep margins to cross the 270 electoral vote finish line. Saturation ad attacks were vital in several regards: it would keep messaging concise, clear and on-script; it would reach voters directly, unfiltered by a hostile media, and it would help drive the campaign agenda, setting the narrative while reinforcing the image the campaign wants to project—not the image its opponents want to project on it.
It would allow Trump to step away from the microphone and his Twitter account for days at a time while keeping his message in high rotation.
As the Trump campaign’s massive ad blitz filled the airwaves, mailboxes and the digital highways, a full-court press on voter identification and outreach should have simultaneously been mounted in all those key battleground states and in places like Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, New Hampshire and Arizona, a strategic move that requires time, money and the professionals who know how to run a serious ground game with an army of volunteer boots on the ground in a national campaign. Ann Coulter herself was among those who had pointed out that had Mitt Romney’s campaign won just 4-percent more of the white vote in 2012, or simply enlarged the number of working white voters actually going to the polls by a few more percentage points, he could have lost 100-percent of the Latino vote and yet would still have won the general election decisively.
Trump was surely aware of all the challenges confronting his dark horse candidacy as well as the untapped opportunity that he was poised to harness—and yet he has done little to nothing about it.
There has been no saturation bombing of ads from Trump, but Clinton’s campaign hasn’t stopped her massive air war since she rolled out of the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.
There has been no all-hands-on-deck effort to mount a vigorous ground game of voter identification, registration, early voting drives and preparation for an Election Day voter turnout push across the nation by Trump 2016. Instead, his campaign is relying the Republican National Committee—a group that had been trying to kill his candidacy for most of this year—to use its national network to get voters to the polls, which they did so successfully for Romney and McCain. Clinton’s campaign is going all out in every battleground state to find every voter and potential voter who may cast a ballot for her, whether or not they are canvassing cemeteries, prisons and day labor centers.
Trump has not undertaken virtually any of the critical cash-expensive and labor-intensive work necessary to win in November. Instead he has relied on the same formula that carried him through the primaries: a Twitter account, big rallies and weekly appearances on Sean Hannity’s show.
It’s a non-campaign masquerading as a real campaign and the burning question is: Why?
Trump has said time and again that the nation’s fate rests with this election and tens of millions of Americans agree with his assessment. But is he running a campaign like the nation is at stake? Is he tapping his own vast wealth like the life of the country his grandchildren call home is on the line?
It may well be that Trump’s calculus holds that enough Americans are so disgusted with the political class, including large numbers of disaffected registered voters that have essentially quit voting over the past four or five national elections, that his renegade nationalistic campaign needs to do little more than simply be on the ballot to turn them out in a massive November tsunami.
Yet as August turns to September and with Trump still stumbling from one media manufactured campaign ‘outrage’ to another, his apparent pivot on the core issue of mass illegal immigration will almost certainly erase any hope he has that legions of angry voters will muster for him in the fall any more than they would have for Jeb Bush, who Trump is starting to sound suspiciously like.
This strange turn of events in an already surreal political season has stoked questions in some quarters as to whether Trump is actually running to win the White House at all, or if he is actually engaged in an 18-month marketing campaign to lay the groundwork for something else altogether, like a new media company?
It remains to be seen and almost anything can still happen between now and November.
But one development in this election appears to be as near a certainty as there can be in politics: if Trump loses then the end of the Republican Party as a nationally competitive entity will have arrived.
The millions of voters that Trump brought either back into the party or got to the polls to cast ballots for it for the first time ever will almost certainly vanish and disappearing along with them will be the millions more voters that hung on through the disastrous Bush years and dutifully threw ballots away on McCain, Romney & Losers, Ltd., only to see Trump not only abandoned by the GOP leadership but sabotaged as well.
These voters will slide away into a state of exhausted and embittered political hibernation, with some looking for a third-party opportunity, others going fishing and others still buying more guns, ammo and preparing for the worst as one party rule in Washington officially takes hold in the years to come. In California, where Republicans haven’t won a statewide seat in a decade and can no longer muster enough votes to qualify for the Senate race runoffs that feature only the top-two vote getters, one party rule by the Democrats has settled across the state much like the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s (PRI) seven decade reign as the ruling party of Mexico.
Despite the endemic corruption, incompetence and street violence that has left Mexico the shattered confederation of narco-fiefdoms that it is today, the PRI managed to rule Mexico for nearly a century. And so to will the Democrats in ‘Alta California,’ a place formerly known as ‘Reagan Country’ but where today voters will not see another Republican governor or senator in this lifetime.
Ann Coulter’s heart may still skip a beat for Donald Trump, but she too knows ‘it’s over’ if he abandons his immigration stance, and that it may well be over even if he doesn’t, not because of his policy but because he never ran a serious campaign to advance those policies.
Coulter recently quipped that if Trump loses covering politics will be pointless for her and she will simply turn to writing mysteries.
If so, her first page-turner in that genre should be a thriller set around a rogue billionaire businessman who took a dissolving nation for a moonlight ride before driving a major political party right off a cliff and into its mass grave.