It's Too Late

After I got out of undergraduate I worked for a few years in a New York City print shop. It was a rough and tumble place, semi-skilled work. And all the guys were horse players, to one extent or another; legalized off track betting made a bundle from them. But one guy stood out, a youngster too. He was an addict, with no controls on behavior; often he gambled away the grocery money. Even the old timers, who had lost fortunes over the decades, frowned on this.

More on him later; on to politics. Pundits are debating a lot of things about Donald Trump and his candidacy: what effect he will have on the race, how far he will go. Above all, what he will do in the debate August 6. But for the Republican Party, it doesn't actually matter that much. Some, but it's not decisive. Because the damage is already done.

First of all, he's branded the Party in very bad ways, for large blocs of the electorate. Hispanics and blacks are lost for good. Unlike white commentators, they don't find him crazy but entertaining. Just despicable. And the fact that some other candidates have been supportive and the Party base seems attracted to Trump speaks volumes to minority voters. True, they probably would not have supported a Republican in 2016, but proportions count. The GOP had planned, this time around, to lower Obama's 2012 figure of 71 percent of Hispanic voters, to the numbers George W. Bush racked up in 2004, when he got 40 percent of their votes. Now you can forget about that goal. They'll be lucky if the Democratic candidate can even be held to that 70+ figure.

And that's not all. Asians, another up and coming bloc, recognize that people who talk like Trump does about Mexicans probably doesn't have much respect for other new immigrants. Liberal enclaves also are solidifying in their positions. Reps had hoped to woo some of them on the grounds of libertarianism and dissatisfaction with Obama, but that is less likely when there are lingering suspicions that they are the party of Trump.

Worst of all, the Donald is really hurting whoever becomes the party's nominee, because of what's he's done to Republican voters. In so many ways, he has primed them to expect a red meat candidate this year, someone with the same bluster. Because of Trump, they've tasted rich food, and are unlikely to respond well to a sensible diet. How will they react now to the mild-mannered Mr. Bush, the most likely candidate? Probably with low turnout, as some voters take a nap next November over the plain fare.

And what of Trump himself? Two scenarios seem likely. One is that he quits fairly early, to grumble from the sidelines. Right now this is just a lark, a lot of fun. Sooner or later campaigns become very hard work, grueling work, nasty work at times. When it's no longer a game, will he take his ball and go home, albeit to a very well-heeled domicile?

Equally or more likely is another scenario. While Trump probably won't get the nomination, there is a good chance he will run on a third party ticket. The reason is that like my coworker in the print shop, he's an addict. But for Trump, the drug of choice isn't gambling or cocaine or even money, but publicity, getting his name in headlines, having everyone -- quite literally -- talking about him. And for that drug, he's a hardcore junkie.

Right now he's got the greatest buzz of his life. It's never been this good, with even bigger and better highs ahead. Do you think he's going to let this end? Ask a gambler on a hit streak when he'll pull back, when he'll stop. Never, because he can't. That just might be the story of Donald Trump and this year's politics.

But either way, for the Republican Party, the future is already here. It's too late; damage -- and a lot of it -- has already been done.