Donald Trump is again the GOP's go-to guy to breathe life into a swatch of disconnected and alienated GOP hard-right faithful. Here's why he's so important in that respect. The Republican National Committee and GOP presidential contenders former Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul talk big about going full throttle to nab more black votes in the 2016 presidential race. It's just talk. Polls show that African-American voters will, as they have done in every election spanning the last half century, give eight to nine out of their ten votes to likely Democratic presidential standard bearer, Hillary Clinton. The figures won't look much different in their votes for the House and Senate races either.
This means only one thing and that's if the GOP is to avoid the loss in 2016 of the popular vote in the sixth out of the last seven national elections there has to be a near crusade to the polls by the GOP's traditional base. This is older, white, males from the South and Midwest, suburban and rural areas. But they have to be motivated, aroused, even inflamed to stampede to the polls. This only happened in times past when there were wedge issues such as abortion, affirmative action, and gay rights that could inflame. There's some talk about trying to whip up some passion among the hard right and ultra-conservatives over the Confederate flag but that's too risky, and polarizing, and smacks too openly of a tout of bigotry. However, the one issue that has some possible shelf life in it to stir the juices in legions of GOP ultra-conservatives is illegal immigration.
This is where Trump fits into the GOP's under-the-table political calculus. He currently flirts with the top spot in popularity polls, draws big excitable crowds wherever he goes, and gobbles up tons of media looks and attention. The GOP gamble is that some of that anti-immigrant vitriol will translate into a flock to the polls of the aroused, but disconnected, GOP lapsed faithful in 2016. In a sense it's a low risk gamble because Trump has absolutely no chance of snatching the GOP presidential nomination.
Trump joins Sarah Palin as the most polarizing Republican in living political memory. As with Palin, the GOP pragmatists who control the money, media spin and party apparatus will do everything they can to maneuver and massage the primaries and convention to ensure that Trump dies a quick political death. One clue to that, even as Trump barnstorms across the country getting rock star like crowds and adoration from them, is the mute silence from most of the GOP candidates about him and what if any role he would play in the election. The two exceptions are Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham. They feign shock at his rhetoric and the supposed potential damage it does to the GOP in the long term. Yet, they're careful not to call for his drumming out of the GOP.
The GOP's good cop, bad cop ploy with Trump is not new. Four years ago, he had serviceable value with the issue that for a time grabbed a lot of press, stirred much debate, revved up some passions, and rocked President Obama and the Democratic Party back on its heels. That was the thoroughly phony, and idiotic issue of Obama's supposed foreign birth. Trump latched onto the issue and turned it and him into a political cause celebre in the run-up to the 2012 presidential contest. He well knew that while it was a taboo subject to raise in polite political circles, a significant number, if not a majority of Republicans actually believed or wanted to believe that Obama's birth was a legitimate issue to dump back on the political table. This was not an insignificant point.
More than two dozen lawsuits and petitions were subsequently filed in various state courts contesting Obama's U.S. citizenship. The Supreme Court's eventual refusal to demand that Obama pony up his birth certificate did absolutely nothing to take any steam out of the movement. If anything, it probably added some vapor to it, by convincing more that the Courts are in cahoots with the Obama White House to keep the real "truth" about his imagined foreign birth secret from the American people.
Meanwhile, 2012 GOP presidential contender, Mitt Romney, and the entire GOP establishment denounced Trump for dredging up the phony issue again. And in a political self-righteous pique, they pretended to distance themselves from him claiming he did not represent what the GOP purportedly stood for.
This same tired script has been dusted off, recycled, and plopped back into the GOP political reading room again. Trump and the GOP will use it to provide fodder for media sensationalism, while stoking the frustration and rage of packs of unreconstructed bigots, America firsters, and ultra-conservatives. All of whom it's hoped will show up in big numbers during the primaries and most importantly during the general election. Trump is the GOP's trump card to try and make that happen.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of From King to Obama: Witness to a Turbulent History (Middle Passage Press).
He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard weekly on the nationally network broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.
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