Whatever else one might say about him, Donald Trump is a tenacious, pugnacious type who is willing to slug it out with anyone, anytime. More than anything else, this contributed to his rise to the Presidency: everyone who could have dealt with him effectively didn’t want the headache, and passed the buck to someone else until it was too late.
Consider the Republican establishment: they could have boxed him out of the campaign the first week. Imagine if, after calling Mexicans “rapists,” the GOP House and Senate leaders, and notable governors, had just come out and unequivocally said “nope.” They could have dealt with it right then and there and said, “this person cannot represent our party,” and forced him to withdraw, particularly in those nascent first few weeks when Trump was in it more for a publicity stunt than a real campaign. Instead, they treated it as a poor joke, hoping he would go away, and instead he got his first taste of leading in the polls. Once Trump got that taste of winning, he was far more committed and far more dangerous.
Then, take Ted Cruz. If Cruz really wanted to deal with Trump, for the good of the country or himself or both, he could have boxed him out early with evangelical conservatives. Instead, Cruz played softball because he didn’t take Trump’s candidacy seriously and wanted his voters against the real threat he perceived – Rubio. By the time Rubio was out, Trump had branded Cruz as ‘Lying Ted’ and boxed him out.
Or consider Bernie Sanders. Sanders could have recognized that it was his supporters on the left that were most susceptible to Trump, and criticized him early and often. Instead, for many months, he appeared to like Trump more than Clinton in his public statements, and it wasn’t until August that he really got behind the joint banner. By then of course, it was far too late.
In terms of non-politicians, Howard Stern, Jeff Zucker, and others don’t get nearly enough credit. By not publicly airing the incriminating interview and Apprentice footage Americans had every right to see during the earlier part of the primary, which would have sunk Trump’s candidacy, they liked his ratings and decided to let it play out. And, here we are.
Finally, consider Clinton. From a certain perspective, she’s the worst offender, because she appears to have calculated that she wanted to face him in the general election. Clinton certainly had incriminating data on Trump early, and could have quietly released it during the primary to sink him, but she appears to have decided he was the most unelectable Republican she could face. She was wrong, of course, the utterly unlikeable, theocratic Ted Cruz was always the best matchup for her. And, of course, Cruz, while problematic, was far less a threat to US democracy than Trump – and this was clear from the earliest points in the campaign.
So, Trump rose because everyone said, ‘I’m going to let someone else deal with this.” Now, to get him out of power, we will all need to handle it together – by protesting, and voting.