Profiles in Somethin’ – The Trump that Donalds and the Political Fringe

Yes, I’m aware I’ve used that picture up there already, but it fits, so I’m going with it.

Just because the 2016 presidential campaign could use another rich white weirdo, the Republicans have (kind of) welcomed Donald Trump into the fold. And let’s face it, he’s got what it takes to be a politician (notice I didn’t say “good politician”): he’s outspoken, opinionated, rich, and egotistical.

One presumes that he’d promise to run the country like a business, as that’s a popular theme among Republican candidates who are/were business people in a former life. But if that’s the case, we’d better brace for impact because Trump’s companies have filed for bankruptcy four times over the years thanks generally to being over leveraged.

But on the plus side, it’s good to see someone running for office who isn’t afraid of saying exactly what’s on his mind, though his recent comments about Mexican immigrants, while probably playing to some segment of his base, were way out of line and probably extremely dangerous. But hey, he’s standing his ground, right? You’d think that those comments are hurting his chances to…wait, what?

Yup. The Donald, much to the Chagrin of the GOP establishment, is currently polling second in the Boston Marathon-sized pool of primary candidates.

This, along with the similarly meteoric rise of Bernie Sanders, is an interesting phenomenon: what makes fringe candidates appealing in the early going of presidential primaries?

It seems to baffle the reporters, the poli-sci majors, and even some in the political parties. The Democrats seemed all-in on backing Hillary all through the primary and into a triumphant nominating convention. And the Democrats and Clinton even welcomed Sanders’ announcement when he threw his hat in the ring, claiming at the time basically that having another voice in the campaign could only help make the party stronger.

The GOP side, though, is a little less congratulatory. Trump’s candidacy was not met with much enthusiasm by the party elite. And the apparently annointed candidate, Jeb Bush, hasn’t done much to acknowledge the Donald. In fact, on the news this morning, unnamed party officials had told some of the reporters that Trump’s strong showing, even after the “rapists, drug runners, and murderers” comments has the party worried. I can see why: it’s that kind of lack of brain control that leads not only to campaign problems, but, heaven forbid, much more weighty problems if that brain is attached to a president.

The long-term prognosis of both of these candidates is an interesting one to ponder: Sanders is polling very well in New Hampshire, but not strongly in Iowa. He’s certainly become a force to reckon with in the campaign, but when it’s all said and done, he and Clinton have similar opinions on a wide variety of topics. In a recent poll, even Sanders supporters said he doesn’t have a good chance to become the nominee, and I’d be willing to bet that all of them would throw their votes behind Clinton whole-heartedly.

On the Republican side, this is where things become problematic: the Tea Party and evangelical fringe of the party hate the moderate groups. And vice versa. And even though it’s the moderates that control the party, both sides need each other to be able to keep the party numbers high. Which is a problem. If you have so much internal fighting over party ideology, how can you possibly expect to come out of what will almost certainly be a very contentious primary with everyone enthusiastically backing the nominee? Remember that even George W Bush wasn’t conservative enough for the up and coming Tea Party.

It comes down to a question of how galvanizing Clinton (or Sanders, should he mount a huge push) would be for the Republicans, because I start to wonder how much they’d turn out to vote for either of two candidates who they really don’t like. I know they’d hate Clinton, but I’m thinking she would be able to pull in a lot more moderate voters than Sanders would.

Just 15 months left until the conventions, folks!