If Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination for president, there are only two possible outcomes: Either he will win the general election, or he will lose it. Either outcome would be a disaster for conservatives and the Tea Party. Consequently, we believe conservatives and Tea Party supporters must act immediately, while there is still time, to prevent his nomination. The question is, how?
Many Trump critics have pointed to his long record of flip-flops, and cite this as evidence of his non-serious approach to public policy, apparently under the assumption that Mr. Trump’s legion of followers cares about public policy and would be swayed by an argument proving his inconsistency. To be sure, Mr. Trump has given them grist for their mill —his record of flip-flops on issues of significance is long and distinguished: He supported amnesty for illegal immigrants before he opposed it; he was “very pro-choice” before now claiming to be pro-life (even as he incoherently describes America’s largest abortion provider as a “wonderful organization”); he proposed the largest tax increase in American history before authoring, in the current campaign, a significant tax cut plan; he said he favored universal healthcare that “the government” would pay for, before insisting he only supports private health insurance (which, somehow or other, “the government” will still pay for); etc., etc.
So, for one trying to make the case that Mr. Trump is inconsistent, there’s a veritable cornucopia of evidence.
Nevertheless, we disagree that this is the best line of attack, on two grounds.
First, Mr. Trump is not really inconsistent; in fact, the man is remarkably consistent. You just have to know what kind of consistency to look for. Sadly, his is the consistency of the narcissist — no matter what the issue, you can count on Donald Trump to take a position on any issue on any given day that serves his own perceived self-interest at that moment in time. Being unencumbered by a slavish devotion to a mindless consistency certainly frees one up for the kind of fluidity necessary to strike “deals,” which, Mr. Trump has made clear, is his own key metric for success.
Second, we disagree that even were the case against Mr. Trump on grounds of inconsistency on public policy to be airtight — and we use the subjunctive tongue in cheek, as that case was proven long ago — it would be relevant to the hundreds of thousands who have cast their lots with (and their ballots for) him. In fact, it is utterly irrelevant. If the exit polls to date make anything clear, it is this — Trump supporters are not supporting him because they believe he will cut taxes to grow the economy, or repeal Obamacare to return decision-making power to patients and doctors, or even to put up a wall and get Mexico to pay for it. Trump supporters back him because they perceive themselves as having been on the losing end of a rigged game for too long, and they believe he has just what it takes to turn that around. Why, he’s told them so!
But what if Trump supporters were to learn that he actually has a long, long history of screwing the little guy? Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz (finally!) began to make this case publicly in last Thursday’s CNN debate: Mr. Trump’s use of Polish workers to build Trump Towers, in violation of law; the thousands of little guys looking to catch some of the Trump magic who claim they were defrauded by Trump University to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars; Mr. Trump’s insistence on using foreign workers at his posh resort in Florida, because “Americans won’t do those jobs;” or his attempted use of the coercive power of government against individual property owners who choose not to sell him their property?
In his victory speech last Tuesday, following the Nevada caucuses, Mr. Trump said, “We love the poorly educated!” Indeed. What he was actually thinking at the time, of course, was “I love the poorly educated … about me. Yes, those who know little about me and my history are my favorite people on earth!” Indeed, he loves those “poorly educated” about himself. They’re so much more … fluid, yes, that’s it, so much easier to con. They’re the kind who might actually believe a Nigerian prince may cut them in on a share of a foreign treasure, if they’ll but put up a few grand on the front end.
A sustained attack along these lines just might do the trick, because it cuts right at the heart of his argument — he’s not really for the little guy; in fact, he screws the little guy any and every time the little guy gets in the way of Mr. Trump’s latest interest.
An old axiom about the mark at the card game comes to mind: If ever you’re sitting at a high stakes table, surveying the other gamblers, and you can’t figure out which one is the mark … it’s because you are the mark. Trump’s supporters would be wise to remind themselves of that axiom —and we’ll be doing our best over the coming weeks to ensure they do.
Jenny Beth Martin is the chairman of Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.