No, Donald Trump supporters aren’t everywhere

28 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Donald Trump’s various rude and offensive comments haven’t hurt him at all.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Political pros in this state are not foolish enough to pick a winner this far out from the caucuses (I am: It will be Ted Cruz, whose mix of frank religiosity and anti-establishment zeal is a good fit for the Iowa Republican electorate, and practically no other) but they do love their typologies.McKay Coppins a senior political writer for BuzzFeed and the author of the new book, “The Wilderness: Deep Inside the Republican Party’s Combative, Contentious, Chaotic Quest to Take Back the White House,” from which this essay is adapted.Donald Trump, seeking to broaden his political appeal, will claim the endorsement of “100 African-American Evangelical pastors and religious leaders” next week, his campaign says.

They’re everywhere on cable news, often explaining to cameras why nothing The Donald says – no matter how outrageous or divergent from established facts – will change their view that he’s the guy needed to shake up Washington’s political culture. Early one evening in January 2014, I sat in a darkened den with walnut-paneled walls and baroque furniture, trying desperately to get Donald Trump to stop telling me about his Barack Obama conspiracy theories. “And to this day,” my billionaire host bellowed, “we haven’t seen those records!” Our interview had started out fine, but now Trump kept veering off on long, excited tangents about forged birth certificates and presidential coverups.

The Republican front-runner will meet privately with the African-American pastors at Trump Tower in New York City before holding a news conference at 1 p.m. Ted Cruz to guarantee the Texan the vice presidential spot on the ticket, and conservatives are raving that it would be the best pairing since Harry Burnett Reese combined peanut butter and Hershey’s chocolate. But by word 300, he’d already made the comment that prompted a backlash from Univision — a backlash that drew new attention to his hard-line stance on immigration and, by extension, moved him into first place in the polls.

No matter what questions I asked, I couldn’t get him off the subject. “We have seen a book of [Obama’s] as a young man that said he was from Kenya, okay?” Trump said, connecting the dots for me like a crazy uncle who has cornered his nephew at Thanksgiving dinner. “The publisher of the book said at first, ‘Well, that’s what he told us.’ But then they said, ‘No, that was a typographical error.’ . . . The Cruz campaign vehemently denied that there was an agreement to form the conservatives’ “dream ticket,” while the Trump campaign remained mum.

I have a whole theory on it, and I’m pretty sure it was right.” Trump’s effort to expose Obama as a fraudulent foreigner had routinely hijacked national news cycles and riled up right-wing voters in 2012, turning him into a political celebrity courted by top Republican presidential candidates. He cheered a crowd’s physical ejection of a Black Lives Matter protester from an event in Birmingham, Alabama, saying the man might have deserved to be “roughed up.” And Trump retweeted an image of fake, racially-charged crime figures that attribute far more black-on-white murders to blacks than FBI crime statistics show actually happen. By most accounts, the Republican candidates are competing for control of three “lanes”: Hard-Core Evangelicals (HCE), who think the GOP’s main problem is a lack of fighting spirit; Practically Minded Evangelicals (PME), who are socially conservative but value electability; and Terry Branstad Republicans (TBR), who, following in the footsteps of a popular and effective governor, want the largest tent possible consistent with their convictions (and feel the HCEs are going off the deep end). According to the RealClearPolitics rolling average of major surveys, he’s currently the choice of 27.7 percent of Republican voters – almost eight percentage points up on second-place Ben Carson.

He’s now supported by 25 to 30 percent of the 25 to 30 percent of Americans who self-identify as Republicans, notes data guru Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight. For attention, Trump had turned to the conservative fringes, where his torch-juggling act was still cheered at grass-roots gatherings and his musings about impeachment still went viral in far-right corners of the Web. Scott Walker, it is generally believed, flamed out because (among other reasons) he did not “own his lane.” Based on polling and anecdote, HCEs are breaking toward Cruz. If we did not have journalists, illegal immigrants, IRS bureaucrats, a president and a bunch of philosophers, the candidates would be working in synchrony to solve the world’s problems. And TBRs — a shrinking proportion of Iowa’s GOP electorate — are still divided among a few candidates (many politicos close to Branstad, including his son, are in the Chris Christie camp).

His lead did start to slip a bit in September and October — but that was because Ben Carson was gaining ground more than it was because Trump was faltering. Trump’s dominance in this year’s presidential primary race has often been described as a mysterious natural phenomenon: the Donald riding a wild, unpredictable tsunami of conservative populist anger that just now happens to be crashing down on the Republican establishment. Trump said in endorsing the senator from Texas as a possible VP. “Ted Cruz is now agreeing with me 100 percent.” The remark piqued the interest of tea party and conservative activists who had already theorized that recent moves by the two campaigns signaled a secret pact. “It’s highly likely that there is a sweetheart deal there, and it is a very good thing with almost no downside,” said Tom O’Halloran, host of the Texas-based conservative webcast Patriot Radio Show, who subscribes to the theory of a secret Trump-Cruz ticket. But in fact, Trump spent years methodically building and buying support for himself in a vast, right-wing counter-establishment — one that exists entirely outside the old party infrastructure and is quickly becoming just as powerful.

This brings us to our second point: If Trump is going to win either the nomination or the general election, he will have to build on his current base. In fact, in Quinnipiac’s most recent poll at the beginning of this month, Donald Trump had only slightly more people saying they’d never vote for him than people who said that about Jeb Bush. When no one was watching, he was assuming command of this Fringe Establishment, building an army of activists and avatars that he would eventually deploy in his scorched-earth assault on the GOP’s old guard, on his rivals in the primary field — and, as an early test case in the winter of 2014, on me. Cruz is currently benefiting from a common but specious conservative argument — that recent GOP presidential candidates have lost because they weren’t conservative enough.

There were the John Birch Society newsletters of the 1970s and ’80s; the AM talk-radio shows of the ’90s; the world-government chat rooms and e-mail chain letters around the turn of the millennium; and the vibrant, frenzied blogosphere of amateur muckrakers of the mid-2000s. (Anyone wondering whether the phenomenon is ideologically exclusive need look no further than George W. Bush’s presidency, when the left-wing Web teemed with crazed speculation that the White House had orchestrated the 9/11 attacks.) But in the Obama era, the reach and power of this segment has increased dramatically.

If Paul had used a strength-based approach instead of a deficit-based approach, he could have asked Rubio if he was going to pay for his new entitlements with the party’s credit card, which is something Rubio knows a lot about. Given the perceived political vulnerability of Hillary Clinton, might it be possible to choose and elect a “real” conservative this time around, defined as the rejection of compromise at the highest decibel level? The fringe has swelled with new Web sites, radio stations, confabs, causes, pressure groups, celebrities and profit-making businesses noisily pitching themselves to the tea party. Cruz has the decibel part mastered, and has moved right on immigration in an attempt to sew up conservative support. “He goes where he needs to go,” one Republican strategist told me. An entire right-wing media ecosystem has sprung up, where journalist-warriors flood social media with rumors of sharia law coming to suburbia and hype a fast-approaching “race war” in America targeting whites.

Lobotomy Express would build on Carson’s expertise as a neurosurgeon and Trump’s expertise in getting rid of undesirable people, not to mention his business acumen. In 2013, for example, a fierce conservative backlash organized by lobbying groups and right-wing media torpedoed a bipartisan immigration bill, in part with a campaign of misinformation, and sent its Republican champion, Sen. Senate in 2012. “I find that extremely interesting, knowing Katrina’s apparent affection for Senator Cruz, and particularly since she spent so much time getting him elected in Texas and her unwavering dedication to tea party values,” he said. Rubio is gaining steam in Iowa, on the strength of a perception that his next-generation conservatism matches up well against Clinton’s old-time liberalism. Bobby Jindal, a Rhodes scholar once hailed as a conservative brainiac, ran for president this year by attacking nonexistent Muslim “no-go zones” in Britain and touting endorsements from “Duck Dynasty” stars.

Right-wing support transformed an icon of African American achievement, Ben Carson, into a leading presidential candidate whose stump routine has included Nazi analogies and suggestions that Muslims are unfit for the presidency. Trump does not adhere to the movement’s constitutionalist tenets. “I would feel much better about a Trump ticket that included Ted Cruz,” said Ken Emanuelson, an activist with the Far North Dallas Tea Party who has known Mr.

Which is the third and final point here: Something huuuggge would have to change in this calculation for Trump to sit in the Oval Office in an official capacity. Jeb Bush, who has been struggling to find a meaningful role in the campaign — and anything memorable to say, and how to say it, in coherent prose, as opposed to one line staccatos — could try using Spanish. It hardly mattered whether he believed that their government-shutdown would actually gut the health-care law; few, if any, of the architects did. (“I don’t think you could find a single person in that room who really believed the plan would work,” one of the meeting’s attendees confessed to me.

Several days into the shutdown, a Cruz aide told me with jarring candor that the senator had stuck to the “defund” rallying cry because “a more complicated message” wouldn’t “make for a good hashtag.”) When the dust settled, Obamacare was still fully funded and GOP officials were panicking — but Cruz was a newly minted conservative superstar, and the organizations that backed him had raised millions of dollars. Perhaps more important, neoconservative foreign-policy hawks, general establishment Republicans, and current GOP lawmakers might be inclined to sit on their hands.

Skirmishes between the Grand Old Party and far-right populists are as old as lever-operated voting machines, and the old guard usually comes out on top. And the calculations of all the candidates appealing to evangelicals are complicated by Carson — whose autobiography, “Gifted Hands,” is sometimes used as a textbook by homeschoolers. Trump was among the first players to realize that. (His staff, too, did not respond to requests to comment for this story.) The insight appears to have struck him during the run-up to the last presidential election, when his “birther” antics briefly propelled him to the top of pre-campaign polls. Trump, a masterful marketer, has taken care since then to make his right-wing cheering section look huge and wholly organic, habitually retweeting typo-laden messages of support from sycophantic accounts. But will people who have probably never participated in a caucus trudge on a cold night to a high school cafeteria to support a candidate who isn’t part of any ideological movement, other than the Trump-should-run-everything movement?

Not Trump. “You know, it’s a lot of work to smile for an hour and a half,” he said, recalling how people surround him after events asking for pictures and autographs. “At the same time, I always say to myself, ‘How would it be if I stood there and there was nobody wanting it?’ That wouldn’t be so nice, either.” He spent his birthday in 2013 speaking at a gathering of conservative Christians and has contributed generously to a variety of right-wing outfits — particularly organizations that host political conferences populated by TV cameras. When some organizers of the Conservative Political Action Conference opposed inviting Trump back to speak in 2014, arguing that he was “not a serious movement leader,” the billionaire invited Al Cardenas, then the chief organizer of the high-profile event, to his Mar-a-Lago club and estate in Florida and wrote the group a $50,000 check. When the conference came, he had a plum speaking slot. (Cardenas confirmed the donation to me but denied that the money bought Trump a spot in the lineup. “He’s entertaining,” he said.) Trump also worked to win over Breitbart, a crusading right-wing Web site that wields tremendous influence within a certain hyper-aggrieved class of conservative activists. (Its unofficial mission statement: #WAR.) Trump turned the site into a source of loyal coverage by showering it with access and possibly more.

Employees there have privately complained to me that management is turning the outlet into a Donald Trump fan site, with some even speculating that the billionaire has an undisclosed financial interest in the company that explains the fawning coverage. Breitbart, which is privately held, doesn’t make the sources of its financial backing public, and the company’s chairman, Steve Bannon, denies that it has any financial relationship with Trump. Schedules were rearranged, flight plans rerouted, and before I had time to think it through, I was wrapped in a gold-plated seat belt in Trump’s 757 as we soared toward Palm Beach, Fla., home to Mar-a-Lago, the billionaire’s sprawling beachside compound. But Trump added a nice touch by sending me an addendum to the $850 bill BuzzFeed had already paid for my stay at Mar-a-Lago, claiming that he neglected to tack on the cost of the flight: $10,000. First, a Buffalo-based public relations pro with ties to Trump named Michael Caputo began circulating an e-mail to Republican press secretaries, accusing me of being a “partisan flibbertigibbet” and warning that I was not to be trusted.

Then Trump went to Breitbart, which began publishing stories about me, including a 2,100-word alternate-reality version of our trip to Mar-a-Lago: “Exclusive — Trump: ‘Scumbag’ BuzzFeed blogger ogled women while he ate bison at my resort.” In one particularly colorful passage, a hostess at Trump’s club identified as “Bianka Pop” recounted my efforts to seduce her. “He was looking at me like I was yummy . . . [like he wanted] a cup of me or something,” she said. In another story, Palin (whom I had never met) joined Trump’s crusade, telling Breitbart: “This nervous geek isn’t fit to tie the Donald’s wing tips. A notorious right-wing blogger and opposition researcher popped up in my Gchat with a brief, cryptic note reporting that someone had tried to enlist him for a “project” in which I was the target. He had turned down the offer, he said, but he knew there were “others.” The goal was to dig into my personal life until they unearthed something scandalous enough to “finish” me. When I asked a Republican source to intervene on my behalf, the organizer resisted. “Did you see that stuff on Breitbart about him?” he asked, referring to the site’s less-than-accurate portrait of me as a nefarious left-wing hack.

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