WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2015 – This evening, the Fox News Channel will begin the painful process of elimination for the gaggle of candidates now vying for the Republican Party presidential nomination.
The man to beat will be standing – literally – center stage: New York real estate tycoon Donald Trump.
Trump’s rise in the polls stunned nearly all political observers. The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza mused, “Why did I miss Trump’s appeal so badly? Simply put: I had NEVER EVER seen a reversal in how people perceive a candidate who is as well-known as Trump – much less a reversal [in initial polling] in such a short time. I based my conclusion that Trump would never be a relevant player in the Republican primary fight on the ideas that once 10 people know you and 20 don’t like you, you can’t change those twin realities much.”
That is certainly the working assumption of political consultants and the candidates that hang on their every word. Cillizza, a member in good standing of the mainstream media, is part of a non-stop character assassination machine.
If you are a member of, say, the tea party, you have been branded a racist, militant hater of sainted authoritarian government and, thus, an “extremist.” You say something often enough and America’s vast sea of LIVs (low information voters) will believe it.
The day Trump announced his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination, singling out illegal immigration as the cornerstone of his campaign, he was immediately branded a racist kook by the press.
Instead of backing down, Trump doubled down, attacking his attackers in the media and his Republican rivals who so desperately seek the mass-media smear machine’s imprimatur.
While some Republicans howled that Trump was not a conservative, citing his contributions to Democratic candidates (so as to be left unmolested to conduct business in a city dominated by the Democratic Party and the Five Crime Families), likely Republican voters ignored them all, drilling down to the tidbits of Trump’s message that found their way into print or the evening-news.
And Republican voters began to rally around the unapologetic Trump.
While the press and his Republican critics remain baffled at Trump’s meteoric rise, groping for an explanation that fits within the neat left-right paradigm, his appeal, I believe, has much more to do with cultural push-back.
Trump exudes that most old-fashioned of traits – manliness.
While millions of touchy-feely emotionalists trip over one another in competition to see who has more compassion for the gender-confused Bruce Jenner or outrage at the shooting of Cecil the lion (really?), Trump stands tall and defiant like a Hemingway hunter tested by the jungle beasts stalking and pawing at him from the shadows.
Trump is not a politician. His natural, animal instinct – some call it arrogance – is to please no one but himself.
If you agree with him, fine. If you don’t, well, that’s your problem, pal.
The question to be answered in tonight’s Fox debate is: which among Trump’s nine rivals is the better, tougher man?