LOUISVILLE, Ky., Sept. 28, 2015 – Watch any news station for more than a few seconds and you will inevitably hear another story about Donald Trump. In fact, the Republican presidential primary has become nothing more than a parade of attacks on the “oxygen-sucking” frontrunner whose candidacy is consistently regarded as nothing more than a well-orchestrated publicity stunt.
Trump has been dismissed as a self-promoting showman who panders to fear with empty rhetoric, a ruthless businessman accustomed to ruling through fiat and a sexist, xenophobic extremist who fosters bigotry and hate.
Recently, the Kentucky junior senator, Rand Paul, questioned Trump’s legitimacy as a true conservative. In their exodus from the race, both Perry and Walker singularly attacked Trump. All these attacks do is further solidify his position as the undisputed front runner, while also establishing him as a legitimate candidate.
Someone needs to say it.
As a good friend of mine, a political activist says, “You don’t punch down.” It is time to quit claiming he is anything less than a legitimate candidate and the undisputed frontrunner.
Donald Trump is a legitimate candidate and is currently the individual most likely to secure the Republican nomination for president. He not only dominates a crowded Republican field, but he and the other candidate most like him, Ben Carson, account for more than 50 percent in a number of recent polls. This is a Herculean task that cannot be dismissed as random chance or statistical noise.
In a 17-way-now-15-way race, the expected value for each candidate should haven been just over 5 percent, after eliminating undecideds. Trump has maintained numbers that would be enviable in a three-way race.
Each successive attack, whether by another candidate or a news organization, only elevates Trump further. He purports to be an outsider, and these attacks only prove his case. And, rather consistently, each attack from a mainstream candidate backfires on the candidate who levies it.
Carly Fiorina, also an outsider, is the only candidate who has benefited from going after him.
The public discourse among candidates for president should be based on substance, not merely attacks on the frontrunner. In an era of global economic uncertainty, proliferation of terrorism and despotism, exponential growth to the costs of healthcare and education, massive federal debt, rampant gun violence and various other hot issues, it would be nice to hear more about the candidates’ solutions to these crises and less about what is wrong with Donald Trump.
In this context, it should be noted that the top three Republicans in the recent polls (Trump, Carson, Fiorina) are all political outsiders. Whether or not you have a personal distaste for Donald Trump or find his rhetoric empty, he does talk about the issues.
And people listen.
It is time for Republicans to wake up to the new reality that Donald Trump is a real candidate who resonates deeply with the Republican base. If the party intends to nominate a traditional Republican, he or she is going to have to sell a vision directly to the American people, without the ad hominem attacks.
For too long, the leaders of my party, the Democrats, have attacked the Republicans as being out of touch with regular working and middle class Americans, instead speaking only for their billionaire and special interest taskmasters. Who would have thought that the Republicans best poised to touch the hearts and minds of middle America would be a billionaire real estate mogul, followed by a millionaire brain surgeon and former Fortune 20 CEO?
But with the upsurge of these outsiders, the time will soon come for the Republican party establishment to rewrite its narrative.