The political consultants meet for breakfast at Cracker Barrel, where they eat outside on the rocking chairs and play checkers between bites of The Old Timer’s Favorite. Trump’s crew gathers in Washington Square Park for speed chess.
Chess is also Ted Cruz’s favorite game, to the confusion of chess devotees, who think Texas is too hot and too cowboy for the game of kings. (Yosemite Sam once commented, upon arriving in Hell, “It’s hot! Is this Dallas?”)
Most of the other candidates are listening to the consultants.
Trump is taking every “do” list on campaigns and turning it on its head, so it’s no surprise that he has gotten Sarah Palin’s endorsement. And by doing so, he’s doing the GOP a huge service.
Michael Gerson at the Washington Post has rushed to the GOP’s defense, opining that “For the sake of the Republican party, both Trump and Cruz must lose.”
But here is the problem. Donors, analysts and media are naturally drawn to the horse-race aspect of politics: establishment vs. anti-establishment, insider vs. outsider. But Trump is proposing a massive ideological and moral revision of the Republican Party. Re-created in his image, it would be the anti-immigrant party; the party that blows up the global trading order; the party that undermines the principle of religious liberty; the party that encourages an ethnic basis for American identity and gives strength and momentum to prejudice.
Total, absolute, complete bullcrap. Trump is proving the opposite point: For the good of the party, one of Trump OR Cruz must win.
Voters are angry. They’re angry at big donors, analysts and the media especially. But–outside of the far, far left (who are angry at everyone)–voters are angriest at politicians for betraying their values. Not “party values” but the values people who get up, go to work, pay bills, and, on occasion, vote, have.
Trump has effectively tapped into that anger, and he did it on purpose. He did it because it was the way for him to win. And he’s winning–as long as Trump is winning are you going to argue what he’s going to remake the GOP into? He would remake it into what the voters want it to be. It needs to be remade, or the GOP will be at an end.
Bringing in Palin does two things.
(1) As Erick noted, it gives Trump bona fides for later in the race. It’s obvious the timing of the move was to take the news cycle, and the thunder, off Cruz. It’s not going to sway many voters in Iowa or motivate more Trump supporters to go to the caucuses. It is going to blunt Cruz’s media time and force him to double-down on his ground game. Cruz, however, plays chess, and is all about the ground game and analytics–he’s prepared for this.
(2) It rehabilitates Sarah Palin from a fringe reality-show B-lister (a political Kate Gosselin) in the media’s eyes to a political force once again. Palin formed the core of the Tea Party, along with Rick Santorum back in 2008. She was a terrible misfit with McCain’s consultant-bloated campaign and the party got spanked for its shortsighted pandering. Palin needs to be saved from celebrity hell, and Donald Trump is acting as her savior.
How does that help the GOP? It forces people to make real choices instead of playing to personality cults. The media thinks that Palinistas and Trumpkins are cultists anyway. I like Sarah Palin. I think her faith, and her conservatism, are genuine. I’m not a cultist. We should be happy to see Trump moving away from his own star power and raw populism into more thoughtful territory.
This primary race is no longer about anger and beautiful walls and banning Muslims. It’s no longer about “Two Corinthians.” It needs to not be about a form Cruz completed in 2012, or his birth on Canadian soil. I understand why Trump went this way: He wants the knock-out punch on Cruz in Iowa so he doesn’t have to deal with him later.
Cruz is Trump’s nemesis, but they’ve also needed each other, and will continue to need each other for a short time. In reality, Cruz and Trump are fighting on the same team, but in party nomination fights, as in The Highlander, there can be only one.
Bringing Palin out of SNL-Tina Fey parody land brings back that 2008 feel and directs the anger where it needs to go. Issues like the unlimited growth of the federal Leviathan, spending the government into bankruptcy, draining the economy to pay for free stuff with no return on the investment, destroying the border integrity of the country; that’s what the election will be about.
Ted Cruz needs no Sarah Palin–he can carry the flag of the conservative movement all by himself. But Donald Trump needs her, and the GOP needs her back in the big river of political thought from the swamp she’s been sinking in. And the consultants just spit out their sweet tea again.
For that we should thank Mr. Trump.