Every political news story has a narrative arc: Initial reports followed by subsequent reports followed by what-it-all-means analyses followed, sooner or later, by diminished interest and then inevitable flame out, often only a few days after the story broke. That was the likely course following Donald Trump's announcement on June 16 that he was running for president. Sniggering, bad hair jokes and practiced yawns. But nearly a month on, the Trump story not only has legs -- as butt ugly as they are -- but he has sucked pretty much all of the air out of the Republican presidential campaign, leaving the many other candidates gasping for breath, scrambling to get noticed and hopping mad at the xenophobic gadzillionaire who not only has stolen their thunder but come to represent all that is wrong with the Grand Old Party.
The Trump narrative arc is well into the what-it-all-means phase, but it has taken a while for the more forthright political pundits to hint at what I've been saying in Politix Update posts for some time: Trump has legs because he speaks for what he has begun calling "the silent majority" in his stump speeches, white men (and women, as well) whose greatest fears have nothing to do with access to health care or jihadist threats, but their ongoing demographic marginalization.
This explains why Trump's smash-mouth views on immigration -- you know, the hordes of brown ones who are taking away the jobs we don't want in the first place when not selling crack cocaine to our sons or raping our daughters -- have resonated so deeply with the Republican Party's nativist base.
While not disagreeing with that view, a very few pundits are spinning Trump's ascendency as the best thing to happen to the GOP since a former B-movie actor and pitchman for 20 Mule Team Borax conned the party into nominating him for president because Trump's very long 15 minutes of fame, while pulling the party far off message in the short term, could help more mainstream candidates in the long term.
Like Ronald Reagan, Trump is jobbing the Republican establishment big time. (After all, he is the author of The Art of the Deal.) Like Reagan, he is all smoke and mirrors -- and despite all their tone-down-the-rhetoric whinging, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and his fellow nail biters know that.
My blogging friend Will Bunch over at Attytood suggests that what Priebus and Company are really doing is an update of the classic children's fable: Please don't throw us in the briar patch, Mister Trump! Bunch adds that the Republicans hitting the panic button probably aren't smart enough to realize Trump could be their savior beginning with the forthcoming presidential debates in a scenario with Emmy-winning appeal:Bunch further observes, as have I, that Jeb Bush may be the least popular figure with the best chance of becoming president since forever and at the moment is getting creamed by Trump in a goodly number of polls. This has to do with the fact that although Bush has the kind of name recognition candidates would kill for, it's the wrong name. And that his lackluster campaign has had to compete with 13 others . . . oh, make that 14 others with Scott Walker formally announcing yesterday.
The script is already written. The salivating cable moderator will ask Trump in the first 10 minutes about Mexico and rapists or what not, and The Donald will launch into his routine. The reply will certainly fall upon Jeb! -- serious and well-spoken, fluent in Spanish, husband and father of Latino-Americans, and he will utter a well-crafted response that will, in essence, be the 21st Century version of, "Have you, at long last, no sense of decency." And the pundits will go wild, declaring the scripted reply to be historic -- the where's-the-beef-no-Jack-
Kennedy-Army-McCarthy moment that made John Ellis Bush "a leader."
It is a lead-pipe cinch certainty that Trump will flame out, but at the moment he is dominating the airwaves and lapping the field in appearances on Fox News, the official party Wurlitzer, according to Media Matters. And nativist Americans finally have the racist demagogue running for president they'd long been hoping for.
BORN ON THIRD BASE & THINKS HE HIT A TRIPLE
Presidential candidates born with silver spoons in their mouths are likely to do or say something embarrassing sooner or later.
There was President George H.W. Bush staring in marvel at a grocery store scanner during his 1992 re-election campaign and Mitt Romney's 47 Percent remark during the 2012 campaign, both which became symbols of their inability to sympathize with, let alone understand, the everyday lives of average Americans.
Now we have Jeb Bush asserting that Americans "need to work longer hours and through their productivity gain more income for their families."
There is so much wrong with that statement that it's difficult to know where to begin. Like Bush père and Romney, Bush frère has inadvertently shown a side of him that not even his spin doctors could rationalize away in saying that he actually was referring to part-time workers. (Cough, cough.) Then there is the reality that Americans already work longer hours than any of their counterparts in industrialized nations. As well as the subtext of his remark, a focus-group favorite of conservatives: Large numbers of Americans are choosing not to work because they can live lives of leisure on the government dime.
Hillary Clinton, who began rolling out her economic platform in a speech yesterday, excoriated Bush in terms a working stiff would appreciate.
"Let him tell that to the nurse who stands on her feet all day or the teacher who is in that classroom or the trucker who drives all night," she said. "They don’t need a lecture, they need a raise."
Clinton's economic vision (which owes much to Bernie Sanders, thank you) sharply contrasts with Bush's, which comport with the long discredited flapdoodle preached by the "trickle-down" economics crowd. In other words, tax cuts for the wealthy and wage stagnation for everyone else.
MARCO RUBIO: STUCK IN 1959
You'd think that Senator Marco Rubio, the other Floridian in the Republican race, would be a hero in Cuba as the first Cuban-American with a chance to become president. Well, you'd be wrong.
President Obama won the Republican Cuban-American vote in 2012, a reflection of how younger Cuban-Americans have moved on although their hyper conservative parents have not and still vilify Fidel Castro and oppose normalizing relations with Cuba, which Obama has set in motion despite ferocious resistance from congressional Republicans.
Resistance to Castro's Communist government has been central to Rubio's political identity. He believes that normalizing relations between Washington and Havana will only embolden a Cuban government that keeps its people in poverty and violates human rights. Rubio's stubborn stand brings up an interesting possibility: Should he get the nomination, he could have trouble carrying his home state if he can't bring along Cuban-Americans of his own generation.
Politix Update is an irregular compendium written by veteran journalist Shaun Mullen, for whom the 2016 presidential campaign is his (gasp!) 12th since 1968. Click here for an index of previous Politix Updates.
IMAGE © STEVE STEGELIN FROM THE CHARLESTON CITY PAPER