Although Donald Trump stands as presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee, he is given little to no chance of winning the November general election race for the White House.
That’s the conventional wisdom of most pundits and politicos after Trump clinched the GOP nomination in the Indiana primary last week. Trump’s high negatives with key demographic voting blocs – women, African Americans and Hispanics – make him the weakest GOP nominee to emerge from the primaries since Bob Dole went on to lose against President Clinton in 1996.
A new national poll found that Trump is viewed less favorably than lice, traffic jams; used car salesmen; trips to the DMV; jury duty and even root canals, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reported Monday.
In order to begin to turn it around, Trump must consolidate support from the fractured base of the party by the end of the Republican convention in Cleveland this July.
Trump’s parley with GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan scheduled today is crucial to that end. To gain Ryan’s and other stalwarts’ support, Trump must a retreat from his divisive anti-Muslim bigotry and fantastical call to round up and deport 11 million undocumented residents without betraying the backing of those millions of his core supporters he stooped to conquer by means of his anti-democratic rhetoric.
To have any chance, the reality TV showman must adopt a political philosophy solidly in line with the American political tradition. And cease the demagogic bombast that places him among the purveyors of “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” as described in the famous essay of that name by the eminent historian Richard Hofstadter.
Barry Goldwater was never able to rise above the fringe candidacy that his own far-right paranoid style placed himself in 1964. Yet Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980 with minor differences of emphasis and far sunnier delivery – like night and day –of much of Goldwater’s same message.
Ted Cruz would have been the Barry Goldwater of 2016 if Trump did not finish off his candidacy in Indiana last week. Trump is capable of doing much better than Cruz would have. Trump is NO conservative in the strict constructionist Jeffersonian sense. But he has the opportunity to redefine American conservatism after the free-market, small government variety drove off the road since the 2007 housing crash started the Great Recession.
In Post-Conservative America, the American Nationalist Trump is placed to be the Progressive Conservative candidate. One in the line of the American System of Henry Clay; the indivisible Union of Lincoln and the first Republicans; the New Nationalism of Teddy Roosevelt and the New Deal of FDR. All political cousins of the Tory Party conservatives of the United Kingdom or Canada, much closer to home.
Watch Trump campaign, like Clay, to make internal improvements and favor protectionism. Heir to Reagan he is not. He is a Keynesian and will be a Big Government Conservative, as was Alexander Hamilton, the Federalist first secretary of the treasury under Washington whose Report on Manufactures gave the national blueprint for government intervention to stimulate the national economy.
Both are New Yorkers, Empire State success stories. As were Robert Moses and Nelson Rockefeller, who spent billions on public works building projects in Albany, New York City and across the state.
Although his style whiffs of the authoritarian strongman, Donald Trump is no ‘Man on Horseback,” a concept alien to our democratic tradition. There is much less of Bonapartism than bond issues to do with Donald Trump. The billionaire builder from Queens, his biographer tells us, learned from his father Fred Trump how to grow rich from gaming the federal, state or local systems of subsidies for housing construction.
Now think of the USA as one big Empire State. A President Trump makes deals between government and business to build and finance what needs building. Compare Trump’s path to the big business Northeast Republicanism of Thomas Dewey, and Eisenhower who supported the building of the interstate national highway system.
Some Never Trump Republicans say Trump has no coherent philosophy other than advancing himself by an instinctual appeal to the lowest common denominator. But there are not enough Archie Bunkers for his war on political correctness to get him elected.
His only possible winning campaign message against Hillary is to be The Builder. To boost the economy, he will campaign for projects to improve infrastructure; railways, airports, bridges, highways, his famous Wall. Making America Great Again could mean making America one big Public Works Administration (WPA) project to put millions making do with two or three “gigs” back to work. Doing jobs that pay a living wage with real benefits, just like the good old days. All possible on government’s (taxpayers’)dime.
Americans know what Trump also does– this recovery is a sham for the working class. President Obama was no FDR. His stimulus packages did far less for Main Street than Wall Street. When Trump says “our leaders are stupid,” he is saying he won’t make the same mistake.