Trump’s Triumph: Does Donald Trump Represent the Republican Party He Has Taken Over?

Trump’s Triumph: Does Donald Trump Represent the Republican Party He Has Taken Over?

When a political party nominates a candidate for President, an implied, if not always stated, conclusion is that the nominee represents the best person they could find to represent it. The nominee is, in effect, a living metaphor of the qualities of character and personality that the party has or aspires to.

The 2016 Republican nominating process, with its very public trashing, by the winner, of the 16 losing candidates provides a picture of the Party’s weaknesses that clearly is not the one it wanted to present.
But, in fact Trump used the process and methodically but not politely enumerated and exposed the weaknesses of the other candidates. He then eliminated them all. Conclusion: Trump embodies the best combination of their strengths, and so deserves to be the new Republican leader.

No need to detail how each candidate was driven or dropped out. Media reported how Trump exposed each one’s weaknesses brutally and clearly, while hiding his own duplicity in dealing with the Republican Party. His greatest “scam” was to threaten to go “third party,” but when forced to agree to support the party nominee hedged his bets and appealed to his rally audiences against the party. The next was his skilful exposing of the weaknesses of each candidate, by direct confrontation. Their weaknesses were, to those who had the insight to perceive them, of the Party itself—especially their willingness to accept and excuse their own and other party members’ weaknesses and failings. Example: Jeb Bush trying to defend his brother’s deception of the American people and leading them into war with Iraq. Another: “Lying” Ted Cruz’s tricking Carson Voters into voting for him by telling them Carson was quitting the race. Still another: boycotting a debate and holding a competing event, because the media did not accommodate his demands. (The Party accepted this without penalty.)

By the last two debates, Trump had become the “ringmaster” of the debate “circus,” introducing each “performer” in turn and inducing them to “do their tricks” for a delighted audience. By then, many of Trump’s opponents had dropped out or been nicknamed or otherwise characterized by him. The media dutifully reported each characterization. He played the Party perfectly—rather than “choosing one of the 17 candidates, it was, in effect, a series of duels—Trump versus his “victim(s) of the week.”
The media role in this was highly significant and reflects the deficiencies of the American system of elections—too dependent on media, too long, loose or non-existent rules of behavior and procedure, and unfairness in the availability of media exposure to each candidate. Nevertheless, it appears to have been acceptable to most parties, though in retrospect it media access was unfairly allocated to EVERY candidate, and Trump received the lion’s share!

Some of the more entertaining performers lasted longest, but Trump realized that he either had to “rise above” the entertainment or lower it. He did the latter by demeaning each of the other candidates and goading them down to his level. Their dilemma was obvious, and it delighted the audience. But the Republican Party was becoming increasingly less able to control the process and all the while beginning to realize the potential consequences. They saw that Trump was gaining support and the possibility of his nomination was becoming ominously real.

Today, their anxieties have become reality. As of July 1, 2016, weeks before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, and Donald Trump has won enough votes in primaries and caucuses to be the “presumptive” nominee.

Let’s examine how this happened? Trump appeared to realize that there were varying threats from the best funded candidates, those with the most public support, and those with individual-specific characters, experiences and political skills.

The media’s process helped Trump immensely but relegating low-polling candidates (some of whom were among those who had specific appeals to special interest groups or with unique experience) like Jim Gilmore (military/state go.), Lindsey Graham (Senate/military), Carly Fiorina (business/female), John Kasich (Fed.Gov./State Gov.). Ben Carson (ethnic/Medic.), Rand Paul (Sen./Libtrn.)
A number of others, such as Scott Walker (State Gov./Relig.), Rick Santorum (Sen.Relig.), Geo. Pataki (Gov.), Bobby Jindal (Gov./non-W), Mike Huckabee (Gov/Rel.), had access to early funding, previous experience as Pres. Candidates, or a combination of these. Few had high recognition and those who did were already media-identified as special interest-related.
The three most competitive were Jeb Bush (Gov./son of Pres.), Marco Rubio (Sen./ Hisp.) and Ted Cruz (Sen/Hisp/Relig.), for varying reasons such as major funding available, high previous media exposure or special interest promotion or a combination of these.

Trump’s celebrity, brought him immediate and overwhelmingly greater access to free broadcast and cable media that the others would have to purchase. The media immediately played up the celebrity aspects which at first appealed to Republican leaders because they believed that Trump was, like many other “celebrity candidates,” not capable of maintaining media interest. And this was not unreasonable. Even Ronald Reagan had to try twice and fail before winning the GOP nomination, even though he had has been a two-term Governor. In short, the nomination of an amateur like Donald Trump was inconceivable to the Republican Party establishment.

In those early days, Trump turned the nomination process into entertainment, and many of the other candidates; too, felt that they could benefit from the exposure. Little did they realize that “exposure” was their greatest threat, and Donald Trump’s greatest weapon against them. Could this have been foreseen? A few commentators realized that too much media coverage was a two-edged weapon, but only Trump recognized that he could, by revealing the weaknesses of the other candidates BEFORE any of them had achieved significant support could neutralize their natural advantages of experience, “special interest” support, and individual appeal. NO candidate except Jeb Bush was even close to Trump in media recognition. Trump saw this, and also recognized that Bush’s “family” advantage could be used against him. This miscalculation by both the candidates and the Party was fatal. Too late, “Stop Trump” movements arose, but were not wholly supported and so failed.

Let’s digress for bit to examine the importance of image, and the uses of metaphor to capture the” image-inations” of the voting public. What is a “metaphor?” Webster’s dictionary says: it is a word used to transfer the resemblance rather than the actual meaning to another, for example: “that man is a—fox, (not “like” one). That’s what Trump did to the 16 other candidates, in one way or another.
“Lying Ted” is an implied metaphor—he is not a man who lies, he IS a “liar.” “Low-energy Jeb,” is not just idle—not a man who has low energy, but someone who actually is the “image” of idleness. “Liddle Marco,” has many metaphoric implications that the media broadcast, as well as Rubio’s responses about “little hands.” His insulting reference to Carly Fiorina, (“Look at that face….”) was designed to imprint the audience’s mind with Trump’s mean-spirited remark, not the whole person. Trump’s approach to the other party’s candidates is the same. Denigrate them using a metaphor that brings up a negative image.
The media have a great deal of responsibility for what has happened. They have broadcast to the public, without warning, so many of Trump’s irrational, misinformed, statements and so many outright lies and distortions, that it is impossible now to report on them all, now, as irrational and irresponsible for a candidate for public office.
His basic approach is to say his opponents are “terrible, horrible, dishonest, and incompetent…and that they lie, or distort or misstate everything that they say about (me, Donald Trump). Trump’s rallies hear him say…“trust me, believe me, I can tell you honestly…something bad is happening…we need to look into it…there are problems…we need to worry about…no one can solve these problems but I will…we will be and are being attacked…the entire government and the Congress are incompetent, and so stupid…they don’t know how to ‘make a deal’…America is losing, is no longer great…I will make it great again…we have lost in trade and jobs…I will build a wall…no Muslims will get in when I am President…we aren’t controlling our borders, but I will… make America safe again…(be afraid, be afraid), etc.
And, the media, by and large, reported this abuse of the truth. With little comment by mainstream media, and excited approval by Fox and the conservative “clack” Trump filled our nation’s screens and broadcast media receivers with a litany of hate, bigotry distortions and fake patriotism.

Of course, he intimidates not only the Party, but also on many occasions reporters, questioners at debates, the disabled, women, protesters, and any newspaper that wrote negatively about him—while mockingly telling others he “loved” them—the uneducated, workers, who accepted his jobs for minimum wages, foreign workers and of course anyone who voted for him.
In addition, media—better late than never–is now revealing his many fraudulent business activities, his lies about his charitable contributions, his sponsorship of failing and fraudulent business such as “Trump University,” and his profiting from investments that failed and other investors lost millions. He will not—nor is ever likely to—release his federal and state tax returns, or his medical records.
He received five deferments during the Viet Nam war, and claimed his own “Vietnam” was avoiding venereal disease. His personal life is less than admirable, including sexist behavior and less than fair treatment of his first of three wives. Americans do not know this person; yet the media have let him use, and abuse it through his wealth and celebrity, to hijack a major American political party. And, unfortunately, the Republican Party is still in denial of what has happened.

The images the media provided to its audiences as it described Donald Trump, as the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party for the November 2016 elections have changed. It changed as the anxiety among those who take elections seriously realized the threat Trump poses to the nation’s stability and even to the Republican Party itself.

The early images media provided were of a non-serious candidate; the more recent ones take on a serious tone. The early images—the metaphors that Trump provided—are still accepted by Trump’s supporters. The more recent ones, with some “balancing” commentary” are found to be much more accurate, causing many, but perhaps not enough, Republicans, even some elected delegates, who are so repelled that they now actively oppose Trump’s nomination.

The early media images were of Trump the businessman, celebrity host, husband and parent of glamorous women, entrepreneur, wealthy billionaire and owner, etc. entrepreneur, wealthy billionaire and owner, etc. They show him to be poorly informed, lacking in political expertise, answering questions with little thought, contradicting himself frequently, expressing poorly the few policy positions he has taken. He also seemed not to understand, or even know Republican positions on major economic, social and international political issues.

His media image has evolved, as reporters stopped seeing him as entertainment and began to take him more seriously, from being a misinformed amateur to a willfully ignorant but much more dangerous candidate.
He is STILL considered poorly informed on basic issues and on Republican Party traditional positions on them. In addition, he has made racist, sexist, and bigoted statements that he rarely denies and usually is unable to explain or justify adequately. And, he has expressed and continues to hold unknowledgeable or contradictory positions on a number of important issues, racial, ethnic, legal, military and international.

What Donald Trump has succeeded in doing with media assistance to his supporters, is to create in them a belief in HIM, rather than what he says, has said or done, or does now. He is, to them, “their guy,” no matter what he says, does, or will say or do. That is in democratic nations, excessive loyalty. American’s elected leaders have never needed or even sought this kind of faith and devotion. George Washington refused to become the nation’s “king,” and warned against it as well. Leaders of other nations through history have gotten it, with usually very bad consequences for their counties.

As of July 1, there are still defections from the Republican Party because of the Trump “takeover” of the Party. Stalwarts such as columnist George Will, past GOP presidential nominees, Jeb Bush and many party advisors have declined to support Trump.
Yet many remain. Marco Rubio—“liddle Marco”—would be proud, he says, to speak at Trump’s Convention. Chris Christie still tags along, gasbag and all, when Trump beckons. Ben Carson would accept a Cabinet Post, he says, as would other candidates. Paul Ryan says, “vote your conscience” to Republicans—thus blessing BOTH Trump and those who oppose him, and giving them some “cover” whichever way they choose to go. And Mitch McConnell has said, “We must support the nominee, whoever he is.”

A an apparently leaderless “last ditch effort” to get Republican delegates to “vote their consciences” and make other rules changes to “stop Trump” is being mounted, but Trump’s threat of a “third party,” or other retribution is frightening many in the Republican establishment.

What Trump first did to win was to reveal the hypocrisy of the Party and its leadership, its weaknesses and its inability to explain the contradictions in its positions. Then he took each of his sixteen opponents and “hung them out to dry,” let them try to play their own games and then confronted them with their weaknesses–political, moral, social and even physical and personal ones—when it suited him. He used the greatest fear elected Republicans seem to have, that they will lose control, and that fear has kept them from confronting him, even as he was revealing the weakness of both the other candidates and the basic principles of the Republican Party. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s efforts to “bring Trump to heel,” have been reduced to hoping he will support the Party, and Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate Majority Leader, has said he hopes so, too.

Let me repeat what was said above. Of course, he intimidates not only the Party, but also on many occasions reporters, questioners at debates, the disabled, women, protesters, and any newspaper that wrote negatively about him—while mockingly telling others he “loved” them—the uneducated, workers, who accepted his jobs for minimum wages, foreign workers and of course anyone who voted for him.
In addition, media—better late than never–is now revealing his many fraudulent business activities, his lies about his charitable contributions, his sponsorship of failing and fraudulent business such as “Trump University,” and his profiting from investments that failed and other investors lost millions. He will not—nor is ever likely to—release his federal and state tax returns, or his medical records.
He received five deferments during the Viet Nam war, and claimed his own “Vietnam” was avoiding venereal disease. His personal life is less than admirable, including sexist behavior and less than fair treatment of his first of three wives. Americans do not know this person; yet the media have let him use, and abuse it through his wealth and celebrity, to hijack a major American political party. And, unfortunately, the Republican Party is still in denial of what has happened.

We can only hope that the American people (and enough Republicans) will understand what happened to the Party over the last year in the primary contests for the Republican nomination for President. It does not deserve the support of any self-respecting voter, if it permits this hijacking of the nomination by someone who has done to it what he has done.


John H. Langer, JD, Ed.D. Retired Federal agency manger, former professor of education, public school administrator, and writer of a number of articles and publications on education, public affairs, substance abuse and social issues. In writing a book on attention and memory as it relates to education, this blog is helping to focus attention n current issues, and hopefully, add something useful as well.

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