Over the weekend, we’ve seen a growing consensus that Donald Trump has finally done it: gone too far and killed his rising campaign for the Republican nomination. Ezra Klein and Nate Silver argue that Trump has finally picked a fight he cannot win for a very simple reason: So far Trump has built himself up by attacking “elites” and institutions base Republicans don’t trust and feel grievances against. But now he’s picked Fox News, which polls show and as Ezra and Nate note, Republicans trust in very high numbers. He can’t win a battle over fairness with an institution base Republicans trust more than anyone else.
I don’t agree. This is all too literal.
I should preface everything I say here: I could totally be wrong. I think there’s a decent chance I am wrong. And with his day two “blood” escalation, I do wonder whether he’s finally induced a critical mass of disgust and vulgarity sufficient to sink him. But again, I don’t think so.
Conservatives trust Fox News over and against other media organizations. It’s still an elite institution run by people in and of New York City. I don’t think it wins points against attacking a man, who is presenting himself as a conservative, for making demeaning remarks against women. He called Rosie O’Donnell fat and ugly and the crowd at the GOP debate loved it.
In response to Chuck Todd’s question “Do you want to apologize?” this morning, Trump said, “What I said was totally appropriate. There was nothing wrong. Only a deviant, and I literally mean that, only a deviant would think anything other than that.”
In this, as in virtually everything else that has happened over recent weeks, Trump has has boiled down to its essence the mantra of Republican politics for a generation: Never apologize. Always attack. I think everything we are seeing here in response – what the Times calls an emerging “consensus” in “Republican circles” – is a conversation among the east coast pundit class, whether that’s Ezra Klein or Megyn Kelly or Nate Silver – the cultural commonalities are greater than the ideological divide.
I’ve never thought Trump would be the nominee. But base Republican politics is about the appeal of rule breaking and grievance. I don’t think Trump will lose playing to those.