I’m hearing a cavalcade of Republican operatives and pundits on the cable nets this morning explaining how Trump is basically done, caput, might as well get out of the race now. Hard-charging Rubio flustered him, beat him up, showed that he doesn’t deal in policy details. We all have ways in believing what we want to believe, especially when the alternatives are so bleak. I’m willing to believe that Trump lost some of his support from the part of his coalition which is made of people who thought he was a leading public policy mind. But I’m figuring there weren’t that many of those people. So probably not a problem.
The hits about Trump not being a real conservative were, I think, equally off the mark and actually revealing about how Movement Conservatives and Republican elites don’t fully get what a lot of their voters actually mean by ‘conservative’.
One illuminating dimension was Trump’s series of exchanges with Ted Cruz.
Cruz’s main tactic, long before the presidential race, has been to find the right-most part of whatever debate he’s working and then grab a space two or three notches to the right.
How this played out with Trump was highly revealing. Trump is talking about deporting 11 million people in about a year, breaking up families which include some citizens and some non-citizens. Done at this pace and scale this may amount to a war crime. But that’s what he’s proposing. Like everyone else he also says he’ll get rid of Obamacare.
For most base Republican voters, that makes you pretty hardcore, pretty conservative – especially when you throw in the Trump Taj MaWall. If you’ll notice, though, Cruz was reduced to saying that while Trump would deport 11 million people he’d also eventually let some of the “good people” among the deportees reapply to enter the country legally. Cruz would ban these people forever.
On Obamacare, Cruz said, sure Trump would get rid of Obamacare but he also wouldn’t let people “die in the streets,” whatever that means. Cruz would get rid of Obamacare and also let people “die in the streets.”
Like much of the debate this was just so much sound and fury, focusing on things that Trump’s supporters already clearly don’t care about or making distinctions about what constitutes a ‘real conservative’ that are laughable in themselves. As I said earlier, pundits who think Cruz and Rubio roughed Trump up last night simply don’t get the nature of his appeal.