Friday, November 27, 2015


Molly Ball of The Atlantic has seen Donald Trump's supporters up close and has concluded that they're not going to change their minds:
Four months into his crazed foray into presidential politics, Trump is still winning this thing.... The recent terrorist attacks in Paris, which some hoped would expose Trump’s shallowness, have instead strengthened him by intensifying people’s anger and fear....

Some observers still think Trump’s support might be soft. Trump has dipped in the polls a couple of times, after a listless debate performance, for example. Perhaps the people who first glommed on to his celebrity got bored and drifted away. But if so, they didn’t find anybody else they liked. And they came back. And now, they are not leaving.

“I have got my mind made up, pretty much so,” says Michael Barnhill, a 67-year-old factory supervisor with a leathery complexion and yellow teeth. “The fact is, politicians have not done anything for our country in a lot of years.”

These people are not confused. They are sticking with Trump, the only candidate who gets it, who is man enough to show the enemy who’s boss....

“I look at the pictures of those refugees and they all look like able-bodied young men, 18 to 30 years old,” says ... Patrice Matthews, a 62-year-old retired school-district worker....

I hear versions of the point about able-bodied young men from five different people. I hear, over and over again, that illegal immigration is the biggest problem we face....
And of course Republican voters respond to Trump -- as Josh Marshall notes, he's just saying on the campaign trail what conservatives have been saying to one another for year:
It's not too much to say that there's nothing Trump has said in recent weeks that you couldn't hear any given Monday on the Rush Limbaugh Show, from various backbench House conservatives or a million other places in conservative media. If you pay attention to any of these three fronts, you know this. These are the same themes, enemies, and swear lines that have run right at the water line of conservative politics for years.
So what could beat Trump? David Frum argues that Trump should be attacked as an immigration flip-flopper:
... if you want to take down Trump, there is only one line of attack that will work....

Right now, construction crews are at work completing the new Trump hotel in Washington D.C.’s Old Post Office. In July, a reporter for the Post interviewed 15 of those workers.
[M]any of them had crossed the U.S-Mexico border illegally before they eventually settled in the Washington region to build new lives.

Several of the men, who hail mostly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, have earned U.S. citizenship or legal status through immigration programs targeting Central Americans fleeing civil wars or natural disasters. Others quietly acknowledged that they remain in the country illegally.
A spokesman for the Trump organization noted that construction workers on the site were employed not by Trump himself, but by subcontractors. That answer may constitute a valid legal defense -- but it’s no defense at all for attack ad purposes.
So Trump is a hypocrite -- but this has already been reported and it hasn't hurt him. Why might it hurt him eventually? Frum thinks it's because he came late to this issue, and could be portrayed as someone who might change his mind again:
Until he read Ann Coulter’s book this spring, Trump seemed to have been a perfectly conventional business Republican on immigration. In a 2012 interview, in fact, he blamed Romney’s loss on taking a too-tough line on the issue:
...“He had a crazy policy of self deportation which was maniacal,” Trump says. “It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote,” Trump notes. “He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.” ...
If Trump said those things in one interview, recorded only in print, it’s likely he said them in others, recorded in video and audio, the raw material of the attack ad.
I don't buy it. Trump supporters desperately want to believe. They know that in the past he's been pro-choice. He's been pro-single payer. He's been pro-Clinton. They don't care. Ronald Reagan was once a Democrat. David Horowitz was once a leftist. They want to believe in conversions.

But those undocumented workers on Trump's job site could provide a means to attack Trump -- if Trump opponents are willing to be extremely amoral even by the usual standards of attack politics.

What might give Trump voters pause is news that an undocumented Trump construction worker committed a violent crime. That's the primal fear of all anti-immigrant right-wingers: a fear that all or most of the undocumented are untraceable, uncontrollable, feral criminal sociopaths. (Trump on Mexico in his announcement speech: "They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.")

Is it likely that a Trump construction worker is going to commit a violent crime? Statistics show that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the native born, so the answer is no.

Which is where the amorality of political operatives would have to come in.

If GOP Establishmentarians could cruelly and cynically persuade someone in local law enforcement to charge an undocumented Trump worker with an unsolved violent crime, and if they could sustain a cover-up of the worker's innocence, this could become a multi-day story and might genuinely hurt Trump. It would no longer be enough for him just to bellow that you should ignore his past statements on immigration and pay attention to the new ones, because now he'd be pressured to answer for an indefensible deed.

Arresting an innocent man would be an awful thing to do, of course, though it would hardly be the first time a law enforcement agency acted with this degree of moral bankruptcy.

The point is, it might work.

Or maybe Trump would successfully shift the blame to the nominal employer of his construction workers and emerge unscathed.
But trust me, the only chance the GOP Establishment has of beating Trump is by offering real evidence, phony or otherwise, that he's part of the problem. The Establishment will have to out-Trump Trump.


Victor said...

"If GOP Establishmentarians could cruelly and cynically persuade someone in local law enforcement to charge an undocumented Trump worker with an unsolved violent crime, and if they could sustain a cover-up of the worker's innocence, this could become a multi-day story and might genuinely hurt Trump. "

Yes, that's certainly possible.
But first, you'd have to get them to stop hassling, arresting, and/or shooting "the blacks (as Trump puts it)."

If the consequences weren't so serious, the GOP vs. Trump could be even more entertaining than Mothra v. Godzilla!

CWolf said...

This is a job for Gordon Liddy.

Yastreblyansky said...

Much more likely, as we learn from today's Times, that an undocumented worker on a Trump building site will be killed in an industrial accident and we'll just never hear about it at all.

Unknown said...

I'm with Yas.

On a different tack, I do wonder if Trump supporters will actually turn out as 'faithful' as they claim. I recall hearing something like this in the last presidential cycle, when Herman Cain was up: not THIS up, true, but he trended up & led for a number of weeks.

We all know about the relative advantage each party has in the battle to GOTV. In 2012, the % of Ds who voted dropped 4.2 compared to 2008, whereas only 1.2% less Rs voted than in 2008. What saved Obama's reelection was the Ds advantage in sheer numbers of registered voters; what kept it close was the relative advantage in % of registered Rs turning out to vote (Assuming verified trends in deaths and new voters, the Ds advantage in sheer numbers should increase by another half million for 2016.).

Is it possible something LIKE that exists WITHIN the GOP being polled? The GOP advantage in rate of turnout got upwards of 15% in 1984, but was negligible in 2008 and around 7% 2012. Are the folks who've been telling pollsters NOW that they'll vote Trump in their state's primary representative of a group that will track the overall R rate, or more, or less? If it's more, will Trump still be facing 3 serious rivals by the late primaries, or 2, or 1?

Point being: there's still a ton of variables in this exercise, quite apart from resorting to envisioning shenanigans.

Second point: the chance of such an scheme as Steve M. envisions going undetected seems to be fairly low, and neither of the Cubans is thinking this'll be their last rodeo - but it sure would be if one of them were somehow rationally connected to something this shenaninganny.

Tom Hilton said...

Can't recall the source, but I was reading yesterday that some (Luntz-led?) focus group of Trump reporters found there was literally nothing that could sour them on him. There is no anti-Trump message that can get through to them. So I don't see this or anything else working, unless anti-Trump forces can coalesce around a single candidate and start winning primaries.