Donald Trump presents a real problem for his GOP opponents. Sure, he’s tarnishing the brand. But he’s smart, confident, and tough. He throws elbows. And this goes a long way. If you look and act like you know what you’re doing — if you show no sign of fear or doubt — people tend to believe what you say. (I’m reminded of Matt Damon’s line in 30 Rock: “If you walk briskly in a pilot’s uniform, you can go pretty much anywhere.”)
Conservatives who have grown tired of Republican politicians playing defense can’t help but admire Trump’s moxie. As Mark Halperin recalls, Trump is adhering to an old Bill Clinton adage which says “candidates have a better chance to win over voters by being strong and wrong than by being right and weak.” This is bad news for Republicans, because Trump is both strong and wrong.
He also seems to have nothing to lose — or, at least, he doesn’t fear losing anything. He has no fear of losing his reputation or his political career. He has no shame. This, coupled with his aforementioned qualities, makes him incredibly dangerous. And appealing.
As I’ve long lamented, modern conservatives conflate anger with ideological purity. Donald Trump is a documented liberal on fiscal and social issues, who has donated money to Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton. But because he talks tough about illegals — and because he says mean things about Obama and Hillary — he has become what passes for a solid conservative in the tea party era.
So what should Republicans do about him? I’ve come to the conclusion that they should view this more as an opportunity for a “Sister Souljah” moment than as a problem. It won’t be easy to take Trump down in a debate (for all the reasons described above) but campaigns are about passing tests. Sometimes you’ve got to slay a dragon on the way to the promised land. And frankly, if you can’t take down Trump, maybe you don’t deserve to be the nominee…
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If you’re interested in this topic, I’ve talked a lot about it in the last 24 hours. Here’s a longer discussion I had with Bill Scher on Bloggingheads.TV. And here’s a clip from this morning’s Morning Joe discussion: