Magazine article The Spectator

The Republicans' Trump Slump

Magazine article The Spectator

The Republicans' Trump Slump

Article excerpt

Once the Republicans end their embarrassing summer romance, they're surprisingly well placed to beat Hillary Clinton

Lunatics with money are never 'mad', only eccentric. In America, they are also Republican presidential candidates. So Donald Trump, a barmy billionaire with a mouth bigger than his bank balance is leading the race to be the party's next nominee. It's a sad indictment of the American political process. And it is a distraction from how strong American conservatism could be.

More than a dozen major Republicans are standing. Jeb Bush is notable for his establishment support, Scott Walker for his credentials as a governor who took on the unions, Marco Rubio for his charisma and ethnicity. In such a wide field, however, polling points are spread thin. Trump's on top with only around 18 per cent support -- outpacing more serious candidates largely because people have heard of him.

Trump is famous as a businessman and a TV personality, and for having hair that looks like something which laid down and died on his head. His politics are capricious. He has in the past been an independent, a Democrat, one of Hillary Clinton's donors, a Tea Party maverick and a birther who demanded to see President Obama's birth certificate; now he's an everyman who hates Chinese businessmen and illegal Mexican migrants. He launched his candidacy by saying that Mexico was sending its rapists across the border, and is now involved in a row about whether a man sexually assaulting his wife ought to qualify as rape. Senator John McCain, the former presidential candidate, said that Trump had 'fired up the crazies'. Trump replied that McCain was only considered a war hero because of his time in a Vietnamese prison camp, adding: 'I like people who weren't captured.' Trump has never served in the armed forces.

Donald will probably fade away by the end of summer. Freak candidacies always flare up in the months before the first contests of Iowa and New Hampshire. Fans of American politics may recall that about this time in 2011 everyone was worrying that Congresswoman Michele Bachmann might be a goer. She was the unblinking lady who once said The Lion King was gay propaganda. But she fizzled away as they all do, because Republican voters are far more rational than early poll numbers suggest. Their primary races come down to two candidates: the well-financed establishment moderate and the outsider conservative. The moderate almost always wins easily. True, right-wing messiah Ronald Reagan won the nomination as the conservative, but it took three goes and he was far more centrist than is generally remembered.

This year's sane candidates are already piling in on Trump, condemning his remarks about Mexicans and McCain and demanding that he quit the race. In that same spirit, a few weeks ago the party responded to calls to remove the Confederate battle flag from South Carolina's statehouse grounds with a surprising answer: 'Take it down.' The party that since the 1960s had courted white Southern voters by playing the Dixie card had -- depending on your point of view -- either surrendered to multiculturalism or embraced racial reconciliation. It is significant that the Republican governor of South Carolina is an Indian-American woman and its junior senator is an African-American. …

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