Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Why More Members of the Republican Establishment Aren't Attacking Trump

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Why More Members of the Republican Establishment Aren't Attacking Trump

Article excerpt

If Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee for president, blame Ronald Reagan.

Or at least, blame Establishment Republicans - i.e. the people who control the party system, the fundraising, and, once upon a time, the elections. They're the ones dutifully following Reagan's Eleventh Commandment: "'Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican."

Until last week, when Trump and Ted Cruz started negative ads in Iowa, not one major party figure, including the candidates, had stepped forward to say, in effect, that the emperor has no clothes. That means not just tit-for-tat name-calling but sustained, effective arguments -- in paid advertising as well as at the debates -- to counter some of the positions Trump has staked out.

I should note that I'm neither a supporter nor detractor of Donald Trump. I am, however, opposed to any candidate becoming political road kill simply because he or she was afraid of offending the supporters of a political juggernaut.

Lessons from Minnesota's past

I've had my own experiences with both sides of the conundrum Republican officials now face. In 1998, as communications director of the Norm Coleman campaign for governor, I fumed when Coleman refused to engage candidate Jesse Ventura directly, even when, in debates, Ventura would admit his ignorance of government.

Though Ventura wasn't a Republican, the leaders of the Coleman campaign -- including some well-paid consultants and pollsters -- insisted that taking down the wrestler would alienate the affections of his supporters who, they believed, would return to the GOP fold on voting day.

But allowing Ventura to control the microphone only reinforced his message that Coleman and Hubert Humphrey were career politicians with no real sense of the everyday citizen. Coleman lost to Ventura by three percentage points -- 56,363 votes -- and I remain convinced that had he challenged Ventura the outcome would have been different.

It was a lesson I had learned four years earlier. In 1994, Gov. Arne Carlson, who had been denied the endorsement of his own Republican party, faced Alan Quist in a primary. …

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