Donald Trump is an obnoxious, rude and incorrigible buffoon who is scaring the pants of the Republican party. However, he’s also dead-on with respect to immigration, foreign policy and the reality that the United States is heading towards financial disintegration. He is also the first and loudest candidate to bring these issues to the national spotlight. While his style and personality leave much to be desired by the Republican leadership, he is a centrist who speaks to a broader base in ways that other candidates have not been able to accomplish yet.
The puts the party, as well as a lot of sensitive voters, in an uneasy position. On one hand, Trump’s persona are an embarrassment to the refinements and institution of the party. On the other hand, what he says and the demographic that he appeals to may open the party up to receiving a broader base and expanding its reach. Could Trump be exactly what the party needs to move forward in the 21st century?
This is a question that the leadership needs to start seriously considering because no matter what, Trump is controlling the national conversation.
While the public Trump is hard to take seriously for many different reasons, his business acumen and world-view deserve attention. He is a very smart guy who built a fortune. He is a well-connected individual who has the ear of a laundry list of politicians and world leaders. He has his finger on the pulse of the rapid changes that are occurring politically and economically around the world. In other words, Trump is a guy who Republicans should really want to have in their court.
The question is whether or not the party is ready to accept his shortcomings in order to nominate Trump to be our next President. He is abrasive, showy and not at all diplomatic by any stretch of the imagination. He could turn out to be a national embarrassment and move America backward just as easily as he can be a catalyst for positive change.
The jury is also still out on whether or not he is a serious candidate or simply another guy who wants to get some publicity for a while. Unfortunately, there’s little sign of upward-mobility from the rest of the pack of Republican presidential contenders. So, Trump gets all of the attention, decides the message and forces everyone else to respond to his movements.
It’s not beyond the scope of reason that the 2016 campaign will be an all out slug-fest, especially if Trump does get the nomination and faces Hillary. Trump may be the best guy to keep her at bay simply because he isn’t afraid to mince words and speak his mind. He would most certainly steal voters away from Clinton and bring them into the Republican camp. On the other hand, he can also run as an independent and steal voters from both parties, and it’s unclear what side would benefit the most if that’s how things end up unfolding.
This is why it’s so important for Republicans to treat Trump with respect, even if it comes with a lot of trepidation. The first debate in Cleveland cemented his viability as a candidate despite his comments and demeanor. He is not going away, and his influence will be felt throughout the campaign whether we like it or not.
The Republican Party, despite being on the right side of important issues, is still struggling to grow its base. It needs to reach a wider range of voters, become more inclusive and embrace global social and economic changes that are altering the American landscape. Despite being able to mount a strong defense in Congress against the O’bama White House, the party is not perceived to be in-step with the American people.
Trump is conservative enough to appeal to the right wing while pragmatic and reasonable enough to appeal to right-leaning liberals and moderates. His straight-speaking, take no prisoner attitude has awakened an otherwise silent bloc of voters and caused Republicans a significant degree of discomfort. This discomfort is causing the party to break out of its mold and scramble to shape its message in order to appeal to a growing number of middle-of-the-road Americans.
Trump knows what he’s talking about, and he’s not shy about lambasting fellow Republicans for their role in the tailspin that the United States is currently facing. The best thing that the leadership can do is to suck it up and move forward in a different direction, and with a different message, instead of trying to shoot Trump down.
The “Trump effect” is a reality check that is going to shape the Republican Party whether he gets the nomination or not. It would behoove the leadership to accept this and move forward sooner, rather than later, and maybe we should be thanking the Donald for showing us the light.