The conservative thinking class has made denunciation of Donald Trump—not Obamacare, not marriage redefinition, not Planned Parenthood, not illegal immigration—the litmus test for admission into polite Republican society. So much for the “big tent.” What they always meant is it’s their tent.
The New York Times takes the baton from patsy Erick Erickson and praises Carly Fiorina, failed Hewlett-Packard CEO, failed Senate candidate, for being Republicans’ defensive weapon against the “war on women.”
In a crowded Republican field, Mrs. Fiorina has delivered the most forceful and succinct denunciation of Mr. Trump’s comments, which sent a shudder through a party concerned that it would reinforce perceptions that it was increasingly out of touch with female voters.
Now, many Republicans, preparing to potentially confront Mrs. Clinton in a general election, are looking anew at Mrs. Fiorina, who rose from being a secretary to running the giant technology company HP, as the party’s weapon to counter the perception that it is waging a “war on women.”
“People feel Carly has clearly demonstrated she is a very powerful operator, has a lot of strengths of conviction and is willing to take Hillary—and now even Trump—on very directly,” said Katie Packer Gage, a political strategist who focuses on helping Republicans connect with women.
Of course, if and when she loses the nomination fight, it will just confirm Republicans’ misogyny.
When opportunities to appeal to truth are few, liberals would have us defend against slanders intended to preoccupy all our time and all our listeners’ attention. Even disproven slanders taint you. Voters would have to choose between a candidate who has a vision, however fatally flawed, and a candidate who isn’t racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. “He’s not a bigot” is not why people pull the lever for you. You need to be better than clean. You need to have a vision and a plan. You need to put your offense on the field to score points. A conservative without a will is just a protestor.
There’s an influential set of conservatives who are content to constantly play defense. Years, decades, generations of shaming by liberals has made them the “loyal opposition,” “happy warriors,” etc. Somehow they got it in their heads that it’s better to hold the bursting seams of post-liberal America together than to nuke it like it should have been nuked a long time ago. When the fight heats up, they instinctively move to protect themselves and consolidate their positions. They don’t want to do the fighting it takes to win, because they find the fight beneath them, too low brow for their refined characters. Dignified defeat is their lot forever. They rationalize what liberals do to them, but go ape when someone steps out of rank to change it. It’s political Stockholm Syndrome. They fear the fight itself more than surrender, so they scold their comrades for disrupting the terms of the ceasefire, whatever they are this week, rather than fight alongside them.
On paper, Donald Trump is a terrible candidate. But he talks like a winner, and he’s winning in the polls. His appeal has nothing to do with what he says, but how he says it.
Now an industry has sprung up to take Trump down. It’s not because he’ll lose in the general election. It’s not because he sucks on the issues, which he does. Most establishmentarians don’t think he can keep this up until the Iowa caucuses. If, in the long run, Trump is irrelevant, why are they afraid of him? He threatens the losers’ roost. He just might prove that you can win by fighting, as opposed to winning by surrendering.
Related: “Betas in the big tent.”