Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) sounds like he wants a repeat shot at inexplicable frontrunner Donald Trump in tonight's GOP presidential debate.
While the paid ad he intends to run during it does not mention the Donald by name, it does stress Paul's cred as the "real conservative."
What this means is he's the guy for cutting taxes and spending, term limits, a flat tax, and making Congress read the bills they vote on. He also says, though the ads do not, that Trump is definitely a "fake conservative" and that might be a good thing to bring up tonight.
The Club for Growth, meanwhile, a leading GOP-oriented pressure group for fiscal conservatism is also reported to be aiming at Trump, with:
two 30-second ads detailing his less-than-conservative record. The Club writes on their website: "Trump is the worst Republican candidate on economic issues—plain and simple. In fact, short of Bernie Sanders, he may be the most liberal candidate in the whole field on fiscal policy."
One of the ads goes through his longstanding history as a Democrat and friend of the Clintons who supported higher taxes, corporate bailouts, and a national health care system. It serves a reminder to voters about Trump's recent and conveniently timed embrace of a vaguely defined conservatism, driven primarily by his nationalistic fearmongering about immigration.
Matt Welch reported here at Reason last week on a plethora of conservative intellectual and sort-of intellectual anti-Trumpism.
Understandably, those attached to a certain vision of limited government and who believed the GOP was their rightful vehicle, are disturbed by mighty unhinged political id of Trump, dedicated, and selling very well indeed, to little but vauntings about greatness and winning and the idea that he's the guy to bring them to us. It's not the kind of political message the historically conscious are very comfortable with.
The problem is, the GOP grew to think that what their audience wanted was true conservatism. Big parts of their audience might have even thought so. Trump is making it seem that's not true at all, at all. He didn't get where he is being any kind of conservative, or even claiming to be one.
Unless, that is, all that conservatism ever meant was a desire to have fewer immigrants in the country and a larger military.
As Nick Gillespie discussed yesterday in a post on Trump as pick-up artist, something more primal is going on with Trump's appeal, something that we (fortunately) haven't had a lot of occasion to have to think about in contemporary American politics.
While taking the Trump route was a path laying there for anyone bold and wealthy enough to walk it, for the most part American politicians in the modern era tried to play politics as a relatively respectable game, one tied to a set of ideas about what government should do, how it should do it, and whose interests it should respect; one that is also weighed down by questions of culture and group identity that cross our two parties in ways not necessarily logical but that we all have come to understand.
Trump recognized a market demand for a style of politics that the normal political candidate never felt emboldened enough to pursue: one with little ideological coherence (or even partisan coherence, a subtly different matter) and running on personal bluster and glamour, even if it's a glamour that most people who write about politics (me certainly included) don't feel we have a great grasp on. Trump's appeal just doesn't make sense to lots of political types.
But as a human type, it should. Trump is cooler than you, poindexter, more sure of himself, more confident, doesn't need you though it's OK if you wanna join the team, and you can make your little political points about conservatism and the size of government and political ideas and all that, but, c'mon man.
Rick Wilson at Politico thinks the others in the debate can score by striking back at Trump with mockery and condescension. It's certainly a better idea, for the reasons above, then trying to convince viewers he's not a "real conservative." But those who remember the schoolyard might realize that there are communication strategies certain personalities can get away with that lessers cannot, and on the levels Trump works at, I don't think any of his opponents can best him even if they try.
You're just a loser, Trump can and will respond, whether or not in so many words. I'm a winner. I'm great. Let's talk about greatness and winning, and I'll snidely bat you aside, often with (as Gillespie explained yesterday) the appearance of an offhand compliment. It shows that I can afford to care less about you. But you, you gotta care about me. I'm Trump. And I'm the frontrunner. Conserve that, loser. But hey, I love my conservative friends, they've done a lot of great things….but I'm Trump!