To be fair, it’s easy to understand how Donald Trump grew confused.
Traditional Republican political leaders now are mighty exercised about Trump. They say his call for a ban on all Muslims entering America crosses a line.
What The Donald did not realize was how fine that line is – how nuanced the approach must be in attempting to appeal to and benefit from America’s baser impulses.
For example, Trump didn’t realize that while it’s okay to demonize all Syrian refugees as potential terrorists – as more than 30 Republican governors, including Indiana’s own Mike Pence, and most Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives have done – it’s not all right to cast similar suspicions on all Muslims.
Similarly, while it is acceptable to violate the U.S. Constitution by asserting non-existent powers over immigration and foreign policy to ban Syrian refugees as potential terrorists from states – as more than 30 Republican governors, including Pence, have done – it is unacceptable to violate the Constitution to ban Muslims from the United States for identical reasons.
The same goes for labeling all undocumented immigrants from Latin America as drains on the United States and bottomless sources of crime and corruption. That’s perfectly fine. But calling all Mexicans thugs, murderers and rapists – well, that’s beyond the pale.
Trump, you see, doesn’t understand the finer points of ethnic baiting. He doesn’t get that there are ways to stir up bigots that aren’t so … obvious.
But that’s not really why so many Republican elected officials now are so upset with him.
No, the reason they’re issuing loud disavowals of The Donald from every corner of the country is that they’re scared.
They’re scared he’s going to drag them to disaster.
They’re scared he’s going to damage the Republican brand.
They’re scared that Donald J. Trump is going to be the GOP’s nominee for president.
Most independent – and internal Republican – polls show that having Trump serve as the Republican Party’s standard-bearer would be a disaster for the party. The GOP most likely would lose both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House and many of the governors’ races in states where the contests are expected to be close.
Such as Indiana.
Republicans also fear Trump’s rise will damage relationships overseas, particularly with important trade partners. A quiet but increasingly insistent drumbeat of concern from foreign capitals and investors asks the same plaintive questions:
Really? There’s a chance this man could become your president, America? We thought you were a serious nation?
The fact that some foreign investors are growing all a-tremble and weak-kneed about pumping money and resources into a Trump-led America might not create doubt among The Donald’s angry-at-the-world supporters, but it does give the Wall Street crowd who think of the GOP as its pet some reason to pause and reflect.
Fun is fun, but money is money.
When GOP leaders do reflect upon the forces that brought Donald Trump into their lives, they might think about the following:
Republicans and conservatives were eager to indulge Trump’s delusions of gravitas when he was pursuing birther fantasies about President Barack Obama as a way of saying that the commander-in-chief (and many other non-white Americans) couldn’t be really American – in defiance of both fact and basic decency.
They also were more than willing to indulge prejudices about Muslims, Mexicans and other immigrants as little more than human leeches – again, in defiance of both fact and basic decency.
Now those same Republicans and conservatives find themselves with a cataclysm in the making – a wild-card presidential candidate who says in plain speech many of the things they said only in code.
And he’s likely to cost them dearly.
If Donald Trump doesn’t win the nomination, he might run as an independent, dooming the GOP candidate’s chances. Even if he doesn’t, his candidacy has so split the party that it will be all but impossible to bring it back together.
There’s an old saying that comes to mind.
Something about not playing with fire….