It’s clear now that Donald Trump intends to continue the in-your-face, loose-cannon, make-it-up-as-he-goes kind of campaigning that he believes brought him the Republican presidential nomination in the first place.
No Mr. nice guy; just the hard-nosed practitioner of take no prisoners, nose thumbing, middle finger outrage that has propelled his drive to the White House since the beginning. How does one spell civility? He has no idea.
If you have any doubt it should have been dispelled by his latest campaign shake-up that included turning to far right “bomb throwers” (figuratively speaking) to take over for those who would shift his direction toward a more traditional approach that satisfies the GOP’s establishment to one that suits him much better.
Leading the way will be one of the more irresponsible proponents of the firing squad, Stephen K. Bannon, once a Wall Street denizen turned Che Guevera, who runs something called Breibart News, a website of vitriolic claptrap and absurd allegations in the nastiest fashion. He also worked to oust Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan from Congress in a recent Wisconsin primary. His Trump appointment further strains the relationship with Ryan.
According to The New York Times, some of Bannon’s posts include just the kind of nastiness Trump seems to thrive on. They include charges that President Obama is importing “more hating Muslims,” and calling conservative commentator Bill Kristol a “renegade Jew.” He compared Planned Parenthood’s work to the Holocaust and urged females who complain of online harassment to “log off” and stop “screwing up the Internet for men.”
Way to go Banana (excuse me Bannon). That will drag a lot of women voters back from Hillary Clinton. But what the heck. The candidate himself already has sent women voters scurrying toward Hillary, even those who profess not to like her.
Actually, none of this should come as a surprise. Slipping badly in the polls as the hybrid style of keeping his true believers happy and playing at accepting the moderating influence of mainline Republicans has seemed to fail badly, his response was to fall back on the stock and trade that confounded the primary pundits and turned the GOP on its ear.
If he is aware of the pitfalls of continuing to alienate more and more voters, including those among conservative and middle of the Republican ranks, he doesn’t give much indication. His Cold War, McCarthy-like proposal to impose a stringent vetting process on even legal Muslim immigrants and others sent civil rights shivers through mainstream voters.
Bannon represents the furthest reaches of the Republican fringe and as it has been noted, his appointment comes shortly after Roger Ailes, a longtime conservative political adviser who just left Fox News under a cloud, took on an advisory role with Trump. That gives the GOP candidate an entry into the conservative media, which has been wary of him and links it to the far-right fringe. The question here is whether Trump’s candidacy already has gone too far to be salvaged.
Reasonable, even detailed, substance of any kind has been a missing part of the picture from the beginning. We’ll just build a wall and deport 11 million illegals and so forth without saying how any of these foolish ideas would become reality. He brushes off policy explanations like swiping the dandruff off his shoulders with a flick of the wrist and complete disdain for those who challenge him.
There is no doubt that some of Trump’s popularity among the blue collar and disaffected voters can be traced to the fact he doesn’t look like a politician and his anti-establishment rhetoric doesn’t sound like one either. Those to whom he appeals the most express many of his same views. Whether Bannon and some of the other new hands he has signed can make a difference is anyone’s guess. What isn’t conjecture is Trump’s own determination to remain fiercely anti-establishment.
Dan Thomasson is a former vice president of Scripps Howard Newspapers. Readers may send him email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.