By H.B. Elkins
CV&T Guest Columnist
Donald Trump is not going to be the Republican nominee for president. That’s all but certain. But his presence in the GOP primary is certainly making things interesting.
Trump’s entry into the race has energized much of the party’s base of conservative voters, who are tired of the party’s leaders and establishment pandering to liberal interests, especially on the subject of illegal immigration. But to the powers that be, Trump is a nightmare because he is challenging the party’s hierarchy on a matter where the leaders and their constituency are not on the same page.
By and large, conservatives oppose illegal immigration. They want the nation’s borders secured and illegal aliens prosecuted, and if possible, deported. They are tired of seeing jobs taken away from American citizens by illegals who will work for under-the-table payments. They see the national security threat posed by the flood of people who cross the border illegally. They also recognize that there is a process for immigrants to come here legally, and they want that process honored. They cringe at any mention of amnesty for illegal immigrants already in the country.
On the other hand, the party’s establishment and its big donors turn a blind eye to the problem. They don’t mind the influx of cheap labor. If they can get by with paying illegals less than the minimum wage, they’re all for that. They don’t want to lose their existing labor force, so they favor a system by which people already in the country illegally can get to stay.
Donald Trump is challenging their positions and making them uncomfortable. They don’t want to have to defend their support for “comprehensive immigration reform,” which is code for “let the illegals stay.” Therefore, there have been calls for Trump to tone down his rhetoric and an insistence that he not be allowed to participate in any presidential debates, the first of which is scheduled for next month. They point to all the outreach they’ve been trying to do to court the Hispanic vote, and they fear that Trump will undo all their efforts. It’s interesting that one candidate who hasn’t criticized Trump, Ted Cruz, has Hispanic lineage.
No one, other than an illegal alien, should take any offense at what Trump said. He wasn’t addressing those who have immigrated here lawfully, have all proper documentation, and aren’t breaking any laws. The GOP establishment acts so fearful that Trump will chase Hispanics away from the Republican Party. Don’t they listen when those who came here legally and went through the process as prescribed in law express outrage and resentment at those who came illegally?
Because Trump expressed a strong opinion on a subject most politicians from both parties would rather avoid, he’s suffered some business backlash. His response has been a thing of beauty. When NASCAR announced that it would not hold its season-ending awards banquet at a Trump property because of pressure from the sponsor of its truck racing series, Trump rubbed NASCAR’s nose in it. He said that he would simply keep their sizeable deposit for the use of his facility and then rent it out to someone else and make even more money in the process.
Trump isn’t the ideal Republican candidate. While he may be causing headaches for the establishment and delighting the party’s conservative base in the process, there are significant weaknesses in his candidacy. While he’s certainly not on the list of candidates for whom I wouldn’t vote under any circumstance (right now Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham and Chris Christie are the primary occupants of that slate), and he’s not among my favorites (Ted Cruz is head and shoulders above everyone else on that list), I’d certainly have to give strong consideration to him should he survive the primary process.
But that’s not likely. The party hierarchy and the establishment will be gunning for him. They all seem to be gravitating toward Bush, but perhaps this will be the year the Republicans nominate a true conservative after the failures of moderate-to-liberal candidates in the last two presidential elections. If John McCain and Mitt Romney couldn’t win, why should anyone think Jeb Bush can?
In the meantime, it will be fun to sit back and watch Trump make the GOP establishment squirm. It’s time they got the message that the party doesn’t want to be led from the top down, but they want the party’s leaders to reflect the grassroots sentiment. So far, Trump has tapped into that populist sentiment, and the entertainment value is priceless.