Trump, Romney and the Race to the Bottom
On his NPR Show Boston Public Radio this afternoon,[1. Highly recommended, even if you’re not in Boston] Jim Braude opined that if Mitt Romney thinks Donald Trump is a liar and a fraud, as he declared in his address this morning, he should have explained why.
It reminded me of a dictum that comes up frequently in the writing class I’m taking: don’t tell, show. Don’t summarize and editorialize the facts — present them to the reader, and let them come to their own conclusions.
Instead of breaking down the flaws and futility of the GOP’s strategy to stop Donald Trump from winning that party’s nomination, today I want to focus on their specific tactics. The way that they are making their arguments against Trump focuses on telling rather than showing, and that’s not going to work.[2. I remain skeptical that anything will work.]
Trump’s popularity is based in large part on his identity as a non-establishment candidate. He’s an outsider. He scares the party. People who are tired of politics as usual love that.
These same people, the ones who you hope Romney’s words get through to, are not going to value the voice of the establishment making the same substance-less attacks that Trump makes. In a like-for-like comparison, Trump will win.
However, if the GOP begins a detailed truth campaign, they may find more sympathetic ears and a more vulnerable Trump. Initially, a few facts here and there can be dismissed as biased. But a huge volume of facts, a pile of unanswered questions on specific policy proposals can become difficult to ignore. Call me naive, but it just might start to insert a nagging doubt in the minds of some voters (certainly not all).
Rolling out member after member of the GOP Old Guard to try to best Trump at his own game is a losing strategy. Try as he might, Marco Rubio can’t bust Trump’s chops anywhere close to how badly Trump has demolished him. Lindsey Graham can’t cuss with the same charming New York sensibilities as The Donald. Mitt Romney can’t compare a grown man to a petulant child half as effectively as Trump.
The only way to beat Trump is to raise the level of discourse, not race him to the bottom. He’s already there.