Tuesday 16 January 2018

Can Clinton campaign make mud stick to 'Teflon Don'?

Supporters of Hillary Clinton, dressed as Clinton and Trump, at her rally in Miami, March 1, 2016 Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Supporters of Hillary Clinton, dressed as Clinton and Trump, at her rally in Miami, March 1, 2016 Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Niall O'Dowd

When you are endorsed in the same week by David Dukes, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and the rabidly anti-Semitic black preacher Louis Farrakhan, that would surely be enough to destroy your political campaign.

Not so for Donald Trump, who is now the overwhelming favourite to become the Republican nominee for president after his major wins on Tuesday night.

His win created consternation and confusion in Republican ranks with some major figures refusing to support him.

A panicked Republican establishment, which kept waiting for Trump to fail, has now left it too late to stop the Teflon Don and the thundering herd of supporters behind him.

The GOP lobbyists and power brokers in Washington are truly running scared of a potential new era that could see them locked out. However, for years, instead of trying to make power accessible to everyone, they kept the grassroots out and hunkered down in their lucrative lobbying firms and think-tanks.

In the process, they are paying the price for allowing their party to become the redoubt of the rich, never caring what the grassroots wanted. Now the grassroots have struck back.

The field against Trump is quickly winnowing. The remaining main challenger is Ted Cruz, who won Oklahoma and Texas but who is almost as intensely disliked by the GOP establishment. One member of that group stated he regarded picking between Cruz and Trump as a choice between being poisoned or being shot.

After a disappointing Super Tuesday, Marco Rubio will likely drop out in Florida on March 15 as he is unlikely to win his home state. John Kasich and Ben Carson are by now hopeless outsiders.

Despite Tuesday night's major victories for Cruz, it now seems almost impossible for Trump to be caught.

It is even more impressive given the fact that Trump chose last week to refuse to condemn the Ku Klux Klan. Former KKK leader David Duke ordered his radio listeners to enlist for Trump right away after Trump failed to condemn him.

Then Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan praised Trump for refusing donations from Jewish groups.

Farrakhan also called Jews the "Synagogue of Satan", and said Trump "is the only member who has stood in front of the Jewish community and said 'I don't want your money'."

Then there's Trump's dad, Fred, much beloved by his son.

'The Daily News' reported this week that in 1927 Fred was arrested at a Ku Klux Klan riot in Queens, protesting "Roman Catholic policemen" (ie. Irish) having too much power over good native-born Protestants in New York City."

Such KKK associations would be more than enough to bury 99pc of American presidential contenders. Trump, however, seems to be forgiven every excess by his followers.

The exit polls showed the overwhelming desire driving Trump voters, who tend to be white and non-college graduates, is for an outsider to ride in and break the china in Washington DC where political stasis has held for the last decade.

The Republican leadership has been bestowing empty promises on followers for the decade, but was unable to deliver the White House, stop Obamacare, stop same-sex marriage or deliver on a whole host of religious issues. Feeling betrayed, their desire is at fever pitch for Trump, the general on a white horse ala Washington, and has overruled any questions they may have about his Klan links, his attacks on Muslims, Mexicans, his lewd comments on women, his many faux pas on foreign policy, etc.

He is Teflon Don, the man they cannot stop or tag with a label, at least if you are Republican. But the other winner on the night, Hillary Clinton, is the Democratic rock in the road that Trump will have to smash through to get to the White House.

Unlike the GOP, however, the Democrats will not be caught napping by the Trump juggernaut. The 'New York Times' reported on Tuesday the campaign was already in opposition research mode.

What they will mostly need to counter is his utter media dominance. In the same way that Barack Obama owned social media, Trump starts off every day on top of the news thanks to his overnight Twitter feed that makes incendiary charges, accusations and comments.

The media looks at it like manna from heaven, kicking off the day's news cycle, causing immediate reactions and headlines. Twitter is the language of the 2016 race.

Hillary Clinton, however, is one of the few people on Earth as famous as Trump with similar access to the media if she wants it.

Her speeches have also become remarkably better, focusing much more on the personal rather than policy, thanks to Bernie Sanders, who has made her a much better candidate.

The pre-game is almost over and the two candidates who will face off for the presidency have emerged. It will be the mother and father of all political battles.


Irish Independent

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