Privately, Mr. Bush’s top strategists, who have become increasingly fixated on halting Mr. Walker, believe that Mr. Trump is nothing short of a godsend. That is because Mr. Trump is drawing support from voters — blue-collar, less-educated, more conservative — who are unlikely ever to support Mr. Bush but are essential to Mr. Walker’s candidacy.
.. But it is unclear what exactly can be done to tarnish Mr. Trump with voters who are drawn to him. His incendiary comments and his personal history have done little to diminish his appeal.
The times are perfect for Donald Trump. He’s an outsider, which appeals to the alienated. He’s confrontational, which appeals to the frustrated. And, in a unique 21st-century wrinkle, he’s a narcissist who thinks he can solve every problem, which appeals to people who in challenging times don’t feel confident in their understanding of their surroundings and who crave leaders who seem to be.
.. Trump’s populism is pretty standard. He appeals to people who, as Walter Lippmann once put it, “feel rather like a deaf spectator in the back row. … He knows he is somehow affected by what is going on. … [But] these public affairs are in no convincing way his affairs. They are for the most part invisible. They are managed, if they are managed at all, at distant centers, from behind the scenes by unnamed powers. … In the cold light of experience, he knows that his sovereignty is a fiction. He reigns in theory, but in fact he does not govern.”
.. But ego is his ideology, and in this he is absolutely consistent. In the Trump mind the world is not divided into right and left. Instead there are winners and losers. Society is led by losers, who scorn and disrespect the people who are actually the winners.
“All of our veterans, particularly P.O.W.s, deserve our respect and admiration,” said Jeb Bush. The Republican National Committee was quick to lay down a similar principle, saying, “There is no place in our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably.”
No place except a presidential campaign, that being the 2004 attempt to destroy the honorable Vietnam service of candidate John Kerry. Where was Bush’s “respect and admiration” when his brother was benefiting from a multimillion-dollar smear of a Navy veteran with a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart?
This is where his true gifts are on display, this form of emotional intelligence and business acumen, the ability to tap into and exploit other people’s emotions, even those whose response to him is revulsion. This is the art and craft of the demagogue.
You have to see Trump’s statement for what it was: A naked attempt at Willie Horton-izing Mexican immigrants, and thereby the exploiting of the image, substantiated or not, of the brown-bodied predator destroying our country and taking the virtue of our women.
It provides language for people to hide their racism and nativism inside the more honorable shell of civility and chivalry. It allows Trump to tap into anger and call it adulation.
Trump knows how to get a rise out of people, and he’s doing it.
But the Republican Party isn’t innocent here. Trump isn’t imposing a poisonous view of Hispanics; he’s voicing it. And he’s voicing it in precisely the blunt and noxious terms that a sizable portion of the party feels it and in which they want to hear it discussed.
.. There is no need for anyone to have one ounce of sympathy for the G.O.P. Its chicken has come home to roost.