What’s the deal with Trump?

Published 10:51 am Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Over the past few months, I — and many other Republicans — have struggled to understand Donald Trump’s rise to the top of the Republican presidential field.

More important, we have struggled to figure out how to respond to Trump and assess the challenge he brings to our party and to the political process in general.

When Trump launched his campaign, few political observers thought he was a serious presidential contender, but since then he has built up a commanding lead, according to recent polls. Can this trend continue? Time will tell, but one thing is for certain: Donald Trump has hit a nerve in the GOP.


Trump’s rise to the top of the GOP presidential sweepstakes is a result of many things.

First, Trump is obviously well-know from his past adventures in business and entertainment. He is a celebrity and an entertaining personality in a Republican field that otherwise lacks a clear front-runner or another charismatic candidate.

Second, and perhaps more important, Trump has tapped into the anger that drives many voters in the Republican base — anger that is quite understandable given their concern, indeed fear, about the current condition and direction of our country.

They are attracted to Trump because he candidly says what they are thinking — America is in trouble, and if we don’t have a dramatic change in direction, the America that dominated the 20th century could become an afterthought in the 21st century. They want, as Trump has championed, to make America great again.

And Trump is consciously speaking to the issues these Republican-base voters care about — illegal immigration; the growth of influence of China in the world’s economy; the impact that uncontrolled federal spending, debt and entitlements are having on our nation’s finances; and the need to restore the strength and capabilities of the American military in a world that grows more dangerous every day.


Although Trump is not a politician in the traditional sense, he has shown tremendous political savvy and has, to date, totally out maneuvered every other Republican candidate by a wide margin.

But now that Trump has emerged as a serious presidential contender, we must ask an important question: What would a Trump presidency look like? It’s hard to tell, but when you carefully consider this question several concerns quickly come to mind.

First, does Trump really believe what he has been saying?

Frankly, many of Trump’s recent statements and positions are the polar opposite of positions he has taken in the past. Prior to his entrance into the presidential campaign, many people thought Trump was a Democrat. In fact, Trump had described himself as a Democrat. So what does Donald Trump really believe in? I’m not sure anyone knows the answer to that question, and that’s a problem.

Second, how realistic or advisable are the positions Trump is advocating?

Trump’s rise to the top of the GOP field began with his strongly stated position on illegal immigration. Among other things, Trump promised to “humanely” round up and deport the 10 million to 15 million illegal immigrants who are already in our country. Does anyone really think that is realistic? And by the way, that’s a position that the patriarch of the modern conservative movement, Ronald Reagan, adamantly rejected.

Likewise, Trump recently released an economic policy that called for raising taxes on the rich. Do any Republicans, who supposedly believe in lower taxes, think that is advisable? And come to think of it, taxing the rich sounds an awful lot like what President Obama has championed for the past eight years.

Third, does anyone really think that Trump’s bombastic, brash and often offensive approach to politics and policy is becoming to someone who wants to be president of the United States?

The truth is that Donald Trump has gained support by appealing to the baser instincts of his supporters rather than by calling our nation and our people to a better place and a higher standard.


While many voters in the Republican base may like Trump’s brash style and demeanor, it totally turns off most other Americans, who would probably never support him for president if they had another, more viable, choice.

And on the world stage, Trump’s in-your-face attitude could truly be dangerous. Trump might find it effective to denigrate his opponents or reporters who challenge him, but try that with Vladimir Putin, the Chinese or the North Koreans and it could have catastrophic results.

Could Donald Trump win a Republican primary in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina in a crowded GOP field? Of course he could. But can he build the larger and more diverse coalition that is required to win the Republican nomination and the ensuing general election? I seriously doubt it.

So what’s the Republican Party to do with Donald Trump?

How do we try and restore some sense of sanity to the political process that results in the nomination of a more credible candidate who can win and then govern our country effectively and responsibly?

These are the questions Republicans must answer over the months to come. The answers won’t come easily, and they are embedded with minefields at every turn. Ultimately, we will just have to trust the common sense of the voters and hope that sanity prevails.

Bill Bolling is a former lieutenant governor of Virginia. He can be reached at bill.bolling@billbolling.com.