George Will / May 8, 2016

Who Will Follow Trump Off the Cliff?

Speaking on “Fox & Friends,” of course, Trump revealed something he learned from the National Enquirer, of course. Although the Kennedy assassination is one of history’s most minutely studied events, all previous scrutiny missed something the supermarket tabloid discovered for people like Trump — a connection between Ted Cruz’s father and the murder of the 35th president.

Donald Trump: “We’ve got to get rid of the $19 trillion in debt.”

Washington Post: “How long would that take?”

Trump: “I would say over a period of eight years.”

—March 31

Fortune: “You’ve said you plan to pay off the country’s debt in 10 years. How’s that possible?”

Trump: “No, I didn’t say 10 years.”

—April 19

Speaking on “Fox & Friends,” of course, Trump revealed something he learned from the National Enquirer, of course. Although the Kennedy assassination is one of history’s most minutely studied events, all previous scrutiny missed something the supermarket tabloid discovered for people like Trump — a connection between Ted Cruz’s father and the murder of the 35th president. Trump said:

“You know, [Cruz’s] father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being, you know, shot. I mean the whole thing is ridiculous. What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. I mean they don’t even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it. But I think it’s horrible. I think it’s absolutely horrible that a man can go and do that, what he’s saying there.”

Fox host: “Right. There was a picture out there that reportedly shows Rafael Cruz standing with Lee Harvey Oswald … ”

Trump: “I mean what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death, before the shooting? It’s horrible.”

Fox host: “Crazy.”

Parsing Trump sentences is a challenge, but is rewarding because it frequently reveals that he actually has said nothing at all. When silence descends, there lingers in the air only gauzy innuendo. What did Trump really say about “the whole thing” of Oswald?

Looking on the bright side — speaking of challenges — Trump’s nomination might have two salutary effects: It might counteract “The Cult of the Presidency,” as explored in Gene Healy’s 2008 book with that title. And it might reacquaint Republicans with the reality principle — the need to assess and adapt to facts.

Healy analyzes the delusion of “redemption through presidential politics.” The infantilization of America is apparent in the presidency becoming a semi-sacerdotal office, one that conflates spiritual yearnings and magical thinking about wonders performed by executive power. Trump, with his coarse character and fanciful promises, is an antidote to such superstitions.

Now, regarding realities: In 2012, 93 percent of self-described Republicans who voted did so for Mitt Romney. Trump probably cannot receive 80 percent of what probably will be, because of discouragement and revulsion, a smaller Republican turnout. Romney lost 73 percent of the Hispanic vote; Trump is viewed unfavorably by 82 percent of Hispanics and very unfavorably by 62 percent. Trump probably will receive significantly less than Romney’s ruinous 27 percent of this vote. And because of demographic trends and Trump’s motivating policies and insults, Hispanic turnout probably will be significantly larger than in 2012, as the white percentage of the electorate continues to shrink. Romney won just 37 percent of young voters (18-29); Trump is unlikely even to match this.

Although Romney won 53 percent of married women, he received just 44 percent of the total female vote. Today, Trump trails Hillary Clinton among women by 19 points (35 percent to 54 percent), and most women probably do not yet know that he testifies to the excellence of his penis. (“My fingers are long and beautiful, as, has been well-documented, are various other parts of my body.”) Or that his idea of masculinity is to boast about conquests of women “often seemingly very happily married” and that “I have been able to date (screw).” Or that he says “it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”

In receiving, so far, the support of 4.7 percent of America’s eligible voters, Trump has won a mere plurality of votes in a party approved by only 33 percent of the electorate. This electorate had about 5 percent more Democrats than Republicans even before Trump further tarnished the GOP brand. So, Republicans need to carry independents by more than Romney’s five points. Even in states that have voted Republican since 2000, Trump is viewed unfavorably by 62 percent and strongly unfavorably by 52 percent.

His metabolic urge to be scabrous guarantees that Republican candidates everywhere will be badgered by questions about what they think about what he says. What they say will determine how many of them lose with him, and how many deserve to.

© 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

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