Trump: A Joker in the GOP’s Presidential Deck

English: Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in...
English: Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Some people,” as Barry Switzer famously declared (rather oddly for a football coach),  “are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” And then there’s Donald Trump.

Inheriting a $250 million fortune built by his father on government loans and housing contracts, Trump fell close to the family’s corporate welfare tree. He now claims a net worth in the billions and cultivates the myth that he is a “self-made man.”

His version of the story doesn’t mention the government subsidies, the “too big to fail” debt (continually restructured by bankers who feared going down with him if he defaulted) or the multiple business bankruptcies.

So there stands The Donald on third base, hamming it up for the cameras and periodically awarding himself MVP trophies. Home plate, he’s now decided, is the White House.

I have to hand it to the guy. Anyone who can go bust four times running casinos — casinos, for the love of Pete! — then suggest, with a straight face, that he’s the man to bring fiscal responsibility and business acumen to Washington, deserves credit for sheer chutzpah.

Perhaps his descent into xenophobic rant is an attempt distract attention from the weak “self-made man” narrative. Or maybe he’s a Democratic mole. Either way, he’s bad news for Republican prospects in 2016 and beyond.

Trump’s claim that a disproportionate percentage of Mexican immigrants are “criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.” seems custom crafted to cost the Republican ticket double digit vote percentages.

The first problem with his assertion is that it’s flatly false.  As syndicated columnist Steve Chapman points out in Reason magazine, Mexican immigrant populations in the US correlate to lower, not higher, violent crime rates.  “If Trump wants to avoid rapists, here’s some advice: Head for areas with lots of residents who were born in Mexico.”

The second problem is that he’s throwing a bomb, fuse lit and hissing, into the GOP’s attempt to solve its voter demographic problem. White males (the party’s “base”) are a shrinking proportion of the electorate. Hispanic voters, on the other hand, are growing in number.

Smart Republicans understand this. At least three candidates  — Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush — hope to move in at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on the strength of significant Hispanic support.

There’s a tightrope between the GOP’s opportunistic devolution into Know-Nothingism since the days of Reagan and George HW Bush (who competed in 1980 for the title of “most open borders candidate”) and an appeal to immigrant voters and their families.

And there’s Trump, doing unicycle stunts on the tightrope, jostling the other performers’ elbows, forcing the PR choice between supporting him, slamming him or trying to ignore him. It’s a long way down and the ground below is very hard. Choose carefully.

The Republican Party has two possible political futures: In one,  it gets libertarian on immigration. In the other it gives up its hopes for the White House not just in 2016, but for the foreseeable future.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.




  • “In one, it gets libertarian on immigration. In the other it gives up its hopes for the White House

    So you assume Joe and Jill Sixpack share the “libertarian” stance on immigration? I don’t think they do, at least most of them. Nor do I.

    As for the Hispanic population, I’ve been under the impression most of them want the borders controlled, too, although I’m sure Trump’s comments might have pissed many of them off, immigration issues aside.

    • Fred,

      I don’t assume that Joe and Jill Sixpack share the libertarian stance on immigration.

      I assume:

      1) That Joe and Jill Sixpack are a shrinking portion of the electorate;

      2) That Jose and Juanita Seicito are a growing portion of the electorate;

      3) That calling Jose and Juanita and their parents, siblings, cousins and friends a bunch of criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc. is not likely to make them want to vote for you; and

      4) That calling Jose and Juanita and their parents, cousins and friends a bunch of criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc. is the only way to convince Joe and Jill Sixpack to support the fucking stupid idea that spending insane amounts of money unsuccessfully attempting to regulate travel across gang turf lines makes any economic or moral sense whatsoever.

      The only way to sustain the idiotic policy is to make the false and insulting claims, which in turns means not getting elected. Drop the claims, and your only real choice is to get more libertarian on the policy.

      • Understood. Comments such as Trump made are not a way to win friends and influence most people, even Hispanics who want the border controlled.

        Years ago, I heard time and again, that Mexican immigrants were against illegal immigration. The one Mexican gal I spoke briefly to about it wasn’t a zealot- she immigrated legally over 25 years ago- but I could tell she didn’t approve of pretty much all the employees at a local pub that she said were illegal.

        Since then, I’ve been getting the impression from the mainstream media that most of them already here either want the borders open, or at best are indifferent. I have no idea if that’s true but, seems to me, those that jumped through the hoops to get here legally, wouldn’t look kindly on those that sneak in.

        • Most of those who “jumped through the hoops legally” are getting pretty old, given that the hoops have been pretty much un-jumpable for many years now.

          My understanding is that IF you have a “sponsor” who is already a US citizen or permanent resident or IF you win one of a very limited number of lottery drawings, and IF you have four or five figures to spend, and IF you’ve never received so much as a speeding ticket, you MIGHT be able to jump through the hoops … in 10-15 years.

          If, on the other hand, you’re some poor schmoe just looking to eke out a better living picking lettuce, plucking chickens, washing dishes or mowing lawns in the US, your only option is to sneak across the border and try not to get caught.

          On a practical level, I kind of wish it WAS possible to “secure the border.” The economic crash that would ensue would have every grocery shopper and home buyer who pisses and moans about “them Mexicans” now howling like hell to disband the US Border Patrol within months.

          • I’m not an open borders guy, but don’t at all consider myself an immigrant basher. I do want immigration controlled and actually limited, at least from the south.

            Call it racist, but I’m not sure it’s good for the country to have so many of them coming in here if for no other reason than, eventually, they end up voting. And when they do vote, they don’t seem to vote in favor of liberty.

            Plus, I can’t help but think they do the same thing to the country- at least if unrestricted- that the big city folks do to where I live. People don’t like living in San Francisco so move way up north. Except they bring the same big government mentality up here they had when they lived down south.

            Same goes with Mexico. They come up here not just for work, but to escape their corrupt country. They bring the same mentality that made their corrupt country to us. Not that they realize they helped create the problem they’re escaping.

            It’s like when I worked in a juvenile correction facility. A Mexican guy brought his son way up north to “get away from the gangs”, he told me. He didn’t realize his son WAS the gang. When he got out of juvenile hall, he formed a gang and was arrested for a drive by shooting at a local mall here- pretty much unheard of before then. I’m not saying immigrants are all potential criminals. I’m just saying they bring their political baggage with them.

          • Fred,

            A government big enough to, and inclined to, “control and actually limit immigration” is a government big enough to, and inclined to, require you to keep a 4-inch drainage area around your flower beds, monitor who climbs into your bed every night, and pop you in the can if it catches you with a joint.

            Actually, a government big enough to, and inclined to, “control and actually limit immigration” would have to be a lot bigger than that. I once calculated that if every man and woman in all the US armed forces, as well as every man and woman in all US police departments, was put specifically and entirely on “border control” and nothing else, with two people per border security post, there would still be 3-5 miles between every border security post. Which means that the border would be about as porous as it is now.

          • True that.

  • JdL

    Yeah, but at least he’s not Jeb “Yet Another” Bush, or Horrible Hillary, and he injects some levity into a circus that takes itself waay too seriously, given that whatever promises the winning candidate makes are discarded the moment he/she takes office.

    Nicely written column, BTW.

    • Thanks, JdL — yes, I agree, Trump is fun. Just to be clear here, I don’t think it’s a bad thing that he’s torpedoing the rest of the GOP field. I hope someone else shows up to make the Democrat nomination into a freak show, too!

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