Thursday night millions of potential voters tuned in for the first Republican primary debate. While viewers scrambled to their televisions with their popcorn, the top 10 candidates had all the time in the world to hone in on why they deserve to be President of the United States. It came as no surprise that the single largest ratings grabber of the night was Donald Trump; whose candidacy has brought significant controversy to the GOP nomination field. However, before the popcorn was fully popped, the pizzas were delivered, and the fizz had settled in the soft drinks, Mr. Trump was already blowing his nomination to the party.
The first question of the night set the tone for the entire debate. Fox News anchor Bret Baier asked the candidates if there is anyone unwilling to pledge support to the nominee of the Republican Party and not run an independent campaign. You could hear a pin drop as the crowd gasped anxiously for a response from the field of nominees. Without any apparent hesitation a cavalier hand rose from the center of the stage. The not so unexpected response from Donald Trump that signaled he would consider running as a third-party in the general election.
Aside from the responsibilities to the people of the country, the president also has a responsibility to the party. The position all candidates are seeking is a partisan role where loyalty to the party distinctly identifies how one intends to govern. By indicating he has no loyalty to the party, Trump leaves many to question if his candidacy is legitimately in the interest of the Republican Party or if he just wants the party name as a stamp of approval to brand his own sort of Trumpism. If nothing else that Trump has said or done in his life or during this nomination cycle disqualifies him, then this should. There is little doubt he is obviously seeking his own glory, built upon his own agenda, rather than falling in line with the party platform and supporting whoever the party nominates.
But what if he does make a third-party run? Most certainly a third-party run would guarantee a victory for the Democrats in 2016. Trump stated “I am discussing it with everybody, but I’m, you know, talking about a lot of leverage.” This begs the question of what sort of leverage he has and how he intends to use it. After all, leverage is not the sort of thing that wins elections, leverage wins in negotiation. The question we should really be asking about Donald Trump is if he is running for the Republican nomination or if he is holding it hostage.
To make matters worse for Trump, his lack of political decorum highlights his weakness as a candidate for the presidency. During the debate he took every initiative to sensationalize his performance with quick jabs at celebrities. Challenges arose over his comments where he referred to women as “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.” Without hesitation he clarified that such remarks were directed entirely toward Rosie O’Donnell. The problem for Trump is that in a world of identity politics, millions of voting women identify with O’Donnell. Such disparaging remarks only seek to further alienate a party struggling for the female vote. On the other hand, even though his abrasive nature seems to alienate many potential voters, he did appear to strike a chord with the audience in regards to being politically correct. Trump demonstrated something that the party needs moving into the general election; guts.
Further analysis of Trump’s character and ability to rationalize as commander-in-chief were called into question with his insinuations toward the Mexican government. Trump laid the claim that the Mexico is sending “the bad ones over because they don’t want to pay for them. They don’t want to take care of them.” Such remarks come on the heels of multiple attempts by GOP leaders to soften their stance with Hispanic voters. With candidates such as Governor Perry who has built a strong campaign message on improved graduation rates for African-Americans and Hispanics, the comments by Trump appear to send a message to minorities that they are not wanted in Mexico nor are they wanted in the United States.
But Trump didn’t stop there. If his comments were not bad enough, when confronted by what such intelligence he had regarding such a malicious plan from Mexican leaders, his response was entirely fallacious and filled with nothing more than hearsay that he received from border patrol agents. Just as Trump stated that he doesn’t have time to be politically correct, he obviously doesn’t have time to be correct politically either. Especially in terms of international relations and his dubious claims directed toward the Mexican government.
In a final assessment, what Trump is hoping to accomplish with his candidacy is questionable. Presently Trump is holding a gun to the head of the Republican Party. By refusing to pledge an allegiance to the party he leaves open the possibility that if he doesn’t get what he wants, the rest of the party will suffer. There is little doubt that Trump is exactly what the Republican Party doesn’t want to be. Trump represents a party with a loud mouth and no sense of what the GOP needs. However, what Trump does do for the party, is bring stark contrast to other candidates who are able to draw from the broad assumptions that many people already have about Republicans. Trump is effectively bringing to the party a new branding for Republicans, a sense of compassionate conservatism that was lost in the last few years of the George W. Bush Administration. When all is said and done, by rejecting Trump the Republican Party has the opportunity to reemerge after nearly a decade of bad press as strong and trustworthy; but more importantly sensitive to the identity of women and minorities.