Is it possible to have an “anybody but Trump” discussion without mentioning Donald Trump? Probably not, and why would we try? The 2016 presidential nomination rests on more than a dozen political candidates who have, in some way or another, held very distinguishing careers. Some have successfully operating a business. Other candidates have rags-to-riches stories where they built distinguished leadership skills through grit and hard work. However, can any of these characteristics that seem to matter in 2016 be identified without having to contrast their qualifications with Donald Trump?
You may have heard some candidates say that the 2016 election is going to be a “show me, don’t tell me” election. For Donald Trump, his approach to the presidency has successfully offered nearly every other candidate the opportunity to demonstrate what he or she has done all while Trump sets the agenda. Essentially, while Trump talks a big game, other GOP contenders have the chance to show their best.
For starters, Trump once remarked to Wolf Blitzer on CNN that he probably identified more as a Democrat and that the economy probably is much better under Democrats. This is the perfect opportunity for conservatives to lavishly exploit their roots without having to “tell” anybody how conservative they are. If GOP rivals take the initiative to pounce on this, they can show Americans how they have consistently stood up for conservative causes without fault. Perhaps the 15 others in the contest owe Trump a big “thank you” for making it an issue. After all, without Trump everybody would just be a conservative and nobody would care. Thanks to Trump, voters now have every reason to care about how conservative the candidates have been, and we were brought to the point of caring about this as a campaign issue, in a way that appears to our psyche, on our own.
Trump seems to be setting the agenda with his experience as another issue. There is little doubt that Trump has been very successful. For that, many of us should applaud him and give him a big pat on the back; maybe even his own program on a cable news network. However, the experience Trump brings to this race is nothing short of excellent business skills and some catchy one-liners more reminiscent of a conversation with a drunken uncle at some distant cousin’s wedding. Essentially, his talk of policy falls short of actually showing us what he can do about the border, ISIS, and the burdensome social issues on churches and bakers. What he has successfully done is set an agenda about experience. He’s made it easy to figure out for ourselves that real-life governing experience matters. Otherwise, our next president could just be more of the same; another dreamer inexperienced in actually running a government but filled with an ideological goal that will likely only be successful through a progressive political process, littered with executive actions that have been proven to be rejected by the public.
Overall, for those who can say that we don’t need another career politician elected into the White House, I say think again. The problem we may have had for too long is not having a politician running the show who knows how to use politics to accomplish the goals of the nation. While it may be just as likely that Trump is a GOP spoiler, it is up to Republicans to exploit the opportunity and make a clear case about what distinguishes them from him. Other GOP candidates have the chance to step up to the plate and show, not tell, what they have done that trumps any of The Donald’s Monday morning quarterbacking.