Paul Sancya/AP
Republican presidential candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and businessman Donald Trump argue during a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit.

Seeking the Trump Thumper: GOP Debate XI

Steve Russell

The Republican presidential primary is not immune from the populism that is sparking Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side. On the GOP side, though, it’s an Old South kind of populism, with strains of racism and anti-intellectualism.

The candidate who last represented the nativist, racist, chauvinistic brand of populism was Patrick J. Buchanan, former speechwriter for Richard Nixon. Buchanan is a paleo-conservative who challenged mainstream Republican Bob Dole for the presidential nomination in 1996. He came very close in Iowa and then beat Dole in New Hampshire, Alaska, Missouri and Louisiana. Dole waxed him on Super Tuesday, and that put the racist monster born in Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy” to sleep for awhile.

Donald Trump has awakened the racism and combined it with the economic populism of Sanders. Jeb! Bush was supposed to play the part of Dole, but the voters were having none of it.

Now Trump retains a commanding lead in polls after violating every rule known to politics in the name of dissing PC, which he calls “political correctness” but some of us would call “plain courtesy” when mocking a disabled reporter, attributing another reporter’s tough questions to her menstrual cycle, calling undocumented workers “rapists,” suggesting a POW is a “loser” rather than a hero—the list goes on.

The other candidates have been playing Alphonse and Gaston to get somebody else to attack Trump. Around Super Tuesday, the field seemed to finally rouse itself. Marco Rubio’s debuted a stump speech full of snarky one-liners. Ted Cruz turned his fire from Rubio to Trump.

After Super Tuesday, Dr. Ben Carson announced he could count and there was no plausible path for him to win. While he has not suspended his campaign in name, he has in practice and he skipped last night’s debate.

The day of the debate, the GOP brought out the big gun, Willard Mitt Romney, to hurl insults at Trump who (Trump was quick to point out) had endorsed Romney in his last race. (After, Trump retorted, Romney begged him to do so.)

What does Mitt think of The Donald now?

“Trump’s promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.”

That’s cold.

The new dynamic is between Rubio and Cruz for the title of not-Trump, which means they cannot piss off each other’s supporters. John Kasich has not joined the mud-fest yet, and the other two not-Trumps need his supporters as well.

Romney suggested a strategic vote against Trump. He endorsed nobody for not-Trump, opening a not-Trump scenario that involves a deadlocked convention, delegates released from their first ballot duty to “their” candidate, and a floor fight that turns to a consensus outsider… whose name could be Romney?

This debate was also the first public meeting between Trump and Megyn Kelly of Fox News since Trump dismissed her queries because there was “blood coming out of her whatever.”  Kelly took the professional high road.  We’re still waiting to see if Trump has ever been on one.


The first question on what would touch off among commentators the next day a “phallic Friday” gave Trump an opportunity to respond to Romney’s broadside.

Trump’s response was to dismiss Romney because he lost an election Trump believes he should have won. He did not go as far as he had earlier in the day, when he insinuated Romney wanted his endorsement enough to indulge in fellatio of The Donald.

Rubio was confronted with his statement, “I don’t do personal attacks” juxtaposed with the often crude stand-up comedy that is his current attack on Trump.

Rubio said he’s ready to talk about the issues now.

Trump was his patronizing self toward “little Marco,” but the one specific element of Rubio’s attack he found time to answer had to do with the length of his penis. There, he claimed, “There’s no problem.”

If Freud did political commentary, he would point out that Trump’s phallic fixation is not limited to a running joke between himself and Little Marco. This is a guy who used to make public comments about his sexual adventures and who has a history of trading in girlfriends and wives for a younger, hotter model. A guy who has insinuated that he’d do more than admire his daughter – if he wasn’t, you know, her father.

In spite of Trump’s serial polygamy, he has been beating Cruz among evangelicals, who are supposed to be the Cruz base. Cruz was asked to account for this. Without even a feint toward the question, Cruz replied that he wants to repeal Obamacare and abolish the IRS.

Fox News—not just Megyn Kelly – came loaded for bear, with Trump playing the bear. When Trump gave his standard answer about balancing the budget by ending “waste, fraud and abuse,” the natural follow-up was “Which agencies?”


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