Tuesday

December 10th, 2019

Insight

Why Donald Trump is remarkably dangerous to the Republican Party

Chris Cillizza

By Chris Cillizza

Published Feb. 29, 2016

Why Donald Trump is remarkably dangerous to the Republican Party

As it's become more and more clear that Donald Trump is the odds-on favorite to be the Republican presidential nominee, there's been considerable speculation about what he could mean for the broader GOP, particularly as the party tries to hold its Senate majority and consolidate its House margins in the 2016 election.

The answer: Nothing good - and perhaps something very bad.

While Trump's hard-line immigration policy (send 'em back, build a wall, make Mexico pay for it, etc.) has caused most of the hand-wringing within establishment GOP circles, the real danger for the likes of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., is not in that single issue. It's in Trump's remarkable unpredictability and seeming willingness to say things for the sake of shock value, and then inexplicably stand behind them - in fiercely unapologetic always.

Trump's performance on the Sunday talk shows is indicative of this tendency.

Early on Sunday morning, Trump retweeted a quote from Italian fascist Benito Mussolini. The Mussolini account that Trump retweeted was part of an elaborate attempt from Gawker to dupe him.

"@ilduce2016: "It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep." - @realDonaldTrump #MakeAmericaGreatAgain"

Asked about it by Chuck Todd, host of NBC's "Meet the Press," Trump responded:

"Look, Mussolini was Mussolini. It's okay to - it's a very good quote, it's a very interesting quote, and I know it. I saw it. I saw what - and I know who said it. But what difference does it make whether it's Mussolini or somebody else? It's certainly a very interesting quote."

But wait, there's more!

Trump also appeared on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday. Here's an exchange between Trump and host Jake Tapper when he asked the candidate about the fact that several white supremacist organizations have spoken favorably of Trump's candidacy:

Trump: "Well, just so you understand, I don't know anything about [former Ku Klux Klan head] David Duke. Okay? I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don't know. I don't know. Did he endorse me or what's going on, because, you know, I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists. And so you're asking me a question that I'm supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about. "

Tapper: "But I guess the question from the Anti-Defamation League is, even if you don't know about their endorsement, there are these groups and individuals endorsing you. Would you just say unequivocally you condemn them and you don't want their support?"

Trump: "Well, I have to look at the group. I mean, I don't know what group you're talking about. You wouldn't want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I would have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them. And, certainly, I would disavow them if I thought there was something wrong."

Tapper: "The Ku Klux Klan?"

Trump: "But you may have groups in there that are totally fine, and it would be very unfair. So give me a list of the groups, and I will let you know."

Tapper: "Okay. I mean, I'm just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here, but . . . "

Trump: "I don't know any - honestly, I don't know David Duke. I don't believe I have ever met him. I'm pretty sure I didn't meet him. And I just don't know anything about him."

In one Sunday morning, you have the most-likely Republican presidential nominee refusing, repeatedly, to disavow the KKK and saying, "Mussolini was Mussolini."

Make no mistake: Neither of these comments will adversely affect Trump in the upcoming Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses. For his supporters - and, at this point, that's a lot of people - his willingness to completely spurn the political-correctness police is the very thing that draws them to him. And, his unwillingness to apologize when scolded by the news media or other Republican politicians for some of his inflammatory remarks make his backers love him all the more: He's edgy! He's anti-establishment! He tells it like it is!

It works for Trump. Obviously. He has gone from a comic figure to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee in eight months.

The problem for anyone not named Trump - like the eight or so vulnerable Republican senators up for re-election in swing states - is that his unpredictability and love of controversy makes it almost impossible to deal with him as a factor in those races.

If the extent of Trump's controversial views was only his stance on immigration, that could be relatively easily handled by other down-ballot Republicans. For example, they could say: "I don't agree with Mr. Trump on every issue - we differ on immigration, for instance - but he understands that people are fed up with politics as usual and want a change after eight destructive years of Barack Obama." Not bad, right?

But, if you have no idea what Trump is going to tweet, retweet or say from the podium in front of thousands of people and dozens of TV cameras on a daily basis, that's hugely problematic for any Republican trying to calculate how to deal with him in their own campaign.

Having to respond to your presidential nominee's unwillingness to condemn the KKK or his seeming praise for the views of a fascist dictator in a single day - and with no idea what might come the next day - is the worst sort of problem for any candidate to deal with.

That's why Trump represents such a remarkable danger to the broader Republican Party as its presidential nominee. It's not that he has controversial views. (He does.) It's that he is totally unpredictable and undisciplined, careening wildly off message on a minute-by-minute basis. It works - or, at least, has worked to this point - for him. But it's a total nightmare for any Republican looking at a tough re-election race this fall.

Previously:


02/29/16:4 reasons why Chris Christie endorsed Donald Trump
02/26/16: Winners and losers from the 10th Republican presidential debate
02/24/16: Donald Trump is on course to win the 1,237 delegates he needs to be the GOP nominee
02/23/16: This Donald Trump explanation of his Iraq position is just so mind-boggling
02/22/16: Jeb Bush never really had a chance in the 2016 presidential race
02/18/16: Senate Republicans will never hold a Supreme Court vote this year. This poll shows why
02/17/16: South Carolina isn't Bush Country anymore
02/12/16: Winners and losers from the 6th Dem debate
02/10/16: Winners and losers from the New Hampshire primary
02/06/16: Winners and losers from the fifth Democratic presidential debate
01/29/16: Winners and losers from the 7th Republican presidential debate
01/27/16: Ranking the Republican 2016 field
01/25/16: Trump is the favorite to be the Republican nominee. Period
01/22/16: Who had the worst week in Washington? Hillary Clinton
01/18/16: Feeling bad for Jeb Bush
01/15/16: Winners and losers from the sixth Republican presidential debate
01/12/16: Here's exactly how Bernie Sanders can beat Hillary Clinton
01/11/16:The fantasy scenario that could become reality for Hillary
12/30/15: The five big lessons from a weirdly watchable year of politics
12/21/15: Winners and losers in the third Democratic presidential debate
12/16/15: Winners and losers from the 5th Republican presidential debate
12/16/15: Cruz, not Trump, looking like GOP favorite for 2016
12/04/15: Ted Cruz is the sleeping giant in the Republican race
11/24/15:Trump is leading an increasingly fact-free 2016 campaign
11/23/15: A ranking of GOP presidential candidates who can still make a case --- and the nominee
11/16/15: The remarkably unappealing anger of Donald Trump
11/11/15: Winners and losers from the fourth Republican debate
11/02/15: Jeb Bush says he still doesn't get why his terrible debate performance matters so much
10/29/15: Winners and losers from the third Republican presidential debate
10/22/15: Paul Ryan might be saving his party. But at what cost?
10/20/15: Six things we know Joe Biden is thinking
10/19/15: Who had the worst week in Washington? Lincoln Chafee
10/14/15: Winners and losers from the first Dem presidential debate

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