Every time Mitt Romney attacks Donald Trump, the liberal media wrings its hands speculating on whether a rift is developing in the Republican Party that could sink its chances of winning in November. Media critics pile on Trump, urging him to trim his sails and return to the Eleventh Commandment, given to us by Ronald Reagan: "Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican."
But the fact is that the attacks by Romney and others not only do not harm Trump's chances of winning. They enhance them. Rather than seek to heal the split, he should try to widen it.
A political leader is particularly credible when he speaks ill of members of his own party, particularly after the primary season has ended. While we treat as boilerplate criticism of Democrats by Republicans and visa versa, we take seriously derogatory comments about members of one's own party (hence the media's interest in intraparty criticism of Trump).
If Trump can criticize the Romney wing of the party as elitist, out of touch, pro-Wall Street and insensitive to the problems of the average American, he can make empathetic common cause with millions of Independent and Democratic voters who have rejected the GOP for precisely these reasons. Nothing will resonate better with those who followed Senator Bernie Sanders in his criticism of policies that coddle the 1 percent than for Donald Trump to echo those criticisms.
Trump can propose a bold regulatory agenda to crack down on the big banks and might get little coverage or traction, but let him deliver an ad hominem attack on Romney on just those same grounds and it will be instant headline news. The media will wonder if Trump has lost his marbles in attacking a fellow Republican long after he has already wrapped up the nomination. They will wonder if his desire for revenge has overtaken his commonsense as he seems to throw party unity to the wind.
But there will be method in Trump's madness. Each attack on Romney will serve to bring him closer to the Occupy Wall Street crowd. With Hillary Clinton's slavish devotion to her Goldman Sachs masters and her Wall Street donors, Trump can uniquely inherit the mantle left by the Sanders candidacy.
He can attack Clinton all day long and most will shrug it off as just politics. But if he levels the same fire at Romney and his ilk, it will gain coverage and acquire credibility.
Indeed, Trump should take full advantage of his lock on the Republican nomination and use the preconvention period to take positions to the left of the party on cracking down on big Wall Street banks. The Party cannot leave him. It is legally bound. So he should stray from the Party to score points with Democrats and Independents.