He voted for Bill Clinton in the 1990s, he voted for Al Gore in 2000, he voted for John Kerry in 2004, he even voted for Barack Obama in 2008. In 2012 he praised Hillary Clinton, telling Greta Van Susteren of Fox News, “Hillary Clinton, I think, is a terrific woman. I am biased because I have known her for years. I live in New York. She lives in New York. I really like her and her husband both a lot. I think she really works hard. And I think, again, she’s given an agenda, it is not all of her, but I think she really works hard and I think she does a good job. I like her.”
He declared years prior to that interview that Clinton would be a good Secretary of State because she would surround herself with good people to help her negotiate with Iran, and come away with a good deal on its nuclear program. So complimentary was his view of her that in 2008 he mused aloud why she wasn’t chosen to be on the ticket — as Obama’s vice presidential running mate.
Who is this man who has shown such consistent support for the Democratic ticket and heaped such effusive laudatory praise on Hillary Clinton? It is Donald Trump. The man who has spent most of his 70 years on this Earth as a Democrat and supporting Democratic candidates in recent years went through what must have been an Apostle Paul-like “Damascus Road” experience. His conversion to the Republican brand has led to Trump, the ultimate brand promoter, becoming the standard bearer and leader of his newly adopted party — a party he now has reeling and on its knees.
Recent national polls show Clinton opening up sizable leads in important battleground states. A post-convention bounce is turning into a steady march upward in the polls. In important states like Michigan she’s up by 9 points, Pennsylvania 11, New Hampshire 15 and in Florida by 6.
She’s not just surging in battleground states. In states that have hitherto been solidly Republican, like Utah and Arizona, Clinton is besting Trump. Even in the neighboring state of Georgia, which has traditionally been a solidly red or Republican state, Clinton is leading. Yes, it’s three months out from the election, but Clinton is opening up leads that not even President Obama achieved over Mitt Romney during the 2012 general election battle.
Even more profound are the demographic numbers. Among women and white voters with a college degree, Clinton has a commanding lead. Among non-whites and African-Americans, it’s totally lopsided. This is not quite the formula for Trump putting together a winning coalition in November.
Of course, in Alabama Trump’s popularity and support remain strong. One of Alabama’s United States senators, Jeff Sessions, remains an ardent and vocal supporter. Yet, among many Republican leaders, support for and tolerance of the mercurial leader is fraying and crumbling.
The defections are mounting. National security leaders, members of the foreign policy and military establishment, business and financial leaders, even elected Republican politicians are speaking out — they say, as a matter of conscience — at the prospect of Donald Trump becoming president and its implications for the country.
Things are not boding well for a party that has placed its faith in a man former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele says has consistently and demonstrably shown that, regardless of the issue or no matter how trivial, “he can’t be wrong.”
If the trend plays out and Trump loses the election, what next then for the Republican party? After the general election loss in 2012, the Republican National Committee issued its “autopsy” report on why it lost and what it could do to win in 2016. Remedies suggested were real efforts at becoming more inclusive by making inroads to youth, gays and various ethnicities, along with embracing policies such as comprehensive immigration reform. If not, the report noted, “Our party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.” It was advice not heeded.
The party not only needs to embrace its 2012 recommendations, it also needs to purge itself of a creeping penchant to give official quarter and acceptance to outlandish conspiracies and accusations that created the atmosphere for a Donald Trump to rise in the first place. “The president was not born in America,” “he’s not a Christian but a Muslim,” “he doesn’t love his country,” “he’s sympathetic to terrorists” and on it went — ridiculous assertions that were allowed to perpetuate by Republican leaders and conservative media pundits to motivate the base. It’s birthed a political Frankenstein in Donald Trump, and the experiment in demagogic populism can no longer be controlled. Serious ideas and policies have become unpalatable, nonsensical raging is the order of the day. This may fire up the Republican base, but it will only cause the general electorate to recoil and reject Trump as a candidate.
Donald Trump is staying true to the person he was during the primaries. For all the talk about him “pivoting” and “resetting” to run competently in the general election, he is unable to do so because it goes against the essence of who he is as a person. What you see is what you get. It’s becoming clearer by the day it’s something the majority of Americans don’t want.