If someone wanted to destroy the Republican Party, at least for this presidential cycle, here’s what they could do:
Find a famous celebrity with instant name recognition. He should be presidential-tall with an expansive ego that makes nuclear fission look tame. Convince him that his complete lack of qualifications and electoral experience is actually the best way to stand out in a crowded field of highly qualified politicians.
To attract attention, encourage him to talk about himself at every turn, to brag about his negotiating skills, his money, his airplane, his body parts, his trophy wife. Even his multiple bankruptcies that left creditors hanging. The cruder the better.
Tell him how interested angry Americans are in his simplistic social views, the kinds of populist things he’s opined about at high-society weddings and cocktail parties. Make it seem simple and obvious, and suggest to suspicious Americans that they’ve been betrayed by wealthy East coast establishment cronies in both parties.
Encourage him to talk about things like the threat of immigrants, illegal and otherwise, especially if they’re not coming from a Judeo-Christian culture. Even ban them at the border or build a wall.
His silent partners bent on GOP destruction would want to be confident from their long friendship, his political donations and financial deals that he actually favors the kinds of big-government solutions Democrats do. No more of this budget cap crap. Instead, talk about vast infrastructure spending plans funded through new borrowing, like the trillion dollars that didn’t work in 2010.
Keep everything simple, quotable. Play off people’s fears about terrorists and foreign trade deals. “Who the hell cares?” might be one meme. Have him promise to create millions of jobs out of thin air, maybe even more than God could create.
Once you ignite a candidate like this, his ego and unfiltered mouth will take him to unanticipated places.
Barack Obama and Joe Biden similarly promised millions of new jobs in 2009 and 2010. The jobs never came, of course. But the same pair still easily won re-election in 2012. That’s because the co-opted media would never blow the whistle, even on a trillion-dollar fraud.
Once you ignite a candidate like this, set him free to wreak havoc among divided Republicans. His ego and unfiltered mouth will take him to unanticipated places. He might mock audience members with disabilities, appear to encourage violence against opponents and brag publicly about numerous affairs with women.
Anything he might say could damage the stolid Republican brand, already weakened by unfulfilled promises, detached leadership and long, close associations with wealth and corporations.
Don’t worry. Voters are so eager for a leader who appears as outspokenly outraged as they are that they’ll overlook his own wealth, his inconsistencies and his hypocrisies. In fact, those could become positive attributes because they make him different. Remember 2008, when the same selectively blind voters were so eager for a well-spoken historic president that they ignored the danger signals?
Unless it involves “Game of Thrones “ or “Dancing With the Stars,” modern Americans display the memory of a fruit fly. Millennials think Jimmy Carter makes breakfast sausages. Such inattention explains why the same unhappy voters regularly re-elect over 80 percent of the Congress they denounce.
The stalking-horse candidate could talk about expanding the party into new, recently unexplored sectors of support, such as working-class people. That’s politically tempting.
If his style and lack of substance concern or even disgust reigning Republicans, all the better. Makes him look different. “Who the hell cares?”
He should disdain the usual massive fundraising because he’s so rich and such an amazing celebrity. And he should dismiss as overrated the usual political organization and ground game.
Few will notice that this behavior and these tactics will dramatically weaken Republican candidates in countless other races at all levels of government. But it would be great TV. Very entertaining. It would distract from the candidate’s lack of precise, polished policies.
It would also ensure the election of a Democratic president, any Democrat, even a profoundly flawed one.
And it would also ensure the election of a Democratic president, any Democrat, even a profoundly flawed one.
But this scenario is, of course, farfetched and ridiculous.
Malcolm is an author and veteran national and foreign correspondent covering politics since the 1960s. Follow him @AHMalcolm.