The expression “lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas” best explains what is happening at the Republican primary election. The irrational –and often extremist – zeal of an ultra-conservative base, encouraged for years as a strike force against President Obama’s policies, no longer obey the orders of those who used to manipulate them from Washington as part of a broader strategy.
Candidate Donald Trump’s popularity is a combination of anger and frustration with an anti-government fervor that prefers a neophyte politician over an experienced one and values impulsive tomfoolery over coherent discourse. This was the same enraged sentiment manifested against Obamacare and Obama himself.
The Tea Party incarnated this populist movement that helped Republicans recover both Congress chambers. The arrival in the Senate and the House of Representatives of those chosen by the conservative base brought about internal conflict with moderates and paralyzed the functions of the Legislature. This was an omen of the divisive primary to come.
Still, no one thought that Trump would be the great beneficiary of the hate speeches against immigrants, the sexism and the foreign policy senselessness, among others, which Congress themselves sowed. The millionaire became the ideal angry, anti-establishment representative, and – in the eyes of his followers – criticism against him only reaffirms that he is right.
Trump’s comments are laughable and worthy of mockery, but no one will attack him for his atrocious statements about immigration and against women. His rivals are afraid to offend those who agree with him. Fox News, who in the past spearheaded a smear campaign against him, is now making peace with him for fear of enraging their viewers.
There are several reasons why Trump may lose the presidential nomination, but the trouble he represents will persist for Republicans. He may decide to run independently or the chosen Republican candidate may have to win back Trump’s followers with aberrant statements. Trump is not the problem; he is just a symptom of a much worse illness that got out of control.