Donald Trump’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination seems to defy gravity and all the other laws of nature.
He insults Mexicans, military veterans and women, and makes taunting remarks about the bodily processes of popular TV host Megyn Kelly. His poll numbers remain steady or even increase.
The Republican Party establishment, the pundits, Fox News management and conservative hotheads like Erick Erickson deride Trump and try to knock him out of the race. He still runs way ahead of everybody else.
Is there anything Trump could say that is so outrageous it would cause supporters to desert him? I’m not sure there is, although I may yet be proven wrong.
While Trump has said many questionable things, he has called attention to a topic that has long needed discussing: the influence of money on politics.
Trump, who claims to be a multibillionaire, knows a lot about how money affects politics, and he summed it up in this memorable phrase: “When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.”
At the TV debate hosted by Fox in Cleveland, Trump explained how wealthy people use their money to affect the political process: “If I ask them, if I need them, you know, most of the people on this stage I’ve given to, just so you understand, a lot of money.”
“I hope you will give to me,” said Gov. John Kasich of Ohio. Trump responded: “Sounds good. Sounds good to me, governor.”
Trump was asked why he had contributed to Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, and what he had received from them in return.
“I will tell you that our system is broken,” Trump answered. “I gave to many people. Before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me. And that’s a broken system.”
Trump added: “With Hillary Clinton, I said, be at my wedding, and she came to my wedding. You know why? She didn’t have a choice, because I gave. I gave to a foundation that, frankly, that foundation is supposed to do good.”
A few days before the Cleveland debate, GOP candidates Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina attended a meeting hosted by Koch Industries billionaire Charles Koch.
Trump tweeted about that confab: “I wish good luck to all of the Republican candidates that traveled to California to beg for money etc. from the Koch Brothers. Puppets?”
What he is saying is accurate about politics at both the national and state levels. There are many examples that could be cited from Georgia’s political history, but a typical incident was the recent decision to approve a Medicaid rate increase that will be worth nearly $27 million to the state’s nursing home industry.
One of the major beneficiaries of that money will be a company, PruittHealth, that runs several nursing homes in Georgia. Pruitt family members and business units contributed large amounts of money to Gov. Nathan Deal’s re-election campaign last year, according to reports filed with the state ethics commission. Deal appointed CEO Neil Pruitt Jr. to the Board of Regents, where he is currently the chairman.
When the nursing home rate increase came before the state Board of Community Health last year, two board members raised questions about it and sidelined a vote on adopting the proposal.
Not long after the rate hike had been stalled, Deal replaced those board members by appointing two new people to the community health board.
Several months later, the nursing home rate increase came up again before a reconstituted community health board that included the new members appointed by the governor. This time, the increase was quickly approved and no board member was foolish enough to raise any questions about it.
Whether you think Trump is the greatest thing since sliced bread or a pompous windbag, he has performed a valuable service for the voters in his campaign.
He has told them the truth about how money influences politics. He really does deserve a salute for that.
Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report.