It is perhaps time to stop wondering what The Donald’s got that the others ain’t got.
What he’s got is conservative America’s number, which has less to do with policy or political purity than with an evolutionary tic that’s been developing for decades.
It also has little to do with social issues, other candidates might note, though some values voters may also like Trump. Nor is it exclusively “the economy, stupid,” that cannonball of wisdom forever shackled to James Carville’s name.
Indeed, Trump’s fans may have revealed themselves to be ABDs (All But Democrats), since Trump himself is an ABD. But for his recent conversions — pro-life with exceptions, walls make good immigration policy and repeal-and-replace Obamacare “with something terrific!” — he would be giving Hillary Clinton a primary run for her money (and possibly some of his).
As recently as Tuesday, he wasn’t jumping on the anti-Planned Parenthood bandwagon, though he did say that no funding should go to abortion, which is pretty safe since such federal abortion funding is already disallowed under current law.
What Trump primarily has is a manner of speaking. (And how.) His many outbursts, insults and invectives are by now familiar enough to be boring — and not at all the point. The point is what he said to Fox News’ Megyn Kelly during the first debate when she asked about disparaging remarks he has made about women and whether he has the temperament to be president.
Trump, who frequently reminds us that he’s a very busy man, said he didn’t have time for such political correctness. Huh?
It was a fair question in my book — and probably to most women. It was not a “politically correct” question, as Trump insisted, nor do his intemperate words measure up to the kind of serious scrutiny that true political correctness does. An insult is not the same as stifling ideas or political thought, as has been the rage — if I may use that word in the absence of a “safe zone” — on many college campuses and, often, wherever bureaucrats gather.
But mention PC to a constituency that despises an increasingly alien (PC correction: unfamiliar) country whose core principles are routinely ridiculed by popular culture — and who perceive illegal immigrants (PC correction: undocumented workers) as receiving greater deference than hardworking Americans barely scraping by — and you, my friend, are a hero.
The fact that Trump has emerged not only unscathed but triumphant after his subsequent and disgusting remarks about Kelly, whom he described post-debate as having “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,” speaks trumpets and trombones to critics’ shakers, scrapers and cowbells.
Trumpists, like Honey Badger, don’t care. Come to think of it, Trump is Honey Badger. (Footnote: Honey Badger was a YouTube sensation a few years ago that many un-PC types found hilarious, if also profane and revolting. Not for children.)
Attempting to cover his posterior, Trump says he was thinking of Kelly’s nose when he said “wherever.” Really. We all have wherever/whatever moments, but “nose” isn’t one of those words that sends us foraging for misplaced vocabulary.
Rather than apologize, which would be as foreign to Trump as a woman his age, he’s insisting that Kelly apologize to him. Classic narcissism. Trump is like the murderer who blames the victim for being home when he was burglarizing the victim’s house.
Meanwhile, Trump tweeted (no wonder he’s so busy) that Fox News President Roger Ailes had called him and smoothed things over. How perfectly ... practical. For her part, Kelly announced on “The Kelly File” Monday night that she wouldn’t be responding to Trump’s taunts and she certainly wouldn’t apologize for doing her job.
In a political arena lacking same, that’s what classy looks like.
Perhaps now, as Kelly suggested, we can move on, but do people really want to? Trump is the quintessential partisan divider whom people feel obligated to denounce but love to watch. Ailes knows that 24 million viewers tuned into the debate not to delve deeply into Scott Walker’s biblical psyche but because Trump would be there. Trump, of course, knows this, too.
After so much history that would destroy anyone else’s candidacy, it’s hard to imagine what would cause Trump’s fans to abandon him. My own unscientific surveys turn up a consistent refrain: “I would never vote for him, but I like the way he stirs things up.”
Polling reflects that the second part of that sentence is probably true. And I’m no longer sure I believe the first part.
Kathleen Parker is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group.