How did we get here? How did we get to this place we find ourselves in just a month before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland?
How did everything go so horribly wrong?
I remember in July of last year, I was working the Fayette County Fair admission gate for the Washington Kiwanis Club.
Before my shift, I wandered aimlessly through the air conditioned Mahan Building to check out the booths and displays.
In the middle area of the long building I came upon a booth that had about 20 glass fish bowls lined up in several rows on a table. In front of each bowl was the name of one of the candidates running for the presidency at that time. There were as I recall about 16 or so Republicans and four Democratic contenders. There were also glass pebbles or markers with the invitation to “pick your choice” for president.
This was a pretty unscientific poll, of course, but a fun diversion.
A nice man sat on the other side of the booth and watched as I picked up a glass pebble and placed it into the small fish bowl of one of the Republican candidates.
Since it didn’t look like the nice man was going to ask me why I “voted” for this particular presidential candidate, I decided to volunteer my reasons anyway.
“Do you know why I picked him?” I asked. Blank face. “Well, I’ll tell you. I don’t really know what his positions on the issues are. And I don’t care. I don’t know what he stands for or what his ideologies are. And I don’t care,” I said.
I told the nice man that all I did care about is for this candidate to take the positions on the issues and ideologies that will get him elected president some 16 months from then. “All I care about is that I think he can win. I think he can beat her,” I said, pointing to the then empty fish bowl of The Anointed One.
The candidate I “voted” for with my glass pebble was Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. I still believe this today. Sadly, we don’t have Sen. Rubio as our candidate. Or even Jeb Bush, who I briefly considered voting for instead of Rubio.
No, we don’t have either of these potential November winners as the likely GOP nominee.
What we’ve got is a disaster.
I don’t think I am going out on a limb when I throw out the following sets of numbers: 34 and 0. Thirty-four is what I believe will be the percentage of popular vote Donald Trump will get in the November election, and 0 is the number of states he will carry. OK, maybe I am going out on a limb a little on the number of states he’ll carry. He might pull an upset and carry one.
This is a disaster in the making because I believe Republicans/conservatives had an epic golden opportunity to reclaim the White House. It was a “Here are keys to the White House, see you in eight years” kind of golden opportunity.
I hate squandering golden opportunities. Especially this time. After eight years of a terrible, dreadful presidency, voters had the chance to turn things around and restore strength, leadership and common sense to the Oval Office.
So how did we end up with possibly the most disliked and easily defeatable candidate in our history?
I started seeing glimmers of it last fall when the dozen plus GOP candidates began sparring with each other and then started the debate process.
Trump would say something candid and maybe outrageous (at least for a presidential candidate), the national media would report it with glee, and instead of his poll numbers falling they went up a tick or two. Encouraged, he’d say something else off the cuff, the gleeful national media would start leading their newscasts with his remarks, and his poll numbers would tick up a bit more.
Of course, the obvious reason his numbers were going wasn’t that people really agreed with anything he said, it was actually that in a field of 16 or so candidates, when you give 60-70 percent of the coverage to one candidate, the public will go with what they know (sorry public, I’m not giving you a lot of credit here.)
Now mind you, the national media hates Donald Trump with a passion I’ve never seen in a Republican candidate. They didn’t give him all that coverage last fall and winter because they liked him. They over-reported his comments, at first as ridicule and hopes that his poll numbers would quickly crash to zero and out he would go. But when that didn’t happen, the national media kept overcovering him because they wanted to call him, “The face of the Republican party.”
And as the other candidates dropped out and he rose to the top of the pack — even with poll numbers of just 18 to 20 percent or so at first — his comments were often called “the Republican position on the issue” since he was leading in the polls. The national media loved putting him front and center.
But to me, the real blow came when the media started calling candidates like Sen. Rubio, Gov. Bush, Gov. John Kasich and a few others the “establishment” candidates. Where did that phrase come from? It was meant to be a negative — bunch of Washington bureaucrats and Washington insiders. All bad. Trump and a couple others were painted as the “outsiders” who were shaking up this “establishment.”
This perception kept being banged into the heads of voters, at least Republican voters. While there may have been a genuine populist revolt of sorts on the Democratic side with Bernie Wan-Kenobi (“Bernie, you’re our only hope”) the Democrats ultimately knew what is important — a winner. And Bernie isn’t that.
I am not negating Trump’s voter appeal in the primaries this winter and spring. Yes, he has millions of loyal followers and millions voted for him in the primaries. But it will not be nearly enough. And I suspect that a lot of people who voted for him in the primaries will not be going to the polls and voting for him in November. Just my opinion.
For awhile after he clinched the nomination the national poll numbers showed him almost even with, and in a few cases ahead of the likely Democratic nominee. When I saw those polls I just rolled my eyes. “That’s not going to last long,” I told anyone who’d listen.
And if any of you think the national media has been hard on Trump up to now, you haven’t seen anything yet.
After the convention, there will be media beatdown of epic proportions. The media clearly wants Trump as the GOP presidential nominee. I watched the MSNBC coverage on the night of the Indiana primary when Trump was declared the presumptive nominee. The MSNBC folks were about to die they were so happy. They could hardly contain themselves.
They got exactly the target they wanted. Instead of a GOP candidate they would have to take seriously, and might defeat the candidate they all want to see elected, they got someone they can ridicule, shake their all-knowing heads about, and even call a “neo-fascist” as Carl Bernstein did Sunday on CNN.
Yes, it is going to get ugly. By Election Day, he will be so demonized by the mainstream press that I think he will be lucky to get that 34 percent of the vote I predicted earlier.
And while I don’t like Trump, what I dislike more is how big a victory his nomination will hand to the Democratic nominee.
A missed opportunity, also of epic proportions.
Gary Brock is a resident of Fayette County and Editor of Rural Life Today.