Donald Trump’s ‘Birther’ Ploy Against Ted Cruz Shows Why He’s Winning

It’s no secret by now that many conservative elites absolutely despise Donald Trump. Many do so because of his policy views which have been said to be incoherent or even liberal. Christian nation conservatives don’t like Trump due to his lower religiosity and history of making remarks indicating a general lack of interest in the ideas they hold dear.

Another reason that Trump is so despised by many right-of-center authors and activists is that he’s managed to master the art of politics with no training or prior experience. The New York businessman is simply great at knowing what to say to some grassroots conservatives to get them to respond. And, most critically, he has no loyalty to the Republican counter-establishment.

Trump’s mastery of conservative politicking has been most prominently on display with his obsessive focus on immigration and banning foreign Muslims from entering the country. Both have a great deal of appeal to what National Review writer Jim Geraghty calls “Domsday Conservatives:”

The Doomsday Conservatives contend we’re living in a genuine dark age of oppression of speech, at a time when Alex Jones is on 160 stations, Glenn Beck has his own television network, and Mark Levin’s books repeatedly top the New York Times bestseller lists. [Journalist Diana] West concludes that the crisis she sees took hold when the American People “lost our nerve to even talk about immigration or Islam.” Look around you. Do you see a country that is afraid to discuss immigration or Islam?

It’s a bit like when Leftists insist “it’s time for a real national dialogue on race” or “it’s time for a serious national conversation on guns,” when in reality these dialogues have been ongoing for decades, in the halls of Congress and on cable-news shows and at dinner tables across the country. Trump-aligned anti-immigration zealots insist the conversation is nonexistent or suppressed so as to avoid the truth: They aren’t winning the argument.

The country is evenly split on whether to allow Syrian refugees to resettle in the United States. But only 27 percent of registered voters support banning Muslims from entering the country; 66 percent oppose the idea. A slim majority supports the status quo on “birthright citizenship” — giving American citizenship to anyone born on American soil, regardless of their parents’ legal status. Support for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants consistently sits between 50 and 60 percent.

Those who feel that stopping illegal immigration should be the nation’s top priority rarely have any idea of how few of their countrymen agree with them. Gallup recently asked voters what they see as the most important problem facing the country today. Just 5 percent said “immigration/illegal aliens.” 16 percent said “terrorism” and 9 percent said the “economy in general.”

More recently, after his second-place rival Ted Cruz began either leading or only slightly trailing him in Iowa, Trump has been using the same nativist angle to go after the Texas senator, first noting at the end of December that “not too many evangelicals come out of Cuba.”

With the poll situation in Iowa not having changed much since then, Trump has opened up another line of attack on Cruz: that he might not be eligible to be president since the former Bush administration official was actually born in Canada.

It’s a perfect angle for Trump to emphasize since he was a leading proponent of the “birther” conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was not really born in the U.S. It’s also a perfect way for Trump to get around the efforts of many Religious Right conservatives to bind together to endorse Cruz and secure “right privilege,” the ability for a politician to effectively push back against the constant criticisms that he/she is a RINO or Republican In Name Only.

Trump’s birther gambit also works well because it enables him to avoid criticizing Cruz’s history of political stances, an area which is a weak spot for the bilious billionaire given his long history of supporting Democrats and liberal causes.

The way in which Trump is raising Cruz’s Canadian birth and former citizenship is also perfect in that he does so in a framing that ‘some people’ are concerned about it and that he generally is perturbed as well. The national front-running Republican provided a textbook example of how to concern troll on today’s “Morning Joe.”

Well, I mean, honestly I hope it’s not the case.  I hope that’s not going to be a problem for him, but I’ve been hearing a lot about it, and you’ve been hearing, and I guess everybody’s talking about it now that he’s doing better, and I think that they are looking at it.  

And it’s a problem for him, and it’s a problem obviously for the Republicans because if the — let’s assume he got a nomination and the Democrats bring suit, the suit takes two to three years to solve, so how do you run?

So, it’s certainly a concern, I guess, for the party, but I hope that’s not the case.  I’m not involved in that, but a lot of people are bringing it up, absolutely.

Given his long association with the lunatic site WorldNetDaily and its many years of “just asking” about everything from a conspiracy theory that Barack Obama will not leave office when his term is up or to the possibility that Obama is possessed by a demon (with video evidence!), Trump has certainly seen a lot of expert exploitation of gullible conservatives.

Donald Trump’s xenophobia might be enough to get him the Republican nomination but it’s completely insufficient to get him the presidency. He’s trailed her in nearly every poll that’s come out pitting him against likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. He’d do even worse once he actually got the nomination and apolitical Democrats finally felt concerned enough to be motivated to oppose him.

It ought to concern conservative leaders that they’ve created a situation where so many Republicans would find Trump’s naked appeals to white identity politics appealing. Instead, however, right-wing elites have mostly limited their criticisms against Trump to closed-door conspiring.

Photo by Michael Vadon

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