There is a reason why love triangles are a staple of books and films. The constantly shifting allegiances and relationships make for intriguing social dynamics. This is true for personal relationships as well as political ones, and the emerging triangle between Fox News, the Republican party, and Donald Trump has all the makings of a doozy.
For some time now there has been discussion among the chattering classes as to the nature of the relationship between Fox and the Republican party, especially about which was the dominant partner. Was Fox the media arm of the party or was the party the political arm of Fox?
Now Donald Trump has entered into the mix and as with all such relationship triangles, has caused great confusion as to who has allegiance to whom. Before the debate, Fox seemed to be promoting Trump, much to the chagrin of the party. Then that affair seemed to have suddenly soured just before the debate and at that event and immediately after, Fox seemed to be attacking Trump and getting back in the good graces of the party. Since Roger Ailes strictly controls the editorial direction of Fox, it was assumed that it was he who ordered the switch.
But now suddenly Trump announces that Ailes called and assured him that he will always be treated ‘fairly’ at Fox (which in Foxspeak means that he will be treated with kid gloves and given plenty of air time answering softball questions) and sure enough, this morning Trump appeared, among other programs, on the vapid morning show Fox and Friends, where he has been a frequent guest in the past, and the hosts warmly welcomed him in what appeared to be a veritable love fest.
So what the hell is going on? Could the second reversal by Ailes be due to the fact that several new polls taken after the debate show Trump holding and even expanding his lead, even in Iowa? It seems like he has a solid hold on about a quarter of voters, way ahead of the next person Jeb Bush.
So is the Republican party now the newly jilted party in this triangle?
Right now, the Republican party and the establishment media must be viewing the Trump candidacy like some mythical monster that refuses to die despite their best efforts at killing it. His comments about Mexicans and women, offensive in the extreme, do not seem to have dented his support. His jibe about John McCain’s hero status quickly disappeared without a trace. His attacks on Megyn Kelly and the way Fox treated him during the debate don’t seem to bother his supporters either. Even though other almost all the candidates have disowned him and condemned his remarks, their scolding seems to have had little effect on his supporters.
This must be disconcerting to the party establishment. The person that I thought they favored was Bush because he had the support of the establishment, big money donors, and seemed to possess that undefined quality bestowed by the media and the punditry of ‘electability’, a quality that seems to have little empirical basis since it seems that all that a candidate needs to become electable is that the pundit class deems it to be so.
It seems to me that since Trump is able to deflect all the direct attacks against him, the party has to try an indirect approach and has two possible options. Trump seems to have a core of support at around 25% perhaps even as high as 30%. With such a large number of contenders splitting the non-Trump vote, this is enough to make him the leader with a plurality. If this situation continues through the actual primary voting, he could start getting enough delegate votes as to make the Republican nomination convention a nightmare of wheeling and dealing, So rather that trying to get rid of Trump, maybe the party should try to get rid of as many of the other candidates as possible, leaving at most two others so that the non-Trump support could coalesce around them and support for one could exceed that of Trump, deposing from the role of front-runner and even has the chance of having majority support. Of course, the problem is deciding which ones they want to remain in the race and then persuading the others to drop out. This is where the fact that billionaires now buy their candidates will cause problems since many of the candidates have rich backers who do not take kindly to being pushed around.
The other strategy is more diabolical and harder to pull off. It targets Trump’s biggest strength that is also his weakness and that is money. Trump clearly loves money and making these big-money deals. But Trump’s entire empire has always been based on borrowed money and having extensive lines of credit. If the Republican party can persuade the banks he deals with to threaten (covertly) to cut off his credit lines, that might cause him to drop out. This would be extortion, of course, and could blow up in their faces if exposed. But that is not the only problem with this risky strategy. A major one is that the big banks support candidates of both parties (that is how they preserve their own immunity whichever party is in power) and may not want to risk being seen as serving the interests of just one.
So there we are. Who knows what tomorrow will bring in this soap opera that for sheer entertainment value beats anything one can find in the celebrity gossip pages?