The Dump Trump movement tries again for possibly the last time

The Republican and Washington and media establishments have failed to stop the rise of Donald Trump and their critics have accused them of not taking him seriously until it was too late.

One evening last June, some of the Republican Party’s wealthiest donors gathered for a cocktail party at an exclusive resort in Deer Valley, Utah, during a three-day retreat hosted by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

They had just heard from six presidential hopefuls. Tom Duncan, the CEO of tool-maker Positec Tool Corp, chatted with a few attendees about a fantasy ticket to secure the White House in November 2016: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, with Senator Marco Rubio of Florida as his running mate.

Many of the conversations had one thing in common: a stubborn refusal to take Trump seriously, even as fans packed sports stadiums to see him in the summer months, as he dominated media coverage of the election, and as polls showed him winning wide support among young and old, men and women.

Scenes like the one at Deer Valley would be repeated in rarified enclaves of the party elite around the country again and again in the coming months. Many in the Republican establishment believed he would eventually self-destruct or that Americans would lose patience with his bombast, his free-wheeling insults and lack of firm policies to back up his promises to “Make America Great Again.”

They were wrong.

But you can’t accuse them of not trying now. Suddenly aware that the Trump phenomenon is real and that time is running out, they are launching wave after wave of attacks and you can bet that this week it will reach a crescendo because if Trump does well on Tuesday and sweeps Ohio, Illinois, Florida, North Carolina, and Missouri, it’s all over, whatever the bean counters may say about delegate totals and contested conventions. Trump’s opponents and a variety of SuperPACs are drowning the airwaves with attack ads in those states and hedge fund managers are pouring money into the Cruz and Clinton campaigns.

As an example of the efforts being mounted now, last weekend a group of prominent billionaires and top Republican honchos flew in a fleet of jets to a luxury resort on a private island off the coast of Georgia, to attend a secret conference organized by the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute to, among other things, see if they could devise yet another strategy to stop Trump.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google co-founder Larry Page, Napster creator and Facebook investor Sean Parker, and Tesla Motors and SpaceX honcho Elon Musk all attended. So did Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), political guru Karl Rove, House Speaker Paul Ryan, GOP Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Ben Sasse (Neb.), who recently made news by saying he “cannot support Donald Trump.”

Along with Ryan, the House was represented by Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (Mich.), Rep. Kevin Brady (Texas) and almost-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), sources said, along with leadership figure Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.), Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) and Diane Black (Tenn.).

Philip Anschutz, the billionaire GOP donor whose company owns a stake in Sea Island, was also there, along with Democratic Rep. John Delaney, who represents Maryland. Arthur Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, was there, too, a Times spokeswoman confirmed.

A highlight of the gathering was a presentation by Rove about focus group findings on Trump. The business mogul’s greatest weakness, according to Rove, was that voters have a very hard time envisioning him as “presidential” and as somebody their children should look up to. They also see him as somebody who can be erratic and shouldn’t have his (small) fingers anywhere near a nuclear trigger.

Yes, these people think the best way to combat Trump is to reinforce his basic message that the system is controlled by a gaggle of rich influence seekers, top politicians, and the media who meet in secret to plot to thwart ‘the will of the people’.

What amazes me is that according to the report, these people are still looking to Karl Rove of all people to develop their anti-Trump strategy. Rove’s sell-by date has long past, with his last major ‘success’ being his adoption of the vicious anti-same-sex marriage policy to increase religious voter turnout in favor of George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004. Since then he has been on a losing streak. Rove is now notorious mainly for wasting his backers’ money but the influence of people like him explains misguided ads like this one put out by an outfit called the American Future Fund titled ‘The Best Words’, that seems to suggest that Trump is too coarse and vulgar in his use of language to be president.

My own feeling is that this ad feeds right into what Trump’s supporters like about him, his willingness to buck ‘political correctness’ and ‘tell it like it is’. It will actually cement his outsider credentials and his supporters will roar with laughter and be even more convinced that he is one of them and ‘not part of the establishment’.

If Trump continues to do well on Tuesday, his opponents may still try to stop him at the convention if he does not have an absolute majority, but they must know that that would be a disaster even if they somehow manage to succeed.

Tonight at 9:00pm ET is the 12th and penultimate Republican debate to be held in Miami, Florida (The last one will be held on March 21 in Salt Lake City, Utah.) As usual it will be content-free so the only interest is in how the candidates will behave. The desperate Rubio now admits that his descent to Trump-level insults was a mistake so he may try to resurrect his image as the fast-talking policy wonk. Ted Cruz will be true to himself and so will be condescending, patronizing, smug, and arrogant. (Carly Fiorina, who is Cruz’s match when it comes to lying and sneering unlikability, has endorsed him. Imagine what a Cruz/Fiorina ticket would be like. Oh, the horror!) John Kasich will do his usual aw shucks, ‘can’t we all get along’ schtick.

What will be interesting to watch is what Trump does. Will he try to ‘act presidential’ and ignore his rivals and focus on the Democratic candidates, which will mean that he thinks the primary race is over and has set his sights on the general election? Or will he continue to do what has worked for his so well so far, and attack all three of his rivals in order to go for maximum gain on Tuesday?

Stay tuned!


  1. raven says

    Trump is a symptom not a cause. That oligarchy group on a Georgian island is the problem not the solution.

    The GOP has been selling their voters down the river for decades. And they now know it and have had enough of being useful idiots for billionaires.

    The peasants know something is wrong. They are picking up their torches and pitchforks. They don’t yet have much idea which castle to storm or why. Trump isn’t the solution. He is a demagogue leading the mob off in a random direction for laughs.

  2. Holms says

    What will be interesting to watch is what Trump does. Will he try to ‘act presidential’

    Prediction: no.

  3. raven says

    AFAICT, the oligarchy billionaires of the GOP are clueless. Karl Rove? Really?

    Trump is leading because he won a lot of elections. That democracy thing.

    At this point, he will be hard to stop. And if they do stop him by overruling the voters, that will cost them a lot. It shows everyone who is in charge, and how much the voters matter. That is, the ultra-rich and business rule while the citizens are there to be exploited.

    PS The great Cuban hope and empty suit Rubio has crashed and burned. The wild eyed religious fanatic, Ted Cruz is running second. His message that jesus loves them and hates everyone else isn’t working too well. They already know that. But it doesn’t fix anything and people want results.

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    What will be interesting to watch is what Trump does. Will he try to ‘act presidential’

    Yes, for some definition of “presidential.” But don’t expect him to live up to such models of decorum as Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Think President Idi Amin.

  5. sonofrojblake says

    What will be interesting to watch is what Trump does. Will he try to ‘act presidential’ and ignore his rivals and focus on the Democratic candidates, which will mean that he thinks the primary race is over and has set his sights on the general election? Or will he continue to do what has worked for his so well so far, and attack all three of his rivals

    Pace Holms, I’m surprised at this point that Trump is even bothering to turn up. He’ll act “presidential” in the sense that he’ll work on the reasonable assumption that the nomination AND the election are his to lose. Whether that coincides with your personal definition of what counts as “presidential” is what’s at issue. I don’t know that I ever saw George W. Bush “act presidential”, and it never seemed to do him any harm.

    If Trump doesn’t get the nomination, I can see him running as an independent (despite having promised not to), and annihilating the Republican vote… which puts Clinton in. Which some tinfoil-hat-wearers are saying has been the plan all along. Unless… could an independent candidate win? I have no idea. I don’t understand that whole “I’m a registered [whatever]” thing. If you’re a registered [X] and you decide to vote [Y], can you even do that?

  6. moarscienceplz says

    So it appears that the American Future Fund thinks that Downton Abbey should be our model for how to run the country.

  7. brucegee1962 says

    David Brooks is now fantasizing that someone should start a temporary “conservative party” and run a separate candidate against Trump in the general. A bit of a murder-suicide thing, and he fully acknowledges that whoever it is would lose, but it’s a “save our dignity” campaign. Perhaps we could call it the “Give David Brooks Someone to Vote For” party.

    If that doesn’t happen, would they perhaps start pushing Gary Johnson? Or are some of them going to start eating their own hats and endorsing Hillary? A big influx of old-school, country club money and votes would probably help put her over the top, but is it good for the party?

    Worst case: Once Hillary wins, she ditches her progressive, Sanders-chasing side and starts serving up big meaty chunks of status quo, and the Establishment Triumphs.

    Best case: Hillary wins in a landslide big enough to flip Congress. The Democratic party splits into a Progressive wing and a Centrist wing, with Hillary mediating between the two, and the Republicans mostly sidelined for a few cycles.

    Note that both of these cases are better than the worst-worst case where Trump wins.

  8. flex says

    sonofrojblake wrote @5,

    I don’t understand that whole “I’m a registered [whatever]” thing. If you’re a registered [X] and you decide to vote [Y], can you even do that?

    The short answer is yes in the general election.

    Technically a primary election is run for the benefit of a political party, and because the intent is to find out how the members of each party feel about the candidates offered by the party, you cannot split your ticket, i.e. cast votes for members of a different party on the same ballot.

    There are two types of primaries, open and closed. An open primary does not require a person to show membership in a party in order to fill out a ballot for that party. In other words, not only are independents (non-affiliated) people allowed to vote for a party, but people can (and some do) cross party lines to vote for the other parties candidates. A closed primary is just that, only the registered members of each party can vote, and only for the party they are members of.

    However, the general election is not run for the benefit of the parties, but for the actual selection of the officeholder, and thus a person is allowed (and has to be allowed) to vote for the candidate they desire rather than the party they like. So in the general election you can select candidates from either party.

  9. lorn says

    As I understand it the Cruz campaign, pretty much from day one, was a Koch financed operation. Reports are that most of his campaign operators and advisors are old GOP hands with deep ties to the establishment and big donors. The up side of all this is that his anti-establishment credentials are all window dressing to position himself, at the behest of the big money donors, so that he can sweep in if/when they can harpoon or arrange a political accident in the convention for Trump.

    The fact that Rubio was bought by the GOP money trust was an open secret, he pretty much fell all over himself to kiss their asses while promising he would do their bidding, but the optics surrounding Cruz were supposed to highlight his anti-establishment, doing it all his own way, guided only by God and conscience, independent image.

    I’ve long suspected that the conservative billionaire class would, given their wealth and how cheap it is to buy candidates, buy an array of flavors of them so that there would be the illusion of choice. They would also allow some to be bought publicly, while others would keep the purchase agreement under cover. Having the connections of one exposed would tend to highlight the implied independence of the other. It is the GM philosophy applied to political candidates. GM said it would design a car for every style and need so there would be no need to go to any other brand. I’ve had people argue that Cadillacs are entirely different from Chevrolet. Overlooking that both are produced by GM.

    General Motors produces vehicles in 37 countries under thirteen brands: Alpheon, Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, Holden, HSV, Opel, Vauxhall, Wuling, Baojun, Jie Fang, UzDaewoo.

    I suspect that essentially all the GOP candidates outside Trump are deeply beholding to the usual GOP billionaire class. Essentially they are the same philosophy and agenda repackaged. The one thing that is known, but not advertised is that all of the GOP candidates have essentially signed onto the GOP dogma and catechism. I leave some wiggle room only because Trump has been less than consistent in his commitment rhetorically.

    The billionaires have offered up many variations. A female executive, a black doctor, a Cuban child of wealth, a soft spoken down to earth stealth ideologue, and a born-again chosen-one bad-boy with Christian evangelical stylings. But the agenda is the same and they are all backed by the same cluster of deep pockets.

  10. lorn says

    sonofrojblake @5:
    “If you’re a registered [X] and you decide to vote [Y], can you even do that?”

    The ongoing primaries, which are essentially state by state beauty contests, lead to the Democratic and Republican conventions, where they select a candidate to represent their party and establish a platform ( a document outlining party ideals and doctrine) made up of planks ( individual precepts) intending to state to the public what the party is about and what it stands for … well … that whole thing is run by the political parties. None of it is run by the government. None of it is mandated in the constitution.

    Primaries are state affairs. The party at the state level establishes the rules of how the primary is run. In some it is a straight election. In other a caucus. The elections and caucuses can be open to any citizen that shows up, closed to residents and open or closed to the party of the candidates in that primary. After the primary the delegates are allocated by rules established at the state. It can be winner-takes-all or proportional. The rules can change from year to year.

    In example: the coming Florida primary is winner-take-all state for delegates and it is closed to the party holding the primary. You can only vote in the primary for the party you are registered with. Florida is a populous state and has a rich prize of delegates for the winner.

    The rules are far more fixed and consistent between states and, as is obvious, any registered voter can vote for any candidate on th ballot, or write one in.

  11. Nick Gotts says

    I’m surprised at this point that Trump is even bothering to turn up. He’ll act “presidential” in the sense that he’ll work on the reasonable assumption that the nomination AND the election are his to lose. -- sonofrojblake@5

    At least with regard to the election, that would be a quite unreasonable assumption, in the light of poll results, which suggest Trump would lose to either Clinton or Sanders. Even in the nomination race, he’s not increasing his support at the rate previous Republican front-runners did in 2008 or 2012 as the field narrowed; he’s very likely to be the nominee, but there are still plausible ways he could lose even without some huge gaff or scandal (admittedly, that may not be so after 15th).

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