There are three types of people in this world: Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who say, “What just happened?”
In the case of Donald Trump v. The Media and The Elite, it has been a battle against Types 1 and 3. A contest between a man who was clued in to the sentiments of the Republican electorate against a GOP (and media) Establishment disconnected from the people they are supposed to be serving with their astute political strategy and analysis.
Exit polls in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Connecticut — all of which Trump won on Tuesday — offer the final evidence that, whether you like him or not, Trump represents the majority of Republicans on issue after issue, and that the Elite have failed time and again to understand his appeal.
In January, the National Review devoted an entire issue to debunking Trump, headlining it “Against Trump.” Much of it was devoted to asserting that Trump is not a conservative.
“One thing about which there can be no debate is that Trump is no conservative — he’s simply playing one in the primaries. Call it unreality TV,” wrote Mona Charen.
“We conservatives should support the one candidate who walks with us,” opined L. Brent Bozelle III — meaning, not Trump.
“Donald Trump is no conservative. That’s not a crime, it’s just a reason to vote against him,” wrote Yuval Levin.
Trump beat the supposed darling of the right, Sen. Ted Cruz, by more than 10 points among very conservative voters in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Connecticut, according to an ABC analysis of exit polls. “Donald Trump dominated among white, born-again or evangelical Christians in Pennsylvania, who made up 42 percent of the Republican electorate, winning 58 percent — Ted Cruz won 29 percent and John Kasich won 12 percent,” according to CNN.
The most exalted of the supposed political experts decided last year that Trump hadn’t the slightest chance to become president, or even get near the nomination.
“Let’s assume — gulp — that Trump is serious this time around. Heck, while we’re at it, let’s assume he actually runs. IT. DOESN’T. MATTER,” Chris Cillizza wrote. (The caps are his.) “I can’t emphasize that strongly enough,” he continued. “Trump is now notorious rather than famous. He’s seen as a professional provocateur rather than a serious businessperson … Yes, a Trump candidacy would get lots of attention — from the media (sad face) and voters. But, fascination with a political train wreck isn’t the same thing as serious interest in a candidate. The real question is not whether Trump will run or not. The real question is why any of us even care.”
Nate Silver, famous for his “scientific,” data-based, and therefore infallible approach to politics, wrote last August: “If you want absurd specificity, I recently estimated Trump’s chance of becoming the GOP nominee at 2 percent. How did I get there? By considering the gauntlet he’ll face over the next 11 months.”
In July, after Trump had gotten in, Cillizza tweeted, “Basically Trump is the Nickelback of presidential candidates. Disliked by most, super popular with a few.” The Establishment, in fact, for months tried to portray Trump as a niche candidate, appealing to a subset of aging, angry people. If it was ever true, it’s not anymore.
“Trump won across nearly all demographic groups — gender, education, and income levels alike — in Connecticut, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. With the exception of the youngest voters in Maryland, he won all age groups in each state,” according to The Associated Press analysis of exit polls in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Connecticut..
“Making political predictions rarely turns out well, but here’s one: Donald Trump will not be a candidate for president in 2016,” wrote The Daily Beast columnist Stuart Stevens in August. “What? Yes, I know, he’s already announced. In my view, though, he won’t take this all the way to the ballot in Iowa, New Hampshire, or any of the Republican caucus or primary elections. Why? Because he’s Donald Trump and everything we know about him tells us he won’t do it.”
It turned out only the first few words of Stevens’ commentary were correct.
As late as December, even one of the smartest analysts was holding on to his Trump-loses prediction. “Sticking with my prediction: Trump will win no caucuses or primaries, and will run behind Ron Paul 2012 in IA and NH,” tweeted Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard. Back in the summer, Kristol had advised Trump to begin working on his exit strategy, at least sometime before Iowa.
Trump fueled forecasts of his political demise with statements that correct opinion thought would surely end his candidacy. Most notable, perhaps, was when he said of Sen. John McCain, an American hero for his years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, “I like people who weren’t captured.”
“Trump is toast … Don Voyage,” blared a headline in the New York Post.
“It came slightly ahead of schedule, but Donald Trump’s inevitable self-immolation arrived on the weekend when he assailed John McCain’s war record,” sniffed The Wall Street Journal. “The question now is how long his political and media apologists on the right will keep pretending he’s a serious candidate.”
Rarely has a prognostication by such a prominent media outlet looked so inept in retrospect.
The Des Moines Register demanded that Trump, who would go on to place second in the Iowa caucuses, drop out of the race.
Diminishing Trump became sport for the media — conservative and otherwise. The Huffington Post harrumphed that it was relegating its Trump coverage to the entertainment section. Red State founder Erick Erickson disinvited Trump to a gathering of GOP candidates because he might have referred to Megyn Kelly menstruating.
Marvel at the disconnect. Red State invited every GOP candidate to its confab except the one who is now likely to win the nomination. It is the same bluntness that is offensive in the parlors of the elite that is propelling Trump to the nomination. “What’s chiefly boosted him are those looking for a candidate who ‘tells it like it is’ or ‘can bring needed change,'” wrote ABC in its exit poll analysis.
“Trump also won two-thirds of voters who are angry about how the federal government is working. And in Pennsylvania he pulled in eight in 10 of those who want an outsider rather than a candidate with political experience, near the record set last week in New York,” ABC wrote.
Back in August, LifeZette argued that suggestions Trump was a “flash-in-the-pan” might be wrong.
“Unlike previous GOP flashes-in-the-pan, his lead seems solid, his coffers are overflowing, and his ability to weather controversy is uncanny,” wrote LifeZette’s Brendan Kirby. “Trump is showing signs of having a more durable and solid lead than previous shooting stars who had their 15 minutes of celebrity and then fell back to insignificance.” That was August.
Kirby noted that those outside the Beltway weren’t so bearish on Trump. “Republican voters certainly think it could happen. A Rasmussen poll out Friday finds that 57 percent of likely GOP voters think Trump is likely to be the nominee, up from 27 percent who felt that way two months ago when he announced,” he wrote.
Keith Koffler is the editor of the website White House Dossier.