Why the Republican Field is Incapable of Challenging Trump

Tying in to what Martin just wrote about the Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy, I’ve long felt that, even though the GOP has put up a large number of candidates this time around, the quantity doesn’t make up for the lack of quality.

A general consensus seems to be forming after last night’s debate that Republicans are in the phase of resigning themselves to a Trump candidacy. I’m seeing that noted in a variety of places. For example, Jonathan Chait, Greg Sargent and Steve Benen all have pretty good round-ups on that sentiment. While I was watching the debate last night, I had a growing sense of how the lack of quality in the field has enabled the ongoing dominance of Trump.

For all of his faults (there are too many to name, so don’t get me started), one of the things that Donald Trump is pretty good at is having a nose for hypocrisy as well as the ability to locate and exploit the weaknesses of others. One of the reasons his attacks work is that they usually contain a twisted sense of truth. The example that springs to mind from last night is that he outright called Jeb Bush “weak.” In a field where bullying is assumed to demonstrate strength, that’s pretty spot on.

Part of the reason why none of the current candidates can effectively challenge Trump is that there is not one of them who is grounded in authenticity and truth. For example, one of the things Jeb has become known for in this campaign is saying something and then having to call it back or revise it 3 or 4 times before he’s done. Everyone knows that Rubio is simply spouting lines that he has practiced and rehearsed. As we saw last night, Christie can hardly speak without lying. These days all Carson seems capable of is rambling incoherently. And Cruz is the closest thing we have to a sociopath in this race (with Carly Fiorina running a close second) – twisting his agenda to appeal to the lowest common denominator. The one candidate who exudes even a hint of authenticity is John Kasich. But all he seems to be able to do is flail his arms around, talk about his record, and extol the virtues of trickle-down economics.

In order to take on a bully like Trump you have to look him in the eye and stand your ground confidently – without prevaricating or attempting to out-bully the bully. In order to do that, you have to know what you believe and be able to articulate it authentically. Short of that, Trump will find the opening and exploit the hell out of it.

None of these candidates can do that because what the Republican Party is about right now is all a farce based on fear-mongering and out-dated policies that have proven themselves to be a disaster. They’re putting on a show and Donald Trump is making that obvious to everyone by simply putting on a bigger show.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.