Horowitz: Trump Fails to Pivot

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

 

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The often repeated argument made for Donald Trump emerging as a strong general election candidate was that as soon as he locked up the nomination he would leave behind some of his extreme positions. soften some of his rhetoric, and move to the middle. In the words of his Campaign Chair and Chief Strategist, Paul Manafort, we would see a “different Donald Trump.”

The events of the past two weeks demonstrate that Manafort’s words were more wishful thinking than accurate prediction. Trump’s repeated racists attacks on the Judge in the Trump University civil fraud trial, his blasts at fellow Republicans who have not decided yet whether to back his candidacy, such as New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez of New Mexico, and his insulting of reporters by name at a media conference last week, show that Trump is not only failing to pivot; he is doubling-down on an approach that has already made him the most unpopular nominee in the history of polling and resulted in 7-in-10 general election voters thinking he does not have the right temperament to be President.

Most egregious is the nakedly racist argument he is making against Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is overseeing a California civil fraud trial against Trump University. In a continuing failed attempt to divert attention from the recent public release of damaging depositions and other court documents in the case,  Trump asserts that the Judge is biased against him because he is “Mexican” or of ‘Mexican Ancestry.” A distinguished and highly regarded jurist, Curiel was a Republican appointee to the California Superior Court before his appointment by President Obama to the US District Court. He was a courageous and capable federal prosecutor who put drug cartel kingpins behind bars at considerable risk to his personal safety.  

Trump’s racist and un-American argument was roundly criticized on the Sunday shows by members of his own party, including one of his big backers and frequently mentioned potential running-mate, Newt Gingrich who on Fox News Sunday said, "I think this is one of the worst mistakes Trump has made. I think it's inexcusable."

When asked on Meet the Press about Trump’s comments, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he "couldn’t disagree more. I am concerned about the Hispanic vote, America is changing,” McConnell added, “I think it’s a big mistake for our party to write off Latino Americans. I am concerned about that and I hope he will change his direction on that."

Curiel was born in Indiana to immigrant parents, prompting Joe Scarborough, a former Republican Congressman, to exclaim on yesterday’s Morning Joe, “He's a Hoosier, for God's sake!"  The Morning Joe Panel on the topic, including former George W. Bush Communications Director Nicole Wallace, unanimously agreed that Trump’s attack on the Judge was racist.  

Trump compounded his problem by saying a Muslim Judge could also be biased, when cornered by John Dickerson on Face the Nation.

Continuing her assault on Trump as unfit to be President that began in earnest with a well-received speech last week in which she adeptly used his own words against him, Hillary Clinton said, "He does have that thin skin, and you know, Judge Curiel is as American as I am, and certainly as American as Donald Trump is, and Trump's continuing ethnic slurs and rants against everyone, including a distinguished federal judge, I think makes my point rather conclusively."

The unique greatness of the United States is that it is a nation based on shared fundamental principles—not on a specific ethnicity, race or religion.  No matter our ancestry, we come together as Americans.  Our diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds and religious faiths gives our nation strength and attracts the world’s best and brightest.  This is what makes Donald Trump’s continued use of racially tinged appeals not only highly politically problematic; but counter to our nation’s values.

It is becoming evident that what you see with Donald Trump is what you get—racially tinged appeals, insults, falsehoods, and no real policy substance. With media scrutiny finally arriving, there is likely to be just more of the same. He appears incapable of the discipline and attention to policy detail needed to pull off a true pivot. It is why, despite his gifts as a personality, marketer and shrewd media manipulator, he is simply unfit and unqualified to be President.  And it is why, despite a big opportunity created by a political environment favorable to someone who can represent ‘change” and an unpopular Democratic nominee, he is unlikely to be President.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island

 

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