Politics & Policy

Four Easy Steps for Beating Donald Trump

Donald Trump in South Carolina, September 23, 2015 (Sean Rayford/Getty)

The Republican elites are all in a Twitter titter about whether Donald Trump can be defeated. They needn’t worry. Beating Trump will be as easy as counting backward from four to one.

Four bankruptcies, three wives, two parties, one big problem for America. That six-second tagline to an ad sums up why, when the chips are down, the Donald’s getting fired.

This mantra will take Trump down because his appeal rests on trust. Voters angry with elites for various reasons trust that Trump will have their backs in office. But the 4-3-2-1 line of attack shows why exactly the opposite is true.

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“Four bankruptcies” will shake Trump’s support among the key Republican faction, the establishment conservative. These voters tend to be small-business people and middle-range executives, and nothing is more important to them than stability of character. Their businesses and careers depend on being able to count on employees to come to work, contractors to pay their bills, and bosses to treat them fairly.

Trump’s bankruptcies are poison for these voters because they were all strategic moves that threw people like them under the bus. When the chips were down, Trump sacrificed his business allies to keep his millions and start over. Nothing will scare a small-business person or an executive more than the thought that there but for the grace of God go I.

“Three wives” are also, at heart, about trust rather than morality. To be sure, Christian conservatives looking at Trump should worry about a man who has twice been in violation of Jesus’ prohibition (Matthew 19:5–9, if Mr. Trump would like the Bible verse) against divorce except in cases of sexual immorality. But women in general will also be turned off by Trump’s romantic antics. They might well wonder whether his relationships with women are a positive indication that he will he be faithful and attentive to their political needs through thick and thin.

The story of Carolyn Kepcher reinforces both lines of attack. A brainy, beautiful blond, Carolyn was the real breakout star from the early seasons of The Apprentice. But according to press reports, Trump could bear no one but himself gaining public adulation, so he fired her in favor of his daughter, Ivanka. The lesson was clear: Anyone can be fired if it helps The Donald.

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Repeat after me: four bankruptcies, three wives, two parties, one big problem for America.

“Two parties” points out for loyal Republicans and movement conservatives alike that Trump treats parties and policy positions like toys to be used and discarded at his pleasure. He’s been a Democrat, an independent, a Republican, and briefly sought the Reform-party nomination for president in 2000. He’s been pro-choice and pro-life, pro-Clinton and anti-Clinton, pro–single payer and anti-Obamacare. There’s neither rhyme nor reason for his shifts: The only thing that explains them is his constant pursuit of the one thing that really matters, the glory of Donald Trump.

All of these facts add up to one big problem for America. Most of Trump’s backers believe that the biggest thing wrong about America is that no one in government is working for them. But Trump isn’t the elite guy who’s switched sides, he’s the elite guy par excellence whose pursuit of his own wealth and fame leaves everyone else in the dust. He’s not only not the solution to America’s problems, he’s the biggest embodiment of those problems.

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Trump will still have his backers after this barrage, but someone who has risen fast can also fall fast. About one sixth of the GOP electorate has gone from disliking Trump six weeks ago to liking him now. This soft support is the difference between an annoying but harmless Trump sitting at 15–18 percent and a terrifying Trump sitting at 30–35 percent. These lines of attack will remind soft supporters exactly why their initial instincts about the Donald were right.

Repeat after me: four bankruptcies, three wives, two parties, one big problem for America. Say it enough times, and soon we’ll be talking about who among the remaining contenders can fill the big man’s shoes.

Henry OlsenMr. Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, an editor at UnHerd.com, and the author of The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue-Collar Conservatism.


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