Editorials

Donald Trump’s hostile takeover of the Republican Party

Cartoon by Jim Morin: Donald Trump and the Klu Klux Klan
Cartoon by Jim Morin: Donald Trump and the Klu Klux Klan

Early returns from Super Tuesday projected Donald Trump victories in at least five states — Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Massachusetts and Tennessee — making him the odds-on favorite to win the GOP nomination for president. Apparently, he has managed to wrest control of the party away from the guardians of Republican orthodoxy.

Up next for Mr. Trump: The Sunshine State: “We’re going to spend a lot of time in Florida,” he said Tuesday night at a Mar-a-Lago news conference, in anticipation of our March 15 primary.

Now the party’s hapless managers are panicked, gasping for air and wondering how this came to pass.

But in the business world that the upstart candidate comes from, what he’s doing is quite common: Donald Trump is executing a hostile takeover of the Republican Party. The only surprise is that the party’s clueless leaders didn’t see it coming.

In a hostile takeover, an outsider, sensing an opportunity to profit by going around the board of directors and appealing directly to the stockholders, holds out the prospect of instant gratification by offering a higher stock price in exchange for control of the company.

It’s a daring tactic that often works if the insurgent has done his research properly. In this instance, party leaders themselves damaged the brand, paving the way for Mr. Trump. The latest example is the whoop-de-do over David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan. Party leaders are shocked — shocked! — that a man who aspires to lead the party of Abraham Lincoln did not immediately reject Duke’s support.

Party leaders, who are you kidding? You’ve mounted a campaign to undercut voting rights for African-Americans. You’ve disparaged America’s black president. You winked and nodded when Trump said President Obama was born in Kenya, implicitly encouraging him. You hate affirmative action and consistently attack domestic programs designed to help poor blacks (and whites) in America’s inner cities.

And now you’re surprised David Duke is backing the party’s top vote getter? C’mon. It’s the chickens coming home to roost.

Donald Trump is reaping the benefit of years of rhetoric and policy that divide America into “us” against “them” — the hated others. Yet the way he has gone about it cannot be blamed on anyone else.

His standard campaign appearance is a toxic mixture of bombast (“We’ll win so much you’re going to get tired of winning”), demagoguery (“Christianity is under siege”) and bully-boy invective, like his jibe that “he (Marco Rubio) has biggest ears I’ve ever seen.”

Mr. Trump has single-handedly managed to take political and public discourse in a presidential campaign to a new low, a dubious achievement if ever there was one. That is one of the main reasons that the prospect of his nomination is so dismaying.

The other is that the electorate doesn’t have a clue as to what Mr. Trump would do in office. And even if he had a well-thought-out platform, how is a candidate who has been denounced by leaders of both major parties going to win approval on Capitol Hill?

At this stage, Mr. Trump’s takeover bid has gone from impossible to nearly inevitable. Any challenger is clearly a long shot. But we don’t think Mr. Trump has closed the deal.Florida still has a chance to make a difference.

Tomorrow: The choice n Florida.

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