Trump actually could have been a contender

Before lapsing into a self defeating orgy of birtherism and buffoonery, Donald Trump was actually enunciating some positions that could have resonated with Republicans, and then with the general public. They might have formed the basis for a successful candidacy. They also provide insight into what someone not steeped in conventional beltway wisdom, but with a P.T. Barumesque feel for what people are actually feeling, comes up with.

On the actual real issues, The Donald was the only one saying some things that need to be said. Things that someone on our side should be saying, but isn’t. And frankly, he hit on some things that could have been a winning message:

Economic Nationalism: Trump first made headlines with his attacks on China. The Chinese were playing us for chumps and taking our jobs and he was going to stop it. Later he broadened the attack to include OPEC and others. And we didn’t just need jobs, we needed industrial jobs, we needed to make things again. Although simplistic, this message had more truth and much more resonance among the public than the Beltway Villagers realize.

It’s not the Deficit, it’s Jobs: Trump answered every question about the deficit by saying we needed to fix the economy and get back our jobs. He would absolutely refuse to discuss any other steps on the deficit. To the Villagers, this was of course the ultimate demonstration of his lack of seriousness.   Except, as the last two years of Paul Krugman’s columns demonstrate — restarting the economy is the correct answer to the question of what we need to do NOW.

He rejected Paul Ryan’s budget, especially cutting Medicare out of hand: Although even Newt Gingrich seems to be realizing what a loser the Ryan Budget’s destruction of Medicare is, Trump was the first Republican candidate to say so.

Get Out of Afghanistan: Trump said we needed to pull our troops out and control any resurgence of terrorism with drones. With the Obama administration stuck in a Vietnam Syndrome of “We’re there because we’re there, because we’re there,” getting out of Afghanistan is 2012’s sleeper issue. If the Republicans realize how unpopular this war is, Obama could be in real trouble. And again (except for Ron Paul) Trump was there first.

Tom Wellington is a longtime Democratic campaign operative based in Washington, DC.

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