The Republican establishment has perceived that [the candidacy of Donald] Trump will drag the entire Republican field into a world where they cannot be taken seriously by general election voters—and launched an all-out effort to tar him. But the truth is that their effort may be a lost cause, for reasons that are intrinsic to the success of Trump’s consumer-focused approach: This year, GOP voters’ hunger for radicalism is so great that it can be filled by essentially anybody. Kill off Trump’s candidacy and the demand will remain, leaving an opening for yet another demagogic charlatan to take his place. ... [L]ast Friday, Public Policy Polling released a survey that showed Trump not only running ahead of the entire 2012 field, but registering numbers higher than such prior leaders as Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. That caused the Republican Powers That Be to stop dismissing him and launch the kind of sustained attack that is said to have succeeded in fatally damaging Sarah Palin’s credibility as a potential presidential candidate. During the last few days Karl Rove, George Will, and the Club for Growth have all trashed Trump very aggressively
But a closer look at the PPP findings should reveal the weakness of this elite strategy. What they show is not a desire to support the faux tycoon per se, but a raging right-wing, anti-establishment fever that has only gotten stronger in recent months. Ending or mortally wounding a Trump candidacy would only address its symptoms, rather than curing a condition in which voters will follow whichever candidate is willing to outdo his or her opponents at wingnuttery.Link. In fact, this streak of explosive anger has been there all along, goes straight back to (at least) the Wobblies. It's been obscured in recent years, partly by Ronald Reagan who seemed to promise so much (but in fact, gave not very much). Ross Perot had a bit of the flavor, but populism in Perot was always varnished over by a strain of inspired wonkery. Before that we did have George Wallace, but with Wallace, the stench of racism was so apparent that we tend to overlook the strain of beyond-racism lower-middle-class rage. Before Wallace, for the real thing you pretty much have to go back to Huey Long.
Maybe we need to take instruction from our friends, the cheese-eating surrender monkeys. For a long time they've had Jean Marie Le Pen and before him, Pierre Poujade. Indeed, it's probably not far off the mark to say that Le Pen's main contribution to French public life is that he made Nicolas Sarkozy look normal.