Frank Rich, a former New York Times columnist who now writes for New York magazine, usually gives a weekly commentary in the form of an exchange with another member of the magazine’s staff. In this week’s version, Alex Carp asked Rich for his take on how The Donald can remain atop the Republican polls despite various offensive remarks, such as his attack on Megyn Kelly. Rich replied:
“The mystery of Trump’s hold on Republican voters is no mystery. As many, including me, have said, his xenophobia and misogyny have long been orthodoxy among the party’s base. Just look at the Fox News debate itself. Though Kelly called Trump out on his history of misogynistic insults, none of his nine opponents onstage took exception to his crude attack on Rosie O’Donnell or to the laughter and cheers it aroused from the audience. (The incident was an echo of that 2012 GOP debate where no one onstage dared chastise the audience for booing Stephen Hill, a gay serviceman in Iraq who asked the candidates a question about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell via video.)
“Nor did anyone onstage dissent when Scott Walker and Marco Rubio declared that women should be outlawed from seeking abortions even if their own lives are at stake. How glibly and eagerly they decreed capital punishment for women who have the ill fortune to end up in tragic, potentially fatal pregnancies.
“The difference between Trump and his cohort is that he shouts his party’s ugliest views at the top of his lungs and without apology rather than sugarcoating them in Frank Luntz–tested euphemisms and code words. What the GOP Establishment wants is Trumpism — and Trump supporters — without the embarrassing spectacle of Trump himself. Now he has called their bluff and is holding the entire Republican Party hostage. The Establishment would like to blow him up so that he’ll stop giving up the game by calling attention to the extremist views and constituents in the GOP base, but every attempt to sideline him has backfired. Trump, meanwhile, retains the power to blow up the party’s 2016 hopes by coaxing his followers either to stay home on Election Day or to join him in some quixotic third-party sideshow.”