Mr. Trump’s unlikely campaign has become a seemingly unstoppable force, one that Republican lawmakers, donors and activists are only now fully confronting. ‘This is absolutely a crisis for the party elite — and beyond the party elite, for elected officials, and for the way people have been raised as Republicans in the power structure for a generation,’ says Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary for President George W. Bush. ‘If Donald J. Trumpwins, he will change what it means to be a Republican.’
‘He gets it,.we’ve sold ourselves out.’ As the Republican party implodes; conservative leaders struggling to explain Mr. Trump’s appeal have largely seized on his unique qualities as a candidate: his larger-than-life persona, his ability to dominate the airwaves, his tough-sounding if unrealistic policy proposals. Others ascribe Mr. Trump’s rise to the xenophobia and racism of Americans angry over their declining power.
But the story is also one of a party elite that abandoned its most faithful voters, blue-collar white Americans, who faced economic pain and uncertainty over the past decade as the party’s donors, lawmakers and lobbyists prospered. From mobile home parks in Florida and factory towns in Michigan, to Virginia’s coal country, where as many as one in five adults live on Social Security Disability Benefits, disenchanted Republican voters lost faith in the agenda of their party’s leaders.
‘They have to come to terms with what they created,’ says Laura Ingraham, a conservative activist and talk-radio host. ‘They’ll talk about everything except the fact that their policies are unpopular.’
Announcing his candidacy for presidency, Trump spins a tale of unfair trade deals hashed out by lobbyists, backscratchers and incompetent presidents who are stealing jobs from Americans. He’ll stop the flow of jobs over the border with Mexico, Mr. Trump promises, and build a wall to stop the flow of people. That message resonates with lower-income voters, and helps drive Mr. Trump’s string of successes.
But it has done little to convince Republican leaders that they need to rethink their approach or devise new proposals for blue-collar workers who are hurting.
As the party’s leading donors meet at the Ritz Carlton in Miami Beach, Florida, there is plenty of spirited chatter about Mr. Trump, but less discussion of the voters who fueled his rise, and little about what could be done to assuage them.