DALTON >> Donald Trump predicts a riot in Cleveland if he is denied the Republican nomination. As with grenades and horseshoes, he contends that getting close to the required 1,237 delegates on the first ballot should be good enough.
Responding to Trump's assertion and prediction, speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, characterized Trump's words as "unacceptable." "Unacceptable" may sound a bit tepid, but keep in mind that Ryan will chair the Republican convention this summer and he will be expected to maintain the appearance of neutrality.
It is difficult to gauge the intent of Trump's prediction. Is it one of his typical forays into forbidden territory where he suggests to an audience that he would like to punch a protester in the face and then denies that he has any culpability when one of his supporters acts on his suggestion? If Trump actually fears the possibility of a riot in Cleveland, then why does he plant the seed?
Covers all bases
His stump speech is laced with purposeful ambivalence, allowing him to hammer away at his selected targets while providing ample wiggle room for his claims of innocence. This patterned ambivalence may also reveal some troubling habits of mind.
His speeches have an off-the-cuff feel, but his words are very carefully chosen and structured to provide multiple connecting points for audiences with a wide range of attitudes and backgrounds. It would be a monumental blunder to define his base as a narrow band of the voting public.
Each of his bread and butter issues begins with condemnation/accusation and ends with love. He warns his audience of dangerous illegal immigrants who rape and kill Americans. They must be sent away and walled out, but he loves the Mexican people. He accuses the Chinese of cheating us on trade with the help of our "stupid" leaders but he has many business connections with the Chinese and he loves them. He rails against Muslims and then concludes that he has many Muslim friends and he loves them too.
While two extreme positions are directed at each target in linear progression, the hate/fear-love combinations actually function as horizontal continuums. Each audience member listens to both extremes, and in effect, chooses a comfortable connecting point on each continuum.
If you fear Mexican immigrants, you hear only the words about the danger they represent. If you are motivated in a different direction, Trump's stated "love" for the Mexican people is what you take away.
Trump's magnet is his narcissism. When considering foreign affairs, he consults with himself. He reminds us that his brain is impressive and that politicians are stupid with only one exception. Facing the cold, tense and sometimes frightening uncertainties of complex international relationships and many domestic challenges that seem to defy solution, Trump offers himself, not his policies, as a warm security blanket, a comforting anchor in a roiling sea, an impenetrable wall.
Trump's supporters pay little attention to detail. They crave security and a restored sense of control. The wall Trump speaks of at every rally symbolizes the security and control that only his leadership can provide. His supporters may not always believe what he says, but they unwaveringly believe in him.
He tells them that he will reverse corporate outsourcing and they believe him (plans and details unseen). He claims that we are paying Iran billions of our dollars to slow down their nuclear development but he omits the fact that Iran has simply regained access to its own money, not ours.
Political strategists, both Republicans and Democrats, cannot figure out how to crack Trump's armor. The more reckless and accusatory his rhetoric, the more support he seems to garner. If Reagan was the Teflon president, Trump is the ultimate impervious candidate. No one has found his Achilles heel.
The cable news networks have provided almost non-stop coverage of Trump, their ratings buoyed by his provocative insults, accusations, promises, vitriol and occasional vulgarity. Donald Trump is admired for his "straight-talk" but the opposite is true. Trump reinvented himself specifically for this campaign.
Sheds liberal skin
While Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state, she earned effusive praise from Trump but now that he is a candidate, she has become the incarnation of evil. And this is just one of a plethora of reversals. Trump has shed his liberal skin and replaced it with a coarser exoskeleton.
If Trump wins the nomination, the Republican Party and the nation will never be the same. If he is denied the nomination, the Republican Party will never be the same. Taking the long view, that might be a good thing. New political alignments and fresh perspectives may emerge, enabling us to shed our right-left paralysis.
If we can just get past the "unacceptable" and overcome the ugliness that this campaign has uncovered, we may yet emerge with opportunities to restore the type of representative government that gives people priority over financial influence. Many of us would consider that acceptable.
Edward Udel is a regular Eagle contributor.