Trump's fights with the other candidates are keeping America interestedby Sam Tanenhaus / October 15, 2015 / Leave a comment
Published in November 2015 issue of Prospect Magazine
Who knew politics could be so much fun? After nearly seven years of exhausting the public’s patience with unceasing attacks on Barack Obama and the Democrats, Republicans have found a rich new target: themselves. Credit the trash-talking “outsider” presidential candidates—Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. Collectively, their political experience adds up to zero—days in office, that is. Only one of the three has even been a candidate before: Fiorina, for Senate in 2010. She was thrashed, “lost in a landslide,” Trump chortled, also noting that “she did a terrible job at Hewlett-Packard” (as CEO).
It’s “blunt and cruel,” the columnist Frank Rich pointed out. And it has helped boost Trump to the top of national polls, which is why the others have been slapping back. The normally mild-mannered Senator Lindsey Graham has called Trump a “complete idiot.” Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal described him as “unstable, narcissistic, egomaniac.”
The Republican Party has come, or fallen, a long way since the days when Ronald Reagan, the party’s patron saint, genially enforced the so-called 11th commandment, “thou shall not speak ill of any fellow Republican” (unless, of course, it was Reagan’s hated rival, Gerald Ford).
But 21st-century insult comedy is playing well with the public. The first televised Republican debate, on Fox News, drew 24m viewers, a record in the history of cable news programming. The second, on CNN, drew so much advance interest that advertising rates s…