Trump Versus the Club for Growth


The Club for Growth is not a fan of Donald Trump, who claims he doesn’t know who they are.  That’s one of the reasons they’re not a fan, but they have others.

Club president Chris Chocola said, in a press release yesterday, “Donald Trump for President? You’ve got to be joking.  Donald Trump has advocated for massive tax increases that display a stunning lack of knowledge of how to create jobs.  His love for a socialist-style universal health care system and his alarming obsession with protectionist policies are automatic disqualifiers among free-market conservatives.  This publicity stunt will sputter and disappear just as quickly as the ‘The Apprentice’ is losing viewers.”

Among other indictments of Trump in the Club’s press release are assertions from his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, in which Trump declared “We must have universal health care,” by which he meant “an equivalent of the single-payer plan that is affordable, well-administered, and provides freedom of choice.” 

Trump also wanted to “impose a one-time 14.25% tax on individuals and trusts with a net worth of over $10 million,” which he thought would “raise $5.7 trillion in new revenue, which we would use to pay off the entire national debt.”  Of course, the national debt is more than double that large today, and if the debt ceiling is raised next month, it will soon be triple.  Trump’s belief that politicians would use $5.7 trillion government windfall to pay off debt is even more alarming than his willingness to subtract so much money from the private sector economy, and hand it over to the moribund State.

Trump’s response to this criticism, as relayed by George Stephanopolous of ABC News: “Me?  A liberal?  What is the Club for Growth and who are they supporting?  I had heard that they have a favored candidate, whoever that may be.”

He’ll need to do better, if he’s going to make a run at the presidency.  All candidates should be ready for criticism from various elements of the Republican coalition, not just attacks from Obama, the Democrats, and their media auxiliaries.

The Republican Party is large, and much less interested in lockstep support than the Democrat coalition.  As long as government grows, and redistributes more wealth to the Democrats’ favored constituencies, their presidential candidate can expect muted criticism at worst from the heavy hitters – and of course, the media is reliably uninterested in blowing such criticism up into a “rift” or “crack-up,” especially in the later stages of the campaign.

Republican factions have more sustained criticism for their presidential candidates.  The best chance they’ll have for sustained, friendly media coverage in their entire lives comes when they launch broadsides against front-running GOP candidates.  No candidate will ever cruise into the Republican National Convention with a history of universal support from everyone in the “Big Tent.” 

The Club for Growth is not some rinky-dink outfit that formed yesterday, and their concerns are not carefully guarded secrets.  Trump should have been thumbing through his book, and reviewing his other public statements, to identify points of possible conflict with important conservative organizations, and preparing to win them over. 

Paranoid mutterings about “favored candidates” have no place in a well-planned strategy to build a conservative coalition.  Barack Obama could have handled Chocola’s criticism better.  Bill Clinton would have invited him out for a beer and asked how much a membership in the Club for Growth costs.  If they have good-looking interns, Clinton might even have showed up at their office.

As to the substance of the Club for Growth’s press release, Trump told Stephanopolous, “It’s a long time ago.  It’s 11 or 12 years ago.  And frankly, a lot of people agreed with it.  A lot of conservative Republicans agreed with it, at that time.  We have a different country today.  We can’t afford things that we could have afforded or that we thought we could afford many years ago.” 

Dear Donald: no “conservative Republican” ever thought socialized medicine was a good idea.  No country can “afford” it.  Every country that practices socialized medicine is in financial trouble, and they’re not as large as the United States.  It was no less of an epic disaster in the making when Hillary Clinton tried it, six years before you wrote The America We Deserve.  

Donald Trump built an impressive position in early polls by talking tough to Obama.  Republican primary voters are understandably concerned about running another milquetoast candidate who will spend his campaign telling us what a fine man Barack Obama is.  The problem is that we need leadership and governance from our President, not just high-powered salesmanship.  Coalitions are not built through contempt.

Perhaps the conservative electorate would be willing to believe Trump has changed his mind, and now repudiates the ideas he expressed “11 or 12 years ago.”