Donald Trump as third party candidate: A gift to Obama supporters

OPINION - Donald Trump has forsaken his Republican Party affiliation, and Obama supporters should be thrilled...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Donald Trump has forsaken his Republican Party affiliation, and Obama supporters should be thrilled. Trump — the real estate mogul and self-proclaimed billionaire, reality show king, birther and now perennial political interloper — has decided to switch his New York state voter affiliation from Republican to unaffiliated in order to leave his options open for a 2012 presidential run.

The Donald’s entry into the presidential race as an independent candidate is exciting, but not necessarily because he could win more votes than the GOP nominee. Rather, Trump would serve as the wild card in the race, forcing the Republican nominee to tack further right in the general election, and pay respects to the Tea Party and the handful of remaining birthers out there.

And in the general election — especially in this political climate — that is a worst case scenario for the Republicans, and the last place that party’s candidate should want to be.

Trump has been a GOP kingmaker of sorts, threatening to moderate a GOP debate in Iowa before doing an about face. Trump has made his bones in right-wing politics by inserting himself into the Obama birth certificate debate, or rather, the manufactured controversy in which some ultra-conservatives questioned the president’s citizenship (and legitimacy) and insisted he was born in Kenya.

The truth clashed with their unsubstantiated claims, and Obama produced his Hawaiian birth certificate in any case, but that is beside the point. The birther conspiracy theorists, with their not-so-subtle racial overtones, have represented the frontlines of an overwhelmingly, though not exclusively white conservative backlash against the nation’s first black president.

Trump declared Obama’s birth certificate to be a forged and computer generated fake and demanded to see the president’s birth certificate. “There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like,” Trump claimed. “There is certainly a chance that he was not born in this country,” Trump said according to WND. “Now if he was not born in this country, that means he can’t be president. It’s very simple.”

Trump claims to have “a great relationship with the blacks” as he calls us, and even believes the black vote would help his third-party run for the White House. “Well, I think I’d get a great cross-section. I think I’d get Hispanic votes, frankly. I think — and people smile when I say it — I think I’d do great with the African-American votes. I think I’d do great with that,” Trump said. “I just have a great relationship with African-Americans and African-American voters.”
However, the Donald, not unlike the Republican Party, has a black people problem, of which his birther philosophy is but one part. He agreed with Newt Gingrich that inner city kids should work as janitors in the public schools to build a work ethic. Gingrich — who wants to do away with child labor laws, presumably because we know how well things worked without them — asked Trump to offer apprenticeships to 10 children from the poorest New York City schools.

And recently on The Today Show, Trump asserted that blacks have no role models, except for President Obama who, according to Trump, has not turned out to be a good one. “No, they don’t have in many cases role models, Matt. It’s very sad,” said Trump. “They do not have role models. I know it’s not a popular statement, but it happens to be true.”

Now, obviously Trump and other birther and Tea Party endorsed politicians say these things because there is an audience of disaffected white voters for it, or they actually believe it, or both. Yet, there is no evidence that this will be a winning strategy for the 2012 general election.

Obama’s approval is on the uptick, with more Americans approving of his job performance than disapproving, despite the worst economy since the first Great Depression. Apparently, the president is helped by the circus that is passing for the Republican nomination process.

Most of all, he is ahead of the field of Republican candidates — Romney, Gingrich, Perry, you name them, he beats them. Obama is beating them in Virginia — a Southern state he won against John McCain in 2008 — leading Romney by 6 points and Gingrich by 7. And in North Carolina, another Southern battleground state claimed by Obama, the president leads Gingrich and is tied with Romney. If Donald Trump creates a three-way race and splits the conservative vote with the Republican nominee, the numbers can only look even better for Obama.

Conventional wisdom has it that presidential primary contenders appeal to the diehard activists in their party’s base in order to clinch the nomination, only to move to the proverbial center in the general election. But it is not so farfetched that the GOP nominee would have to compete with Trump for the isolated red meat Republican voters by moving even more to the right — so far to the right that even his mother wouldn’t recognize him.

This comes at a time of public backlash against Republican policies. Most Americans disagree with the Tea Party and their anti-big government rallying cry, while most agree with the Occupy movement that the nation’s economic structure is out of whack and favors the wealthy few. Even a majority of Tea Party supporters oppose cuts to Medicare and social security, while a majority of all people, including Republicans, favor tax increases for the rich.

Nationwide, Congressional Democrats are ahead of Republicans in a composite of recent polls. This comes as House Speaker John Boehner’s compromise with Democrats to extend the payroll tax cut for two months has led to dissension in the GOP ranks.

Plus, Obama is way ahead with Latino voters with up to a 3-to-1 margin, and enjoys over 90 percent approval among African-Americans, according to recent polls. These voters will play a crucial role in the upcoming election. And these demographic groups would seem to be out of the reach of the Republicans, regardless of their nominee.

Across the nation, the GOP strategy is to appeal to a narrow segment of the electorate, and doubling down on dumbness, extremism and the old racial animosities. These days, conservative simply is not radical enough.

After Alabama passed the nation’s harshest anti-immigrant law, Latino workers have fled the state. Now farmers want to replace migrant laborers with the state’s mostly black prison population. The Justice Department nixed South Carolina’s voter ID law on the grounds that it discriminates against minority voters.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul is in the hot seat for publishing racist newsletters about black men and race wars. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R, Wisconsin), another Republican congressman had to apologize for comments he made about the first lady’s posterior. And recall efforts are on track against the union busting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and four Republican state senators.

There is every indication that the current Republican presidential field is on board with a harsh, hard-right strategy against Latinos, Muslims, gay marriage and abortion. Under these circumstances alone, appealing to a mainstream electorate would prove difficult.

With the added dynamic of Trump, a bona fide birther in the race, the eventual Republican candidate will spend precious time debating the president’s citizenship in order to keep the base in the fold. That is time not spent on trying to appeal to moderates and independents, which the Republicans will not attract in any case if the main policy issue is birth certificates.

And remember that because of their voter ID, anti-immigration and other policies, the GOP must write off the entire black vote and most of the Latino vote in 2012, which it did not appear to want in the first place.

In other words, a Trump candidacy forces the Republican nominee to fight for the party’s own core supporters, while turning off the moderate and independent voters that a general election victory requires. During this holiday season, President Obama and his supporters couldn’t have asked for a better gift.