It is commonly accepted that the nature of American Presidential politics changed dramatically with the first ever televised debate between Nixon and Kennedy in 1960. Kennedy was widely regarded to have won the debate by those that watched, while Nixon was largely favored by those who listened on the radio.
That was the moment that Presidential "Optics" were born, and they've played a significant role in every Presidential election since. Both parties have struggled mightily to have their candidate maintain the correct "look" at all opportunities. A moment of failed optics can doom a campaign - just ask Michael Dukakis.
We believe there was an equally significant event during the summer of 1992 when Bill Clinton appeared on the Arsenio Hall Show and played the saxophone. This is the moment when U.S. Presidential politics moved directly into the pop culture media.
Until Clinton donned some blues brothers shades and hoisted his sax on the Arsenio show - Presidential candidates always attempted to appear distinguished and "Presidential" in public. Clinton purposefully broke that mold and succeeded in appealing directly to the dumbed down audience we now commonly call the "low information voter." Democrats have been broadly successful in going directly to the LIV's. Obama was a classic LIV candidate appearing often on pop culture media, and making numerous campaign appearances speaking in "community organizer" voice - not the soaring rhetorical cadence for which he became famous.
Donald Trump represents the GOP's first Presidential candidate with direct appeal to the LIV's. We've pointed out on numerous occasions that the political advantage of the Democrats is due to the added number of LIV's in Presidential elections vs. mid term elections. The Presidential turn out is almost 50% larger than the mid-term turn out. That number is disproportionately made up of LIV's and they vote disproportionately for Democrats.
The ratings of the first debate - approximately 10 fold the audience size of the first televised debate of 2012 - can be directly attibuted to Trump; and his appeal to LIV's. This is not to say that Trump is the ideal candidate, but to point out that he plays an important role in the GOP's effort to reach a broader market segment. It becomes increasingly troubling that the GOP seems intent on not only defeating Donald Trump in the primary, but to demean his very presence in the race. They GOP seems totally ignorant of the fact that they are demeaning not only the part of the GOP base that is unhappy with the current leadership, but that segment of the electorate that never considered voting for Mitt Romney - that think Trump is a cool dude worthy of consideration.
If the Democrats were dealing with an inexplicably popular pop culture figure leading their primary races, they would be all over the media explaining why that candidate is really substantive and serious despite their reputation as an ass clown. Does Al Franken ring a bell? Even now, the chair of the DNC goes out of her way to not offend supporters of wacko Bernie Sanders. But not the GOP. They have a candidate riding a wave of popularity unlike any since - well, Barack Obama, and they can't wait to trash him and make sure nobody mistakes them as being identified as "popular."
Trump may not make the best President. But lets be serious. Despite his reputation as a pop culture ass clown; it's impossible to deny that he's had significant accomplishments, and that he's transacted business dealings at a very high level. We've been quite critical of Trump here. We've even said he's more like Paris Hilton than Conrad Hilton.
But if he's such a terrible candidate, why not just allow him to compete and lose?
Why the insistence that he be "disqualified" because of statements or his "non pledge" to support the GOP?
Why would he pledge to support a group that is determined to conspire against his candidacy?
Why ostracize him to the point that he's practically forced to run as a third party to save face?
Such is the dysfunction that is currently the GOP.
Let's make peace with Trump. Let him run his race. When he loses of his own accord, he'll make an invaluable surrogate in the 2016 General Election. The GOP needs to decide, in 2016 - do they want Trump to be "with them," or "against them." Unfortunately, due to the prominence of LIV"s - that decision could alter the course of human history.