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Day: March 2, 2016

A GOP trapped by Trump


      WASHINGTON — The Republican Party is on the verge of being taken over by an egomaniac who appeals to the nation’s darkest impulses. Yet Donald Trump’s foes are splintered, tactically but also philosophically.

     It doesn’t help that each of his three serious challengers is a flawed alternative. None is sufficiently dominant to force the others aside.

     Sen. Ted Cruz has the most legitimate claim as a Trump-slayer. He’s now beaten him in four contests. Yet Cruz is so disliked by so many party leaders that they have refused to rally behind him. Indeed, many in the GOP view Cruz as being nearly as vulnerable to Hillary Clinton as Trump is. She took a large step toward securing the Democratic nomination with her seven victories over Bernie Sanders on Super Tuesday.

     The Republican establishment plainly prefers Sen. Marco Rubio, but voters have not gone along. Rubio did manage to win the Minnesota caucuses. But he ran third in eight of the other 10 states that voted Tuesday and has lost 14 times since the nomination battle began.

     Gov. John Kasich may well be the party’s strongest potential general-election candidate. But his relative moderation has so far marginalized him in an increasingly right-wing party. Only in Vermont, one of the few states where a less strident brand of conservatism still plays well in the GOP, did Kasich put up a fierce challenge to Trump. Still, Kasich lost.

     But the difficulty Republicans have in identifying a single candidate to take Trump down speaks to a deeper problem. Its leaders have yet to decide whether Trump’s greatest sin is that he exploits bigotry or that he fails to bow to conservative ideological orthodoxy.

     While some conservatives such as Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., have brought the two strands together, there is ambivalence about how to go after Trump because the party itself has often played at backlash politics around race and immigration — and because, throughout President Obama’s tenure, it embraced Trump as an ally in stirring resentment on the far right. Mitt Romney, now one of Trump’s leading antagonists, warmly welcomed Trump’s endorsement in the 2012 presidential campaign.

     Moreover, some of Trump’s most extreme positions have won wide approval from the Republican rank-and-file. For example, exit polls reported by CNN and The Washington Post found broad backing for his temporary ban on Muslims from entering the U.S: It was favored by 78 percent of Republican primary voters in Alabama, 67 percent in Texas and 63 percent in Virginia.

     It’s true that anti-Trump Republicans found common ground in excoriating Trump for his equivocation in condemning the Ku Klux Klan and the racist leader David Duke. “This party does not prey on people’s prejudices,” insisted House Speaker Paul Ryan. In fact, the party has subtly and not so subtly played on racial resentment — birtherism, the claim that Obama is a Muslim, Ronald Reagan’s famous “welfare queen” reference — for decades. Trump is just cruder about it.

     In any event, many Republicans dislike Trump primarily because they can’t abide his flight from conservative orthodoxy. He has criticized the Iraq War and George W. Bush’s foreign policy. He has attacked free trade. He opposes cuts in Social Security and Medicare. His vagueness on health care leaves open the possibility that he favors expansive government action to keep people, as he likes to put it, from “dying in the streets.”

     If the main problem with Trump is that he is not conservative enough, Cruz is the obvious answer, and the Texan gave an effective speech Tuesday night listing all of Trump’s apostasies. But the rejection of Cruz by the powers that be underscores an additional ambivalence. The party wants somehow to keep the angry Trump voters inside the tent while also trying to broaden its constituency. This is the appeal of Rubio, who is more willing than Cruz to move in several directions at once. But this flexibility is also Rubio’s vulnerability.

     It’s clear that a majority of Republicans prefer someone other than Trump. On Tuesday, he approached or broke 40 percent in only four states. That’s the establishment’s hope. It wants to deny Trump a delegate majority and to stop his nomination at the July convention.

     But this strategy requires a philosophical and tactical unity of purpose that party leaders have, so far, been incapable of mustering. And blocking Trump now would enrage his army of followers and prove to them that the party is every bit as distant from their concerns as their hero has been saying.

     E.J. Dionne’s email address is [email protected]. Twitter: @EJDionne.

     (c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

Miracle of Christmas sets record

(From left) Mark Caillier, Jeremiah Ratliff and Brigett Eisle present a check for $23,424.77 to Rick Gaupo on Feb. 18. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
(From left) Mark Caillier, Jeremiah Ratliff and Brigett Eisle present a check for $23,424.77 to Rick Gaupo on Feb. 18. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

Of the Keizertimes

When it comes to a big event like the Keizer Miracle of Christmas Lights Display held each December in the Gubser neighborhood, there are things that can point to growth.

On busy nights the line of vehicles waiting to start the route of Christmas lights can stretch to Lockhaven Drive.

Another sign of growth deals with the food donation aspect of the event. After all, the event is a fundraiser for Marion-Polk Food Share, with canned food and cash donations accepted throughout the three-week run. Volunteers sign up to help with the collection every night.

Brigett Eisle, who has run the event the last few years with husband Mike, revealed some numbers from the 2015 event at the Feb. 18 Greater Gubser Neighborhood Association meeting. Rick Gaupo, president and CEO of the Food Share, was also on hand.

Eisle counted and found more than two-thirds of houses along the route were lit up.

“We had waiting lists of people wanting to participate and help out,” she said. “We had to turn away 10 groups this year that wanted to help. We had so many people, we had a waiting list. If people can see what we’re doing, it just brings the community together even more.”

Another way Eisle knows the event is growing? She’s having to buy more candy canes to pass out every year.

“We spent close to $1,000 for 23,000 candy canes,” she said. “It’s fine to do that, but that’s $1,000 we don’t get to give to the food bank. We’re going to really explore options to get those donated or to get a business sponsor to pay for those. When we first took it over, we bought 11,000 candy canes the first year. We ended up having to buy more, but it wasn’t 10,000 more. It’s growing and growing.

“The other thing that tells us it’s growing is the check donation, which this year is for $23,424.77,” Eisle added. “That’s the largest cash donation that we’ve done.”

Eisle noted the 20,539 pounds of food collected this year was more than 4,000 pounds off of last year’s total. However, the cash collected the previous year was $21,837.

Eisle presented the oversized check to Gaupo with assistance from 12-year-old volunteer Jeremiah Ratliff and GGNA president Mark Caillier.

Gaupo was thankful.

“First of all, just a huge thanks to you and the community,” he said. “The combined total for the life of this event is more than $300,00 and more than 300,000 pounds of food.”

Gaupo called the Miracle of Christmas the largest of its kind.

“I’m so into family and the community and the impact we can have together,” he said. “This food drive is the biggest community-based food drive we have, hands down. That is huge. What’s super impressive is the longevity of it. I love the (events) that are big and flashy. But I would give that up every single day for something that is sustained, community building and impactful. That is what this food drive does better than any other food drive I know of.”

Gaupo referred to audience member Curt McCormack as the backbone of the Keizer Community Food Bank.

“It’s such a great partnership,” Gaupo said. “Families come twice a week and get food assistance. That food wouldn’t be there without the Marion-Polk Food Share and Marion-Polk Food Share wouldn’t be there without food drives and campaigns like this. I never think of the Marion-Polk Food Share as an agent of change, I think of it as a conduit of change. You’re the agent of change. You gave us $24,000 for food. We give it to the Keizer Community Food Bank to give to the community.”

Gaupo emphasized the MPFS uses what is given to it.

“We’re not going to hoard the money,” Gaupo said. “There’s no reason to hoard it. It doesn’t go into a vacuum. It goes right back into the community, the Keizer Community Food Bank and into community gardens. It all would not be possible without the community members. I’m so impressed with what you do.”