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Dan Liljenquist: Examining Donald Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves as he finishes a news conference on Super Tuesday primary election night in the White and Gold Ballroom at The Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., Tuesday, March 1, 2016.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves as he finishes a news conference on Super Tuesday primary election night in the White and Gold Ballroom at The Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., Tuesday, March 1, 2016.
Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

Donald Trump had a big night on Super Tuesday, winning seven of 11 state primaries. If left unchecked, he will become the Republican presidential nominee, pulling off the most audacious hostile takeover in U.S. history — the takeover of the Grand Old Party, the party of emancipation and suffrage, the party of Lincoln and Reagan. There is no question that Trump has expertly tapped into the zeitgeist of our age, stoking the anger of millions of disenfranchised, displaced and disgusted Americans who have lost faith in their political leaders and institutions. But he is a false god who cannot produce the miracles he claims he can.

Sadly, many of the Trump supporters today were the tea party faithful of yesterday, courageous souls who were willing to throw off the chains of complacency, eschew the fleshpots of political power and patronage, and seek to chart a new course, hoping to return themselves and their country to the promised land of limited, constitutional governance. But progress has stalled without a beloved, clear-eyed political Moses to help coalesce the movement, to teach enduring principles and to lead the way back to Canaan. Into this milieu, Trump has arrived like the golden calf, promising protection and prosperity, platitudes and possibilities. Many are now sacrificing their principles at the Trump altar, hoping that he will somehow save them.

But Trump is no god; he is merely a master promoter and agitator extraordinaire. Ever on the hunt for a deal, Trump is co-opting and absorbing the Republican brand into his “huge” personal portfolio, leaving many, like me, wondering if the Republican Party can survive. For a man who once said, “It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it” (Fortune, April 3, 2000), you will forgive me if I don’t trust Trump’s motives.

Trump is following the same self-promotion playbook he has used throughout his colorful career, and it is now propelling him towards the GOP nomination. Here are a few “leadership” vignettes from Trump in his own words:

  • “The show is ‘Trump’ and it is sold-out performances everywhere.” (Playboy, 1990)
  • “I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts.” ("The Art of the Deal," 1987)
  • “The point is that if you are a little different, or a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you.” ("The Art of the Deal," 1987)
  • “If I get my name in the paper, if people pay attention, that’s what matters.” ("Donald Trump: Master Apprentice," 2005)
  • “I know how to sell. Selling is life.” (Sports Illustrated, Feb. 13, 1984)
  • “Sometimes, part of making a deal is denigrating your competition.” ("The Art of the Deal," 1987)

It is a sad state of affairs indeed that this crass, egomaniacal huckster has bamboozled so many Americans into supporting him. It is even sadder to think that much of the core of the conservative movement has promoted this fickle and intemperate modern-day Narcissus to be the drum major of the Republican parade, hoping that he will stir things up in Washington but not considering that he would then have the power to re-create Washington in his own image. Combining Trump’s cult of personality with the inherent power of the presidency of the United States of America just might be an irreversible disaster for limited, constitutional government. I hope and pray that there is still time to stop Trump, and rescue the conservative movement.

Dan Liljenquist is a former Republican state senator from Utah and former U.S. Senate candidate. He is nationally recognized for work on entitlement reform.