It is 1987 and the question for American conservatives is who will succeed Ronald Reagan not just as President of the United States but as the ideological figurehead of the conservative movement. The most likely candidate for the Republican nomination is George H.W. Bush, the current Vice President but Bush’s credibility among the right of the Republican Party isn’t strong. Nevertheless, his role at Ronald Reagan’s side will make him a difficult candidate to beat. The alternatives to Bush include Bob Dole and Jack Kemp but many on the right are putting their hopes in televangelist Pat Robertson who was promising to clear out liberals from the apparatus of the federal government. Robertson had built his campaign by appealing for millions of volunteers in his Evangelical Christian base to rally to his cause. Press coverage of the race has focused on the increasing influence of the radical Christian movement within the Republican Party:
“For a Republican Party seeking to solidify the gains it has made under President Reagan, Robertson’s success sets the stage for a two-year test of the party’s ability to deal with the sharp tensions between its establishment wing and the newly mobilized fundamentalist Christians, the single largest addition to the Republican coalition in the last decade.”https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1986/06/01/pat-robertson-and-the-power-of-gop-activists/09a8aa29-1774-42dd-a9ea-7f46bca885a5/
Robertson ended up withdrawing before the Republican National Convention and George W.H. Bush was duly appointed as the Republican Presidential candidate. However, Robertson wasn’t the only non-traditional candidate that conservatives considered as an alternative to Bush. New Hampshire Republican activist Mike Dunbar had an unusual idea:
“It was early summer of 1987, and Mike Dunbar had an idea. What if Donald Trump ran for president? Dunbar launched a “Draft Trump” campaign. The media got wind of Dunbar’s plan, and the first round of stories about a possible Trump presidency ran in newspapers across the country. In October 1987, Trump’s helicopter landed in New Hampshire. That night, Trump spoke before a packed house.”https://web.archive.org/web/20140126064800/www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/blogs/hilary-sargent/2014/01/22/the-man-responsible-for-donald-trump-never-ending-presidential-campaign/95LunCt63n3xKoq5DyJNFI/blog.html
Trump was a registered Democrat when Dunbar first approached him and the idea of the publicity-hungry New York property developer being a likely Republican candidate was implausible. Trump’s first campaign went nowhere but it brought him into the Republican Party and to the 1988 Republican National Convention.
Robertson’s campaign had shown some strength in America’s mid-western states. In Minnesota, Robertson’s campaign was run by the businessman (and later tax fraudster) Robert Beale. This led to an encounter that begins the intersection of the Debarkle story and the future presidency of Donald Trump. On the night of Bush’s acceptance of the nomination, Trump was sitting in Bush’s personal suite as was Robert Beale’s twenty-year-old son Vox Day:
“He crossed his legs, his shoe came near my shoulder and thereby drew my attention in my peripheral vision. I glanced back, did a double-take, and laughed. He grinned, leaned forward, patted my shoulder, and said “hey, sorry about that”.”Vox Day, comment https://web.archive.org/web/20210314183831/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/02/donald-trump-democratic-socialist.html
Trump would attempt another run at a Presidential nomination for the 2000 election but this time for the Reform Party created by billionaire Ross Perot. To head his exploratory committee, Trump chose long-time political operator Roger Stone. However, the chaos within the Reform Party and the effort involved in winning the nomination led Trump to withdraw, with many people assuming that the whole campaign was a publicity stunt on Trump’s part. Trump himself expressed frustration with the way the Reform Party had attracted many people with crank beliefs into its ranks:
“I also saw the underside of the Reform Party. The fringe element that wanted to repeal the federal income tax, believed that the country was being run by the Trilateral Commission and suspected that my potential candidacy was a stalking horse for (take your pick) Gov. George W. Bush, Senator John McCain or Vice President Al Gore. When I held a reception for Reform Party leaders in California, the room was crowded with Elvis look-alikes, resplendent in various campaign buttons and anxious to give me a pamphlet explaining the Swiss-Zionist conspiracy to control America.”Donald Trump, https://web.archive.org/web/20150527135217/https://www.nytimes.com/2000/02/19/opinion/what-i-saw-at-the-revolution.html
The Reform Party nomination in 2000 would eventually go to paleo-conservative Pat Buchanan, completing an arc whereby an apparent middle-ground populist party expressing discontent with America’s two-party establishment moves more overtly to the right.
Trump shifted his party registration back to the Democratic Party in 2001 and in 2004 would find a more efficient way of promoting himself via the NBC reality show The Apprentice.
During the presidency of Barack Obama, Trump latched onto the idea that Obama may not have been born in the USA. The so-called Birther conspiracy theories had begun as rumors about Obama as early as 2004 and had even received some attention from supporters of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2008. However, the release of Obama’s short-form birth certificate during that campaign shifted the issue from rumor into conspiracy theory.
Among the early-promoters of Obama-related conspiracy theories was World Net Daily columnist Jerome Corsi who had been a promoter of the so-called “Swift Boat” scandal aimed at Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004. Corsi’s 2008 book The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality focused on attempts to tie Obama to more radical politics and to portray him as Muslim. The Obama campaign described Corsi in unflattering terms:
“Of course, the lies in “The Obama Nation” almost pale in comparison to the bizarre, conspiratorial views that Jerome Corsi has advocated in his broader work. He believes that President Bush is trying to merge the United states with Mexico and Canada. He believes that there is a literally unending supply of oil beneath the ground. And in perhaps the gravest sign that his views can’t be trusted, he alleges a government cover-up of the 9/11 attacks and denies that airplanes were to blame for the towers’ collapse.And it doesn’t stop there. Corsi has penned a litany of bigoted, hateful comments—crossing the line so thoroughly that even the right-wing operatives behind Swift Boat Veterans for Truth disavowed him. This is a man who smears the Catholic Church, calls the Pope “senile,” and regularly demeans public servants in vile sexual and racial terms.”https://web.archive.org/web/20080821062921/http://obama.3cdn.net/a74586f9067028c40a_5km6vrqwa.pdf 
At the time, fellow World Net Daily columnist Vox Day was keen to defend Corsi from more establishment Republicans:
“I don’t have the answer, but I suspect that what Douthat and Dreher are attacking is Corsi himself, because if Corsi is credibly raising issues about Obama, as he previously did in the case of Kerry, then it’s also entirely possible, if not downright probable, that he’s credible with regards to the issues he’s raised about the plans for the North American Union and what happened on 9/11. And that simply cannot be born; better an Obama presidency than the puncturing of their conventional political worldview.”https://web.archive.org/web/20080922162906/https://voxday.blogspot.com/2008/08/imperative-of-narrative.html
Day would also use his own World Net Daily column to promote Corsi’s Birther theories. If Jerome Corsi was doing a lot of the legwork on Birther theories, it was Donald Trump’s capacity to garner media attention that was keeping the story going. As the 2012 election approached, sections of the right continued to attempt to discredit Obama with the theory that he had not been born in America and hence was not eligible to be US President.
Day was impressed with how Donald Trump was promoting the issue, so much so that in 2011 Day wrote:
“It is amusing to see how a savvy individual like Donald Trump have used the issue to his benefit whereas foolish politicians like Michelle Bachmann are so tied to the old power structure that they dutifully submit to the pressure of the groupthink. I once said that if Hillary wanted to nail down the presidency, all she had to do was come out against immigration. She didn’t and she blew it. In like manner, all a Republican candidate has to do to win the nomination is to be the first “serious” candidate to openly align himself with the Tea Party and the birthers, although a strong anti-immigration position would help secure the deal.”https://web.archive.org/web/20110516032209/https://voxday.blogspot.com/2011/04/riding-occams-razor.html
In June 2015, Donald Trump officially entered the fray to announce that he was running for the Republican nomination for US President. Having spent the Obama years garnering support from the more conspiratorial section of US politics (the “fringe element” he had been dismissive of within the Reform Party), Trump moved to “secure the deal” by targetting immigration.
With the Syrian civil war at its height and a confusing array of groups fighting, there were large numbers of people fleeing the conflict. Consequently, migration along with fears of terrorism were major issues in US politics. However, Trump was also keen to raise the issue of immigration from Latin America via the USA’s southern border and even tie the issues together.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They’re sending us not the right people.Donald Trump announcement speech transcript https://web.archive.org/web/20150618051032/https://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2015/06/16/donald-trump-transcript-our-country-needs-a-truly-great-leader/
It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably — probably — from the Middle East. But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening. And it’s got to stop and it’s got to stop fast.”
Within his speech, Trump promised tougher action on ISIS, better trade deals, improved roads and his signature policy:
“I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively, I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.”ibid
A southern border wall was not Trump’s original idea. It was a policy that had been knocking around right-wing circles for some years. However, Trump had packaged the idea within his own personal branding of a decisive businessman who could get things done (the extent to which this branding was a myth was already widely debated).
Throughout his speech, Trump had repeated one theme eight or nine times: the idea that America should be great again. Sometimes this was done negatively (e.g. about the existing political establishment “They will never make America great again”) and sometimes in terms of a personal way of thinking:
“You know, all of my life, I’ve heard that a truly successful person, a really, really successful person and even modestly successful cannot run for public office. Just can’t happen. And yet that’s the kind of mindset that you need to make this country great again.ibid
So ladies and gentlemen…
I am officially running…
… for president of the United States, and we are going to make our country great again.”
Comments like the ones he had made in his speech about Mexicans, as well as proposed policies such as a broad ban on Muslims entering the USA, had commentators describing Trump as “running the most explicitly racist campaign since 1968”. Trump would dismiss these objections by claiming that his critics were being too “politically correct”.
By September 2015, Vox Day was fully sold on the idea of Trump as a candidate:
“He’s definitely listening to the Alt-Right and not the so-called “conservative media”. No wonder they hate him so much. If you’re even remotely concerned about immigration and its societally destructive effects, Trump is the only candidate you can possibly support.”https://web.archive.org/web/20170119075723/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2015/09/the-only-serious-candidate.html
In a comment on his own post, Day would reply to a call for open borders with a statement about how predominant his views on immigration were:
“Sorry, even this libertarian will choose literal Italian Fascism over that sort of anti-nationalist, free-borders “freedom”.”Vox Day, comment https://web.archive.org/web/20170119075723/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2015/09/the-only-serious-candidate.html
Day was convinced and “on the Trump Train” but in the wider world, Trump’s campaign looked both extreme and ridiculous. The expectation that he could win the nomination was low and that if he did then he would certainly lose the election. Media attention was also focused on the Democratic Party race where the presumptive heir to Obama’s presidency, Hillary Clinton was facing some determined opposition from the more leftwing Bernie Sanders.
Among what had been the self-named Evil League of Evil nobody was as convinced by Trump as Vox Day. John C. Wright was far more impressed by the campaign of retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson primarily because Wright saw him as standing up to the news media.
“So it is with great pleasure that I see a candidate, and not in a blustering or angry way, rebuke and dismiss the routine falsehoods of the Democrat party activists posing as journalists, and call them out.”https://www.scifiwright.com/2015/11/ben-carson-just-won-my-support/
Back in March of 2015, Sarah Hoyt was hoping that the Governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker would be the candidate that could rescue the Republican Party ideologically. However, his campaign fizzled out fairly quickly but among her regular followers, people remained interested in Ted Cruz. Hoyt though was concerned that Trump might destroy the Republican brand “thoroughly”.
Brad Torgersen was sceptical about most of the field but also liked how Ted Cruz was responding to the media. Torgersen was deeply unimpressed by Trump but saw him as a natural outgrowth of voters picking candidates in a shallow way:
“Now comes the Trumpocalypse. He’s loud. He’s rude. He’s not PC. He’s a blowhard. His positions are all over the place. He’s guaranteed to offend almost everybody, and he honestly doesn’t f***ing care. If his own party ejects him, he will say f*** it and run as the Bull Moose man, or some other half-cocked thing.Americans had a chance to be grownups, but Americans showed up at the polls wearing t-shirts that said, “I’m with Derp!”The Trumpocalypse is merely the natural outgrowth of the era of the Unserious.”https://www.facebook.com/brad.torgersen/posts/1273471422679088
Like Hoyt, Torgersen was concerned about how the media might use Trump’s image to discredit conservatives in general:
“Why America’s liberals love Trump. No really, they do. They love the guy. Trump confirms (for them, in their minds) all the terrible things America’s liberals believe about conservatives all the time. Trump is loud, rude, vain, greedy, unscrupulous, pompous, arrogant, and many other not-nice things. I’ve seen several non-partisan polls showing Cruz out front, but almost all of my liberal FB friends believe absolutely that Trump not only leads, but is the leader going away. I see this asserted over and over again. Usually without any evidence. Trump is “winning” the GOP. And Trump is “proof” that the GOP and conservatives are bad. Not just a little bit bad. But very, very bad. And America’s liberals knew it all along.”https://www.facebook.com/brad.torgersen/posts/1295278353831728
In August 2015, Larry Correia took a bold step of making some substantive election predictions, stating that he thought that Hillary Clinton would be the eventual Democratic Party candidate and that Ted Cruz would be the Republican Party candidate. In a lengthy post he explained his reasoning, spending time discussing why he thought Clinton would be beat Sanders. On the issue of Trump, Correia regarded him a stunt candidate who was enjoying a temporary boom in popularity, largely due to media coverage.
“But here is the problem with Trump, and it isn’t his personality or being willing to insult people (because if I’m judging these people on personality, I’d probably get along with him in person way better than most of the others, and the Rosie line made me do a spit take). It is because he’s been a Republican less time than Bernie has been a Democrat. When I’ve talked to the hard core Stormtrumpers they’ll say he’s great on the border! Okay, but what about his record on abortion, guns, crony capitalism, government intervention, eminent domain, and single payer healthcare? Suck, suck, suck… oh but on that one he evolved… This week.https://monsterhunternation.com/2015/08/11/my-election-predictions/
For the people convinced that Trump is the Real Conservative in the race, and that the other 15 are all RINOs, put down the crack pipe. This is the same guy who a couple of years ago was outraged about violent videogames and saying how somebody needed to do something about them. Yeah, there’s a dude totally grounded in the Bill of Rights.”
Like Hoyt, Correia had also regarded Scott Walker as a potentially promising candidate, and also Rand Paul. However, with Walker and Paul polling poorly, he saw Cruz as the strongest conservative candidate.
By Christmas, Correia had included his views on Trump into his annual “Christmas Noun” comedy-skit post. A character explains the current situation with the Republican primaries to Wendell, the spokes-manatee of the Sad Puppies:
“Yes, I know he’s a rich obnoxious bloviating New Yorker, lifelong democrat, Clinton donor, who used to be in favor of an assault weapons ban, who likes eminent domain, restrictions on the internet, wanted the government to do something about violent video games, with policy positions that change by the hour, who has been proudly endorsed by Vladimir Putin, but yes, he is actually leading among republicans who self-identify as “liberal” or “moderate” so the media declared him the new face of conservatism and won’t shut up about him. If he wins the primary like the media wants him to, then he’ll go against one of two batty old socialists who don’t understand basic econ,”https://monsterhunternation.com/2015/12/18/christmas-noun-8-too-noun-much-adjective/
If Trump was the firm candidate of the Rabid Puppies then Ted Cruz was the compromise least-worst-choice choice of the Sad Puppies. In the Hugo Awards, it had been the Rabid Puppies who had eventually exerted the most control, only to be defeated by the broader body of fans. Would events play out in the same way on the bigger stage of US national politics? Only 2016 would know…
Next Time: Debarkle Part IV
-  https://web.archive.org/web/20101203140137/https://www.nytimes.com/1987/10/25/us/robertson-asserts-he-d-purge-bureaucracy-of-all-but-conservatives.html
-  https://web.archive.org/web/20170119060007/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-alt-right-comes-to-washington.html
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Trump_2000_presidential_campaign
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pat_Buchanan
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Apprentice_(American_season_1)#Week_1:_%22Meet_the_Billionaire%22
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barack_Obama_citizenship_conspiracy_theories#Origins_of_the_claims
-  https://web.archive.org/web/20080815061158/http://my.barackobama.com/page/invite/birthcert
-  Corsi is an advocate of the theory that oil is produced by mineral processes unconnected to fossilised plants/animals. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenic_petroleum_origin as a general hypothesis it isn’t as wild as some of Corsi’s beliefs but Corsi’s version is a literal conspiracy theory as summed up by the title of his book The Great Oil Conspiracy: How the U.S. Government Hid the Nazi Discovery of Abiotic Oil from the American People https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14603086-the-great-oil-conspiracy
-  https://www.wnd.com/2009/07/104445/
-  for example conservative pundit Jonah Goldberg has suggested it in a USA Today opinion piece in 2006 https://web.archive.org/web/20080111054738/http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=ZDY4ZjcxZDVkNzk1NjQ1NDkyMTZjMzYzMWJmZTJmODk=
-  https://theweek.com/articles/590711/donald-trump-running-most-explicitly-racist-campaign-since-1968
-  https://web.archive.org/web/20151210140303/https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/12/09/donald-trump-says-were-all-too-politically-correct-but-is-that-also-a-way-to-limit-speech/
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Carson_2016_presidential_campaign
-  https://accordingtohoyt.com/2015/03/06/winter-at-valley-forge/
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Walker_(politician)
-  https://accordingtohoyt.com/2015/09/06/weaponized-empathy/#comment-305687
-  https://www.facebook.com/brad.torgersen/posts/1256263011066596