Frank Rich: Thornton Was Right About "Way of the Whigs"

More from New York Magazine (Frank Rich this time), your official home of observations I've been making for years:

Donald Trump's lead in the polls has been called "the classic pattern of a media-driven surge,” which means that his numbers, like those of Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann in 2012, could crater in mid-campaign. But one factor in his success may be his ability to fill the vacuum left by the faded Tea Party, giving voice to the frustrated GOP white underclass. Will the candidates criticizing Trump this week eventually have to integrate part of his message to win over this part of the Republican base? Whatever else is to be said about Trump, he is a master salesman. And in the GOP presidential marketplace, he has a near-monopoly on the product he is selling now: hard-line, unapologetic, xenophobic opposition to both immigration reform and Mexican immigrants. Immigration is the fault line of the GOP. The party’s establishment — from its corporate backers to The Wall Street Journal editorial page to Jeb Bush (when he’s not hedging) — want immigration reform. They know that no national Republican ticket can win without Hispanic voters. But the base that dominates the primary electorate loathes immigration reform — so much so that even Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, had to retreat from his original embrace of it to be a viable presidential contender. Hence, the question you ask is classic Catch-22: If the ultimate Republican presidential candidate does appropriate some part of Trump’s message to win the nomination, he will be as doomed as Mitt Romney was after he embraced “self-deportation” for undocumented immigrants in 2012. Or more doomed, given the trajectory of the Hispanic population explosion in America.