Or is he just playing one on television?
What if Stephen Colbert could run for President?
Not Stephen Colbert the actor and comedian who hosts a middling late-night television show; Stephen Colbert the character, the conservative caricature, who emphasizes only the most extreme and infinitesimal aspects of the Republican Party while ignoring all the boring, noncontroversial bits about fiscal conservatism and smaller government — which is most of it.
When The Colbert Report first debuted, plenty of conservatives liked the show — at least initially. It seemed the inverse of John Stewart’s progressive take on late-night entertainment news. Liberals had the Daily Show; conservatives thought they were getting The Colbert Report.
Poking fun at the more extreme elements of the Republican Party was just fine — as long as conservative audiences thought they were in on the joke. Plenty of Republicans find right-wing hardliners just as annoying as the average Democrat, if not more so.
But, as conservative audiences soon learned, they were the joke.
Because Stephen Colbert wasn’t a real conservative at all, of course, far from it. No, not even the character. Nor was the purpose of the Colbert Report to entertain Republicans — or even make them watch commercials. On the contrary.
The true purpose of the Colbert Report was the same as The Daily Show: To shame and denigrate the Republican Party, night after night, using comedy and the straw-man fallacy for the entertainment of liberal audiences.
Colbert, and others just like him, created extreme versions of conservatism — cartoonish, clownish, buffoonish caricatures — and engaged with their projections of conservatism, rather than actual conservatives and conservatism, which is an ideologically diverse demographic like any other.
What if that caricature could come to life and run for President?
If the Republican Party were foolish enough to elect such a Trojan Horse as their standard bearer, the conservative movement could be made to suffer endlessly.
Was that the true purpose of the Trump campaign?
At first, many Republican voters, and almost all Republican Party leaders, found the Trump candidacy a bad joke. Conservatives had trouble accepting Trump.
How could a lifelong Democrat — a wealthy New York City playboy who inherited his father’s fortune, dabbled in real estate development, then took up acting on reality television — suddenly become a Republican Party president?
After all, during the Republican Party primary in 2015, Republican Party brass did everything possible to keep Donald Trump from the nomination. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, including the Hillary Clinton campaign, actually helped candidate Trump.
Thinking he would be easier for Hillary to beat in the general election, the Democratic Party helped Donald Trump snatch the nomination away from candidates with more political experience.
Without Facebook and Twitter, Trump might never have become President at all, no doubt one of the reasons the social media platforms have been working so hard lately to make up for it by keeping Trump out of the digital town square. It’s not an action; it’s a reaction.
But did Trump ever really change his Democratic Party stripes?
He spent money like a Democrat during his presidency. He gave the conservative base just enough red meat to keep them placated — conservative judge appointments, domestic oil production, giving lip service to things like standing up to China and forcing NATO countries to pay their fair share of security costs.
But no more.
Like Barack Obama before him, Trump relied on Executive Actions — phone and pen diplomacy. What is easily done by one president’s pen is just as easily undone by the next.
For decades, Trump was an in-member of Wall Street and Hollywood elites, rubbing elbows nightly with those who claim to hate him so much now. In all that time, he was perfectly acceptable by Democratic Party standards.
Was the nation tricked by Trump?
Or were we tricked with Trump into accepting a fake conservative — a caricature, an actor?
One-half of the nation claims to love him; one-half claims to hate him. Which half is which?
The Republican Party would likely be better off if Trump would just disappear from politics forever. The Democratic Party might be secretly grateful if Trump stuck around.
So, who is really running Donald Trump? Is he a conservative?
Or, like Stephen Colbert’s Colbert Show, is Trump just playing a Republican clown on television?
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)