No one is going to stop Donald Trump with “facts.” Or arguments about inconsistency, or holes in his policy program. Or complaints about his nativism, intolerance, coarseness, and blah, blah, blah. Or lectures about the serious burdens of the presidency. You say there’s absolutely no chance that any Mexican government will ever contribute a single peso to building The Wall? And that in fact more Mexicans are leaving the United States than entering? Shut up, loser! The Wall just got 10 feet higher.
The Republican primary has become a pro-wrestling contest. If you think that’s just a metaphor, check out this video of Trump stepping into the ring to shave Vince McMahon’s head at Wrestlemania XXIII. Trump’s dismissive affect toward his wrestling rival is identical to the way he diminishes his mewling low-energy/choker/liar/whiny-baby opponents on the debate stage.
As Josh Marshall and others have pointed out, Trump’s dominance is not about ideas or argument or, yes, even “anger.” It’s about sheer dominance itself. He is strong. The others are weak. He is a winner. They are pathetic losers. It’s a pro-wrestling pre-match chest-pounding contest.
That is why the only possibly effective response is the one Marco Rubio introduced on Thursday night—and has really had fun with since. Rubio has found what could be Trump’s kryptonite, the substance that might conceivably peel his supporters away from him.
That substance is ridicule.
Rubio tried out his most effective anti-Trump line of the entire campaign last night, when he said that if Trump hadn’t been born with $200 million, “he would be selling watches in Manhattan.” The context nicely made clear that he meant selling them out of a suitcase on the sidewalk, rather than at the Rolex store. The video below, from this morning, shows Rubio really getting into this spirit. I haven’t been a big Rubio fan, but I have to admire the fun he’s having here—and how skillfully and gleefully he lets Trump have it.
If you start the video below at 5:40 and watch for just 60 seconds, you’ll see a riff that ridicules Trump at least as mercilessly as Trump has done to anyone else. By 8:20, Rubio has managed also to mock Trump’s intellectual and educational pretensions, and his anti-immigrant stance. Rubio also comes across in an appealingly relaxed and jokey mode himself. Well done to whoever came up with the “selling watches in Manhattan” line for last night and this performance today.
After Chris Christie’s blessing, it’s likely that this has come too late to turn the GOP tide against Trump. But credit to Rubio for figuring out even now that the best way to undermine a posturing blowhard is to make people laugh at him.
Update: Several readers (starting with @MitchPark) have pointed out that Barack Obama pioneered this mocking approach against Trump at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner. The whole clip is artful, but if you skip ahead to about 3:15, you’ll see Trump seeming distinctly unamused.