Why the Hell Won’t Anyone Attack Trump?

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A few hours after declaring that he had no plans to attack Donald Trump—“I didn’t run for office to tear up other Republicans”—Marco Rubio launched this attack on Donald Trump:

At a rally late yesterday, Rubio called out Trump by name and faulted him for being insufficiently hostile to Obamacare and insufficiently supportive of Israel. “He thinks parts of Obamacare are pretty good,” Rubio scoffed, before casting himself as the only true scourge of the law. Rubio noted that Trump “has said he’s not going to take sides on Israel versus the Palestinians because he wants to be an honest broker.”

News reports marvel at the fact that Rubio mentioned Trump by name. Greg Sargent calls his attack “searing.” I call it…what? Pathetic? Mystifying? An attack deliberately meant to fail?

Come on. Even tea partiers like the part of Obamacare that protects people with pre-existing conditions, and that’s the part Trump says he supports. And with the exception of Rubio’s neocon pals, even hardcore Republicans don’t much object to candidates keeping up a pretense of being honest brokers between the Israelis and Palestinians. They all know it’s done with a wink and a nudge.

In other words, Rubio is “attacking” Trump on the very things that will hurt him the least. So what’s the point? Even in the realm of 11-dimensional chess I can’t figure this out. If anything, this “attack” is likely to help Trump, not hurt him.

There are, needless to say, lots of puzzling and mysterious features of the Donald Trump phenomenon. But surely one of the most puzzling is the weird aversion that all the other candidates have to really going after him. I’m not talking here about the fact that attacks don’t seem to have much effect on Trump. I’m talking about the fact that no one has been willing to mount any kind of sustained, powerful attack at all. It’s crazy. These guys are Republicans. They were born to attack. It’s the party of Richard Nixon and Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. It’s the party of Willie Horton and the Arkansas Project and swift boating. But all we’ve seen against Trump are the occasional hesitant pitty-pats.

WTF is going on? I know all about the collective action issue blah blah blah. That’s not enough. Trump has been the frontrunner for months, and it’s obvious that his supporters value toughness. Take down the alpha, and you get the alpha’s followers. What is everyone so afraid of?

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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