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When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president last June, few people took him seriously. Now that he holds a commanding lead in the GOP primaries, party-line Republicans are getting nervous about the very real possibility of a Trump candidacy. This has led to no shortage of conspiracy theories about the billionaire real estate investor’s true motives for running for office.

Could Donald Trump be a plant – a secret double-agent – for the Democrats? Former Florida governor Jeb Bush seems to think so.

“Maybe Donald negotiated a deal with his buddy Hillary Clinton,” Bush tweeted in December on the campaign trail. “Continuing this path will put her in the White House.”[1]

Trump certainly has a spotty political record, switching between Republican and Democrat several times throughout his business career. His latest incarnation – a far-right anti-immigration, pro-torture populist – appears to have resonated with the Republican voter base, which is sick and tired of the establishment.

Trump’s shoddy record may have been overlooked if he had bowed out of the presidential race early, as hoped and probably anticipated by the Republican establishment. But his rolling success now must be faced head-on by a Republican party that is desperately trying to counter his massive popularity.

GOP at War… With Itself

If there was any doubt about the Republican party’s state of disarray, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney promptly put an end to it. In a scathing speech, Romney called Trump a “phony” and “fraud” who threatened to take down the GOP.

“I believe with all my heart and soul that we face another time for choosing, one that will have profound consequences for the Republican Party and more importantly, for the country,” Romney said.[2]

While Trump’s stance on a number of social issues are unclear, his overarching policy objectives appear to be leading the Republicans down an unprecedented path of isolationism, economic nationalism and anti-immigration.[3] This has a lot of people wondering whether Trump’s presidency was just a ruse egged on by the Clintons.

The Work of Hillary’s Inner Circle?

It may not be wise to dismiss the idea that Trump was encouraged to run for president by Hillary Clinton’s powerful inner circle. After all, there’s no underestimating the Clintons’ ability to destroy their political foes. Hillary – another member of the political establishment that so many Americans have grown to detest – must have realized that unleashing Trump on the Republican party would help the Democrats take advantage of a political civil war on the opposite end of the isle.

That the Clintons knew Trump would be a disaster for the Republicans shouldn’t be seen as some kind of conspiracy. After all, Trump doesn’t have to know (or even agree) that he is being used in the Democrats’ favour. He just has to continue believing that he’s the best candidate for the GOP.

We may never know for sure what role the Clintons played in encouraging Donald Trump to run for president. What we do know is that his success to date says a lot about the state of US politics. Regardless of what you might think about Trump, he’s a clean break from party-line politics. He’s self-financed and not beholden to special interests. The political system as a whole may have a few things to learn from the Donald if they filter out his harmful political rhetoric.

[1] Anthony Zurcher (December 11, 2015). “Is Donald Trump a Democratic secret agent?” BBC News.

[2] Stephen Collinson (March 5, 2016). “GOP at war with itself.” CNN Politics.

[3] Stephen Collinson (March 5, 2016). “GOP at war with itself.” CNN Politics.

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