It backfired in the form of one Donald Trump. He is a master bully, fun and vicious, getting all the others to root for him against the victims, making all the others too frightened to stand up to him.
The school bullies can be controlled by the teachers, but what happens when nobody will or can control a political bully?
The answer: Last night's Republican primary debate, that's what happens.
And get this: The other Republican candidates appear not have started their opposition research on Trump early enough to have bags of dirt ready to toss back at his face when he throws his dirt.
But how weak is even that new research? I found in five minutes of Googling that Trump is currently sued for financial fraud. Why isn't that on all the political pages of all US newspapers? It is pretty relevant for voters to know about.
But then nobody inside the establishment believed that Trump would go this far in the process, nobody ever thought that the Republican presidential candidate might, indeed, be the outsider, the multi-billionaire, the man who turned his bankruptcies into victories inside his own mind, the Donald (who doesn't know how the US Constitution works).
Does that remind you of Berlusconi and his Italy?
But back to the topic of this post: Bullying has been a Republican political tactic for a long time, so long, that the media simply accepts bullying as politics, but only when it comes from the political right.
To see how political bullying works, consider these examples*:
A Republican married family values politician who is caught visiting prostitutes for sex in diapers? A public apology suffices.
A Democratic politician whose spouse has been guilty of sexual philandering and possibly worse? Probably her fault (dieuppitybitchdie)
A Republican Supreme Court Justice who spends time with powerful people whose cases are likely to come up in the Supreme Court, and those powerful people belong to an ancient religious men-only organizations? Well, he perhaps wasn't a member himself.
A Democratic Supreme Court Justice who suggests that Latinas can be wise? Must keep ethnicity and gender considerations off the court! (dieracistbitchdie)
We are used to Republican bullying. We don't see it as anything but an acceptable political tactic, but only for the Republicans. When Democrats bully they get attacked for it.
Trump went one better than the system, successfully bullying the bully-boys themselves. That would be hilarious if we were watching a reality television show, not a Republican presidential primary debate.
* Comments in the parentheses are my shorthand interpretations and do not necessarily reflect anyone else's reactions. It's nevertheless true that Democratic women get extra doses of bullying from the Republicans.