That old agitator Mahatma Gandhi certainly knew his chops, and one of his aphorisms surely has resonance when we contemplate the Trump phenomenon: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”  This is certainly what has happened in 2015, as Donald Trump defies the Establishment, the pundits, the “experts,” and the media, surging in the polls—and in the nightmares of the political class.

They said it was over for him when he denigrated a popular FOX News anchor in terms one seldom hears outside of a locker room, but the brouhaha didn’t put a dent in his rising popularity.  They said he was through when he dared criticize the sainted John McCain in terms one doesn’t often hear outside of a barroom—except his poll numbers shot up.  They told us Trump was finished when he took on George W. Bush, saying aloud what every rational human being certainly knows to be true: that Dubya, who had plenty of warnings before the September 11 attacks, dropped the ball.  That same week, the latest polls showed Trump surging, with the Establishment’s pygmies mired in single digits and The Donald approaching 30 percent.  Only outsider Ben Carson is in the double-digit category.

We are fast approaching the “then they fight you” phase, as Republican insider Byron York noted in the Washington Examiner: “[S]ome [Republicans] are preparing to do whatever it takes to bring him down.  Which could lead to an extraordinary scenario in which GOP stalwarts go to war to destroy their own party’s likely nominee.”

So what weapons will the war on Trump deploy?  Attack ads, of the sort the neoconservatives used early on to trip up and tame Rand Paul, who faced a barrage of “he’s weak on national security” smear ads even as he capitulated, began going hawkish, and simultaneously tanked in the polls.  But that was child’s play compared with what the GOP mandarins and the neocon brain trust have in store for Trump.  As York reports, the oligarchs over at the Club for Growth are planning a strategy of “massive resistance,” in an effort to “force him to spend money.  That’s when this starts to get real for him.”

The “donor class,” hiding behind the powerful, anonymously funded PACs, will foot the bill.  But we can reasonably infer that it’s the same old crowd which ganged up on Senator Paul and is now donating heavily to pro-war, pro-immigration Marco Rubio, with Sheldon Adelson, the War Party’s Daddy Warbucks, pouring millions into the anti-Trump campaign.  Also likely to be on board: hedge-fund manager Paul Singer and the ubiquitous Koch brothers, whose “libertarian” credentials were forever tarnished by their fulsome support for every warmonger in the GOP stable.  United, the Moneybags Caucus thinks it can destroy Trump and dictate the party’s nominee.

The ads, I predict, will paint Trump as an “isolationist,” following suit with a remarkably whiny piece by Jeb Bush published in National Review:

In the latest episode of the reality show that is Donald Trump’s campaign, he has blamed my brother for the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our nation.  That Trump echoes the attacks of Michael Moore and the fringe Left against my brother is yet another example of his dangerous views on national-security issues.  This is a man who has previously stated he would prefer Hillary Clinton had led negotiations on the nuclear agreement with Iran.  He has expressed a willingness to allow Vladimir Putin to dominate the Middle East by aligning with Iran and propping up the ruthless Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad . . . And he has been ignorant and dismissive of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organizations.

Jeb has played the neocon’s Trump card: The Donald hasn’t toed the party line on the moral imperative of perpetual war.

The big danger for Trump is that he’ll take the route that sank Rand Paul’s campaign.  Given his personality and his record, I don’t think that’s in the cards.  Confronted by FOX News warmonger Bill O’Reilly over his “let Putin fight them” stance on Syria, Trump opined, “Do you want to run Syria?  Do you want to own Syria?  I want to rebuild our country.”

The right-wing populist movement has been building momentum in this country since 1992, with the campaign of Ross Perot.  Pat Buchanan’s multiple runs for the White House took up the banner throughout the rest of that decade, and Ron Paul has some claim to that same cause with his guerrilla campaigns in 2008 and 2012.  Yet none of these efforts managed to gain the momentum achieved by Trump—and that has the Establishment in a panic.

So get ready for Armageddon, because the political class doesn’t play nice.  Neither, I suspect, does The Donald.