Friday, August 12, 2016

What's Happening with the Trump Campaign?

Now that so many people are trying to read the mind of the Trump one finds it difficult to resist the temptation. Naturally, I have no interest in psychoanalyzing the Donald or looking into his childhood. I prefer to do as I have done, to understand his idiosyncratic presidential campaign in a social and political context..

At best, the campaign is idiosyncratic. At worst, Trump is preparing himself for a monumental loss. One trusts that those of you who had convinced yourselves that Trump was the biggest winner are taking note and revising your thinking.

Of course, Trump could always mount a monstrously effective comeback. And the American public could finally wake up to the perfidy of the Clintons. Yet, as the summer drags on, it seems less and less likely.

In raising the psycho issue Damon Linker notes that Trump is not just another politician:

Where the most gaffe-prone big-league politician might go off the rails once every week or so, Trump does it several times every week, and sometimes several times every day. And where the most gaffe-prone big-league politicians quickly take back their verbal flubs, clarify, and apologize, hoping to move on before inflicting maximal political damage on themselves, Trump invariably doubles down, needlessly dragging out the controversies for endless days.

Of course, Trump prides himself on not being a politician. His followers like it that he is not a politician. He draws massive crowds to his rallies. He must believe somewhere that the tactic is working for him. And yet, if he believes that beating sixteen candidates, most of whom have no business running for the presidency, is harder than beating one well organized candidate, no matter how incompetent or corrupt, he’s got another think coming.

Trump has gotten to this point by being outrageous. And yet, people used to be angered by Trump’s outrageous statements. And, anger worked well for him. Right now they are finding him ridiculous, and ridicule rarely works for anyone.

Linker believes that Trump wants to lose the election. Since I renounced armchair psychologizing, I will reject that hypothesis. One might say that Trump is happy with his life and that the life he would return to is far better than the one he would have in Washington. Thus, that he is not afraid of losing. Psychologically speaking, there is a big difference between wanting to lose and preparing yourself to lose.

I believe the latter is closer to the truth.

Linker also suggests that Trump wants to be able to blame someone else for the loss. Thus he suggested that the election might be rigged. In truth, American elections have occasionally been rigged. Take a look back at Illinois in 1960. And no one would put it past the Clintons if they or their henchmen were trying to see how they could rig the election.

And yet, rigging an election works best if the vote is very close. If the vote is a blowout, there is very little you can do.

As for the blame game, Trump has succeeded in alienating large numbers of loyal Republican voters. And he seems to be damaging the prospects of some Republican senators. Which is not winning him much support from establishment politicians. To be perfectly cynical, if they see him as a winner they will support him. If they see him as a loser, they will run for the lifeboats.

If his antics do not play in the general election the fault lies with the candidate and not with those who refused to support him. Besides, someone who never apologizes will always have to blame someone else.

Let’s assume that Trump does not want to lose, but that he could accept losing. Linker’s remarks are still germane:

Trump wants to lose, because he feels he's in over his head, because he thinks the job would be too much work, or perhaps because his ultimate aim is to prepare for a post-election launch of a new right-wing cable network to compete with Fox News.

Surely, Trump is smart enough to understand that he would be in over his head. Barack Obama has been in over his head and is not smart enough to know it. And Trump must understand that the job would require an enormous amount of work… even if he allows Mike Pence to run the government and the country. Obama did not know it and has made a hash of his presidency. Trump must also know that the White House and the world stage is an alien environment, inhabited by people who know the game and play the game far better than he does. If you grant him enough credit, you see that he must understand this better than anyone else.

Trump seems not to know how to take advice. He made a mess of his endorsement of the Speaker of the House, ending up looking like a puppet who was begrudgingly saying what someone—Reince Priebus—had told him that he had to say.

Trump does not know how to take advice, but does not know enough to trust his own gut. Of course, when you do not take advice, on the grounds that you know better and that you understand the American people better than anyone else, you will have a great deal of difficulty blaming other people.

For my part I suspect that Trump himself would be gracious in defeat, chastened but proud of having run a campaign his way. I believe that Trump’s supporters will not be very gracious and that they will lash out at the Republican establishment and anyone who did not give Trump his wholehearted support.

Linker says this:

Trump will do absolutely anything to avoid taking the blame for own failures, even (and perhaps especially) when his own actions rightly deserve the blame. And he couldn't care less about the civically ruinous consequences.

The Republican nominee is exceedingly likely to lose in November, but he won't be the only one dragged down by the defeat. All of us have now been reduced to playing bit parts in Donald Trump's personal psychodrama.

Again, since I swore I was not going to psychoanalyze the candidate I will not fall into the trap of considering the Trump candidacy a personal psychodrama. In truth, the Trump candidacy came about at a specific historical moment, a moment where our current president has spent nearly eight years talking down the country, diminishing it in the eyes of the world, reducing America’s psychological capital. The damage Obama has inflicted on the nation and the world is not very obvious, especially when the stock market keeps going up, but people know in their hearts that something has gone radically wrong. Trump might not have been the best antidote, but he was a product of the calamity called the Age of Obama.

And besides, as Yogi Berra said, it ain’t over till it’s over. For all we know, the Clinton campaign could implode. The stories about Hillary’s ill health could turn out to be true. Hillary could have a coughing fit at the first presidential debate. The Clinton corruption might finally gain some traction. And Trump might shine at the debates.

If this were a market, the rising tide of pessimism about the Trump candidacy would be a contrary indicator: it would say that you should buy a few shares in Trump… just in case.


Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

"I believe that Trump’s supporters will not be very gracious and that they will lash out at the Republican establishment and anyone who did not give Trump his wholehearted support."

Perhaps because the primary candidates pledged to support the Republican Party's nominee, and many are not. They made their pledge on national television, and the opportunity presented itself because the Republican establishment planted a simple question with debate moderator Bret Baier. It was answered affirmatively by all but Mr. Trump, who did not give his pledge on that day, but did later. This event sparked a media firestorm. It seems we forget what the pledge made by the others on that stage. Where are they today? Where are Fiorina, Cruz, Graham, Jeb!, Kasich, et al? Few things in life are more disgusting than a sore loser, especially one who made a promise they now consider null and void because they said so. Because they lost in politics because their opponent wasn't "nice," as though politics is like playing parcheesi. What a bunch of losers. Truly.

The Republican establishment are a bunch of feckless cowards. They want to be able to cocktail with their Democrat friends, and are embarrassed by Mr. Trump as their nominee. Do you think their Democrat friends feel the same about their crooked nominee? Not a chance. They could've nominated Governor Moonbeam. Democrats want to win.

I'm tired of listening to people say "I don't like either of them." Good for you. Who are you going to vote for? Do you want to win or not? Or is it better to be a respectable loser?

I hear "there is so much at stake." Okay, then cut the crap and vote for Trump. You can impeach him if it doesn't work out, and then you get Mike Pence. President Hillary could move the U.S. Treasury to the Clinton Foundation and she wouldn't be successfully impeached. That's how Democrats work. Until Republicans get the starch out of their collars and start playing hardball, they will lose, lose and lose again.

By the way, I heard a friend say "Trump's economic plan isn't paid for." Really? Where have you been while Obama doubled the national debt? Now you care about balancing spending with tax receipts? What a joke.

Anonymous said...

Your reading the wrong info, you did in the primaries and you were wrong and your wrong again. A steady diet of MSM lead you here.

Sam L. said...

sestamibi said...

"but people know in their hearts that something has gone radically wrong.'

I don't think so. I think people know EXACTLY what's going on and view it all as a feature, not a bug. There are huge numbers of people inhabiting what we still call the "United States of America" who look forward to tearing it down and replacing it with--what? Sharia? Black Rule? Feminization? Socialism? All of the above?

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...
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Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

sestamibi @August 12, 2016 at 10:55 AM:

All of the above.

Our diversity is our strength. Don't you see how strong we are when we're so diverse? Isn't it obvious? We're bringing people together. From one, many.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...
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Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

t looks bleak, if you believe the polling.

I know a lot of people who will vote for Trump in the end, despite their Lamentations, protestations and/or unease. They may not know it yet, and they're not going to admit it in public, and they're certainly not going to display Trump paraphernalia.

Trump is a media pariah, and a lightning rod for Lefty loonies everywhere. They can't get him out of their mind. They're freaking out. It's very entertaining. All of it.

The people who will ultimately vote for Trump are not going to answer pollsters honestly, lest the pollsters be shadowy agents in disguise. But I promise you these people are going to vote for Trump.

It's an amusement carnival right now... hyenas laughing, gorging on what they think is a carcass. Let's see what things are like after Labor Day.

Media figures are saying Trump is awful, Trump is toast. Have any of them been correct about any of this political season thus far? No, they have not. And there's a reason for that. We've been told "Trump is going to implode" ad infinitem. That has not happened. Anyone curious as to why this has not come to pass?

People will come out of the summer haze, get curious, get serious, and then they will start to listen. Then, we shall see.

Trump just may hit his stride. He needs 270 electoral votes to win (and wouldn't it be hilarious if he won the Electoral College and lost the popular vote... can you imagine the seething lunacy?).

This will be the most interesting presidential election of our lifetime. Don't let anyone tell you they know what's going on. They haven't a clue. This will all unfold.

I want Trump to pique around October 15. If he does that, it's going to be fascinating to watch all these talking heads spontaneously combust. And for those who say they'll leave the country, I say "Bon Voyage!" I do hope someone is keeping a list... I'd hate to see a gorgeous talent like Rosie O'Donnell go.

Anonymous said...

We elected the amateur presidente we have now twice, and the media didn't care what he did. Gave him a free pass What's the big deal now? I guess it's because Trump's a white guy. Who's the racist now? What are they going to do with a scorned mentally incapacitated damsel? These are the people who tell us we're all bigot scumbags. Imagine that.

Stuart, you should write a column about what you like about Trump for a change. You'd have more credibility. I like you, but you're off on this one - way off. You just hate him. It gets boring after awhile. I realize you're a serious thinker, but I cannot imagine you want Hillary. If not Trump, you get Hillary. No white knight is coming. Yeah, you can vote your conscience and principles, but that's all about you. What about the country? Does anything you read in your reader comments sway you? These seem like fairly normal people who seem to like you. Curious about where you're coming from. -- BillW

Ares Olympus said...

IAC: This will be the most interesting presidential election of our lifetime. Don't let anyone tell you they know what's going on. They haven't a clue. This will all unfold.

I agree, but I'm really expecting the 2020 election will be more interesting, although perhaps some of us won't live that long to find out. Trump warned us about the "Second amendment people" at least, the ones with the guns who know what they want.

Candidate Trump is so incompetent, but still succeeds in attracting unlimited attention, so imagine someone with a bit more Machiavellian knowledge focuses on the successful messages of this "near miss" imaginary rebel billionaire for the people, and next time they'll pick someone with the same bad attitudes but who avoids Trump's mistakes that show his cluelessness to those who don't need him to be their savior.

Outside of id-worshipers, it is hard to see how any can see Trump is anything but a walking disaster area, but apparently wealth gives the illusion of competence, and you can even imagine a clown is not really a clown, and he'll change his persona once he really gains power.

But again, that illusion should be destroyed by now for Trump. He really is as ignorant and erratic as he seems, and doesn't have the focus to separate fact from reality, even when he's got people telling him the difference in words a 5 year old might understand.

I suppose the story that first made me doubt Trump was last fall when he was standing on that battleship for a fundraiser for a Veterans group that consisting of a single man living in South Dakota.
According to CNN, the group "sounds like a charity" despite having its tax-exempt status revoked. The group claimed in a press release to have more than a half-million supporters, but a CNN investigative report "found scant evidence that Veterans for a Strong America has the supporters it says it does" and stated that "outside of Arends, CNN has found it difficult to find anyone with a direct link to the group." Nonprofit Quarterly referred to the group as a "fake vet nonprofit."

Rachel Maddow took him down effectively.
Rachel Maddow reviews the background of the man behind Veterans for a Strong America, the beneficiary of a Donald Trump fundraiser speech on the USS Iowa, which does not appear to have any membership outside of chairman Joel Arends, and which today had its non-profit status revoked by the IRS.

A man who can be duped by a imaginary Veteran's group can be duped by anyone. But that's the problem. Once you believe there are enemies, you accidentally assume anyone who acts on your side is on your side.
“We’re going to have to do things that we never did before,” he said. “And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule. And certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.”

There's nothing democratic about his words and this is Trump's core message. So to hear these words and not run away means there are a large group of people who would trust Trump's benevolence after he's established a safely sufficient to a billionaire's needs.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares, you are incompetent.

Make yourself great again. Reaume your blog. Spare us.

And one more time: We do not live in a democracy. The United States of America is a constitutionally-limited federal republic. If you can keep it.

You, Ares, seem less inclined to do so... believing "the people" to be on your side, no doubt.

You like to talk about facts. The fundamental structure of our political system is a fact. Get with the program... albeit 227 year later. Perhaps you should go live in France.

Ares Olympus said...

IAC: The United States of America is a constitutionally-limited federal republic. If you can keep it.

No argument there. And its a good thing that a democratic 51% can't take away the rights of a minority, even if that's what Trump thinks we need to do to stay safe.

And while Trump is promoting lone wolf assassinations of political rivals, and democratic mob rule if he thinks the election looks "rigged", we're learning more what Frankin's "if you can keep it" really might mean.