It’s becoming clear that there is only one choice for President this year. That is said, not as an endorsement, but because only one of the two candidates on the ballot actually wants to be the next President. Donald Trump is there, doing something, but he is not seriously competing to win the White House.
Two weeks ago, hours after the last of too many reports was released on the Benghazi attacks from 2012, Donald Trump gave a long speech against free trade agreements, which whether you like them or not, are a staple of Republican economic policy and have been for your entire life. Next, On July 2, a Saturday morning, Hillary Clinton met with the FBI to discuss her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State. While that meeting was happening, Donald Trump shared a graphic on his Twitter account that his campaign repurposed from a White-Supremacist Reddit page, showing the Star of David over top of $100 bills.
Last Week, after the FBI Director, James Comey, issued a long public statement criticizing Clinton’s handling of her email, Trump wasted a prime opportunity to seriously address the matter and strike at her credibility. During a speech in Cincinnati, Trump spent a cursory amount of time with boilerplate attacks, calling her crooked, corrupt and part of a rigged system, but then went off script and spent the majority of his time, in this most valuable window of time while the FBI decision is still fresh in everyone’s mind, defending the star and expressing regret that a staffer deleted and later altered the image.
This is how the New York Times described it.
It was a striking display of self-sabotage from a presumptive presidential nominee and underscored the limitations of Mr. Trump’s scattershot approach during the Republican primaries — not to mention how difficult he often makes it for his campaign team to control him.
Something is going on here. A serious candidate would attempt to capitalize on the mistakes or past transgressions of an opponent to gain popular support in an effort to obtain more votes from the electorate in an election that will happen in November. An inept way to do that is to clumsily, or noticeably, send signals to white supremacists that he is in league with them, while altering the media narrative and providing the previously mentioned FBI meeting and subsequent report with competition for coverage.
So what’s the deal? The answer is that Donald Trump is using this scam presidential campaign to manipulate a gullible base of support in order to build up a customer base for his next round of scams, which he will undertake after getting blown out in November. Jeet Heer explains in The New Republic that Trump is just building a giant skyscraper on top of the scheme that previous pseudo-Republican candidates have used to cash in on after dropping out of the race and why many Republican voters will fall for it.
The anti-intellectualism that has been a mainstay of the conservative movement for decades also makes its members easy marks. After all, if you are taught to believe that the reigning scientific consensuses on evolution and climate change are lies, then you will lack the elementary logical skills that will set your alarm bells ringing when you hear a flim-flam artist like Trump. The Republican “war on science” is also a war on the intellectual habits needed to detect lies.
It was only natural that politicians themselves would want to get in on these scams. Writing in the New Republic in 2014, the journalist Ben Adler documented how an entire class of Republican politicians, including Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Mike Huckabee, used mailing lists built up in their presidential campaigns to sell dubious products afterward. In Cain’s case, anyone who gave money to his campaign would get ads, after the campaign ended, promising a “breakthrough” remedy for erectile dysfunction, “one of more than 50 similar pitches for miracle cures and easy-money tricks that Cain has passed along to his e-mail followers.” Gingrich and Huckabee, ostensibly more “serious” and established politicians, did much the same:
Newt Gingrich now pings the e-mail subscribers to his Gingrich Productions with messages from an investment firm formed by a conspiracy theorist successfully sued for fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mike Huckabee uses his own production company’s list to blast out links to heart-disease fixes and can’t-miss annuities.
These scams, risible as they seem, bring in serious money. By Adler’s calculations, Cain and Huckabee made small fortunes from selling their email lists to advertisers: “At $36 per thousand list members for an ad filling an entire e-mail, and no fewer than 33 such ads sent last year, Cain made more than $420,000 from e-mail ads in 2013—minus Newsmax’s cut and the costs of maintaining his list. For Huckabee, whose list is nearly twice as long as Cain’s and commands a rate of $43.25 per thousand, the rough haul is north of $900,000.”
So, basically, Trump is spending 18 months wooing angry white conservatives that detest ‘political correctness,’ Jew hating white supremacists and conspiracy theorists who bury gold coins and tomato seeds in their back yards. This has been done in the past to varying degrees, but the difference here is scale. Trump isn’t interested in amassing an email list to pillage. His aspirations are much bigger, including the possibility of his own cable news empire. He has also had much more success than the previous group of hucksters, which is frightening if this is the direction things are still moving.
Trump realizes he can assemble and fleece a fan base drawn to products ‘the government doesn’t want you to know about.’ The keen cable news viewer that can identify every politician as a liar and fraud and every annoying sales pitch as a rip off, the eagle-eyes who sniff out rackets where ever and whenever they appear, are part of the same crew that goes all-in with any scam artist that says, ‘I’m the outsider. The EPA are the real racists. Something, something. #Benghazi.’ Their hearts beat aflutter. They have been delivered.
A year from now, the same base of support that attended rallies for Trump, that voted for him, and were the only ones surprised by the election night results will be watching him on television calling Hillary Clinton the worst President in American history. His tell-all memoir about the liberal media and GOP elite subverting his campaign will be a best seller. They’ll buy his new, huge, thicker cut steaks, low-yield annuities that shield the investor from any crash in the stock market, and gold plated ‘DON’T BLAME ME, I VOTED FOR TRUMP’ coffee mugs. The joke is on them, and far too many will never realize it.
That is what Donald Trump is doing here, building a brand through a guerilla marketing campaign masquerading as a presidential campaign. This may come as a shock to some, but Trump has always been consumed with himself. His campaign spent more on ‘Make America Great Again’ hats in May than it did in online advertising. He took a break and flew to Scotland to visit one of his golf courses. And remember that whole TV network thing. There has never been a presidential candidate that put so much focus on other things during the campaign. A man interested in winning would spend more time focusing on winning instead of tending to alternative business interests. His actions detail his true motivations. He wants no part of being President. That’s not his plan. Maybe he never intended to get this far, but here we are, and he is still all in.
Expect the next four months to follow a similar path to what has already occurred. Rambling, self congratulatory speeches and TV appearances, complaining about media coverage, getting distracted and failing to capitalize on his opponents mistakes or opportunities to gain support, and a few breaks to attend to business deals. Election day will come and he will lose. Then, after a few days complaining about voter fraud and a lack of support from Republicans, it will be on to the next phase.
At first, it may come as a relief that his campaign is an unserious mirage. In the immediate term, it does keep him out of the White House, which is an unmitigated good that can be shared by all, but the long term consequences offer no such reassurances. It should be distressing that a major party in the oldest democracy on the planet can be swindled by a grifter who embraces irrational conspiracy theories, foreign dictators and exacerbates his own mistakes, all while continuing to flout his contempt for rule of law, international norms or any and all conduct necessary to inspire confidence in his decision making. Also unfortunate is the fact that many significant and legitimate grievances will go ignored, or at best, unaddressed by a sham candidate offering only arrogant bluster and by an administration that will feel no real pressure to deal with the concerns of an even further marginalized and shrinking sector of a political opposition in full meltdown.
Also, large minorities of people of all political persuasions are losing or have lost faith in the political process. The Trump clown show will only serve to further suppress confidence and participation, which is the only real solution to combating an out of touch ruling class. Getting involved by voting, volunteering, going to meetings, serving on boards and committees may be time consuming and inconvenient, but it is the only sure way to make sure your voice is heard. For all those fed up that Washington is not listening, more citizens making an active choice to participate in a cumbersome process is much less likely when one of two candidates for any office has such insincere motives.
What is necessary is that Republicans realize what has already happened. The Iraq war and eight years of Barack Obama have turned them into a bitter, peevish collaborative that sees more value in nastiness and snark than in forwarding a legislative agenda. A list of every possible take on a Clinton scandal or an Obama affront is available at less than a moment’s notice, but they’ve had 7 years to develop a well thought out alternative to the Affordable Care Act and we’re still waiting. Ideas and vision matter. They lost their way in the midst of the Iraq war and financial meltdown, thus creating the opening in their flank that Donald Trump stormed though, conquering everyone in his path. What we really need is a less crazy and more credible minority party that can hold the party in office accountable, keep them on the right track, and be seen as a responsible alternative to take over by the general electorate. Those traits do not exist in today’s Republican party. The question that will linger on is whether Trump’s fraud shakes them from their delusion or drives them to greater depths.
It has taken me a little while to adequately craft the first post. Events are being eclipsed everyday by even more outlandish and extreme behavior that is difficult to comprehend. The darker and more serious tone the campaign took over the weekend made me question the title for a second, but ultimately, it holds that America will be better off after working through the Trump crisis. Donald Trump is many things. None of them are good. Despite that, and what is beneficial in the long term is Donald Trump is forcing an end to the latest know-nothing, willfully ignorant era of American politics. At the end of what will be a very long and contentious Summer, that I hope turns back around and away from violence, the Republican party will be forced to re-organize their priorities, re-calibrate their beliefs and join the 21st Century.
Let me begin by saying that I think Donald Trump is providing a crucial service. He is destroying the Republicans by exposing their reliance on a racist, ideologically vacant base that is easily deceived by empty nationalist rhetoric that furthers no end other than their ultimate defeat. But that’s not all. He has revealed that the leaders of the Republican party are soulless and rudderless, with no plan for governing the country or their party. Daily, they sit by and watch as Trump torches their platform, their history and chosen candidates, all while destroying their election chances in a few short media cycles. This is all before he was formally endorsed by David Duke and the KKK, his Campaign Manager assaulted a reporter from a website that cheer leads everything he does, a campaign rally in Chicago devolved into a riot and he began physically threatening other candidates.
It is nothing short of amazing that after Trump’s flirtation with the KKK, the major endorsements started coming in. I’m not saying all of his new allies are overtly racist, but it didn’t bother them enough to reconsider what they were doing. It was just another gaffe they thought they could explain away or would fade in the escalating circus that is this campaign. In that respect, they may even be right. After Chicago, the KKK is an afterthought, left behind the way last week will be by next week. But it exposed something to consider going forward. The Republican party still has a problem with the perception they’re racist bigots or, if you want to be generous, uncaring and disinterested about the plight of minorities struggling in America, but short of racist bigots. One is worse than the other, but neither are laudable. This reinforces that impression. The non-Trump presidential candidates are always quick to point out what a diverse group they were offering to voters, then Trump dances with the KKK, and suffers no penalty. The message that gets dog whistled to the base is clear. The problem with that is, it’s 2016.
Jump back to a few months ago, while everyone still believed his candidacy was not real and would fade. Then, Trump was viewed as a joke, but a joke that was in the process of taking down the ‘establishment candidate,’ Jeb Bush, who, if eliminated, opened up everyone else’s path, they thought, to win the nomination. So, they encouraged him, flirted with him a little, even supported him against push back in the media. He did annihilate Bush, whose campaign never got off the ground because Trump emasculated him in a primary where emasculation is greatest sin of all. But he didn’t fade away after that. Nothing he could say or do blew him up like he blew up Bush. He came after Scott Walker next and Walker tried take on the bully and made numerous stupid mistakes while Trump pummeled on him. Next up and down was Ben Carson. It was at about this point that the joke wasn’t funny anymore.
Throughout this process Trump was exposing all the fissures and weaknesses inside the Republican party. They’ve been split in two, or three, by a rich guy that says he doesn’t care and shows that he doesn’t care. He tempts voters to turn on him by cursing during speeches, blaming George Bush for 9/11, and joking he could murder someone and still win the primary, encouraging assaults on protesters, offering legal aid to people that do and accusing others of supporting ISIS because he saw it on the internet. The reason all of this works for him is because his supporters don’t care either. They aren’t conservative or even understand the principles of conservatism. They don’t support tax cuts for corporations and billionaires. In fact, push slightly and they’ll support tax increases. They don’t read the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times or any newspaper at all, and can’t tell the differences between them. They can’t find Syria on a map, wouldn’t care to and distrust anyone who can. What they care about is immigration and all the Mexicans they think are stealing their jobs. They hate Muslims because of terrorism. Any discussion on those last two sentences is political correctness run amok, and they have no time for that. Only liberals can’t find the simplest solution to any policy issue in less than 30 seconds. Build a wall, drop all the bombs and who cares about details because, America!
There’s no breaking through to that. You can’t educate, cajole, co-opt, or form alliances with know-nothings that view intelligence with mistrust. It is a coalition of racists, conspiracy theorists, and Republicans who feel betrayed because Congress hasn’t arrested Barack Obama for treason. This is not an electorate to build the future on. But this is what the Republican party has spent the last 50 years creating (and microwaving on high since 2007) . For generations, it was required that any victor’s campaign strategy would maximize their proportion of lower-middle class white voters prone to anger and outrage. It worked every time, until it didn’t. One day over the last 10 years, this coalition ceased in its ability to elect the President every cycle. Now Trump has come along and turned the monster inward. Unfortunately, (or fortunately) the only power they have left is to destroy themselves. Trump thinks he can squeeze one last dying finale from them. He can’t. It’s over. But that won’t stop them from following him off of a cliff and bringing the whole party crashing down to the bottom of the ravine.
How did it get this way? Why can’t the Republican party stop him? It’s because they created the environment his is thriving on. Josh Barro in Business Insider sums it up pretty perfectly here.
Disastrous candidates are supposed to be blocked by validating institutions. Policy experts explain that their proposals do not add up. The media covers embarrassing incidents from their past and present. Party leaders warn that they will be embarrassing or incompetent or unelectable.
The problem is that Republicans have purposefully torn down the validating institutions. They have convinced voters that the media cannot be trusted; they have gotten them used to ignoring inconvenient facts about policy; and they have abolished standards of discourse by allowing all complaints about offensiveness to be lumped into a box called “political correctness” and ignored.
Republicans waged war on these institutions for a reason. Facts about policy can be inconvenient — a reality-based approach would find, for example, that tax cuts increase the deficit and carbon emissions cause climate change. Acknowledging the validity of complaints about racism could require some awkward conversations with racist and quasi-racist voters in the Republican coalition.
Of course, we’re now seeing the unintended consequence of the destruction of those institutions and the boundaries they impose around candidate acceptability: In doing so, Republicans created a hole that Donald Trump could fly his 757 through.
Is the press reporting that some of Trump’s businesses disserved customers and lost money? Well, you can’t trust liberal media institutions like Fox News. Is his tax cut irresponsibly large? Don’t worry, Trump will make us so rich it won’t matter. Should we be concerned about his rants against Mexicans, either because they are offensive or because they will turn off voters? That sounds like something Obama would worry about.
They don’t have the power to stop him because they’ve intentionally eroded all the avenues that would provide access to stopping him. Trump is simply exploiting an environment they created that has permitted politicians and their supporters to ignore anything they don’t want to hear. Everything unpleasant, like the polls leading up to the 2012 election, can be explained away as liberal or politically correct. What is really amazing about this is that after that election, when the bubble burst, instead of acknowledging that change was necessary, accepting it and making changes, Republicans and conservatives inflated another bubble again. Obama’s re-election was explained away as a one-off that can’t possibly be repeated. Trump is the cycle continuing.
2016 was going to present a monumental challenge to any Republican candidate. Demographics have shifted away from the traditional coalition they’ve relied on which was going to make it very difficult to win the White House. Never in history has there been a worse time to run for President by pitting old, scared and bitter white voters against Muslims, Mexicans, and college degrees. But, this is the path Trump has chosen. It is perplexing if you spend time thinking about why he decided to go in on a strategy with such a clear ceiling. Delusion should not be ruled out or, perhaps, this is all he has and it’s gotten him this far, so why not keep going? Whatever the reason is, we should be grateful. It’s not often that a vehicle this perfect arrives at such a crucial time.
538’s David Wasserman succinctly explains the electoral shift that a normal Republican would be facing this year.
There’s no question that recent demographic trends have aided Democrats enormously. In 1980, Ronald Reagan won 56 percent of all white voters and won election in a 44-state landslide. In 2012, GOP nominee Mitt Romney carried 59 percent of all white voters yet lost decisively. What happened? African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and other non-whites — all overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning groups — rose from 12 percent of voters in 1980 to 28 percent in 2012.
Yet analyses that focus only on race and ethnicity ignore an even more rapid demographic shift driving Democratic success: educational attainment. This is why we have split non-Hispanic white voters into two groups.
In both 2008 and 2012, Republicans’ best group by far — of the five we examined — was white voters without college degrees. The GOP carried that group by 14 percentage points in 2008 and a whopping 26 points in 2012. However, these voters — who skew older and more rural — decline 3 percentage points every four years as a share of the overall electorate. In contrast, white degree-holders — who still lean Republican but are much likelier to support Democrats than whites without a degree — rise a percentage point every four years.
In other words, Democrats’ coalition of non-white, young and well-educated voters continues to expand every election, while Republicans’ coalition of white, older and less-educated voters keeps shrinking. It’s no wonder that some pundits have suggested Democrats have an emerging “stranglehold on the Electoral College” because of favorable trends in states like Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and Virginia, right?
It’s true that if every demographic group were to carry its 2012 levels of turnout and party support into 2016, Democrats’ lead in the national popular vote would expand from 3.9 percentage points to 5.1 points based on population trends alone.
It should be noted, as Wasserman clearly points out, this does not ensure a win for the Democrats in November, but it does give them a decent structural advantage. The interactive website 270towin.com starts out giving the Democrats a 217 to 191 electoral vote advantage. I think it’s safe to assume Pennsylvania and Wisconsin will vote for whoever the Democrat is and North Carolina will vote Republican, bringing the count to 247 to 206. This is where the campaign begins. From there, plenty of scenarios can play out, but the path is much easier for the Democrats. That is also before Trump and his gamble against the numbers. How does his strategy expand on the 2012 Mitt Romney map? How does Trump compete in Florida with the Democrats lead among Hispanics growing and he’s polling at 19 percent with them? Keep in mind, George Bush won 40 percent of the Hispanic vote there in 2004 and Romney won 27 percent in 2012.
My whole point this far is that no matter how crazy it seems today, the Donald Trump campaign is doomed. November will bring a conclusively stunning defeat. That is good for America. While it will serve as a purge for some of his base, forcing them ever further into isolation, it should also awaken some of them to join the 21st Century, at least those who live long enough to vote in another election. It will also do the same for the Republican party. Trump’s loss mean Republicans must recalibrate. They have to stop denying science, face the racists that exist in their party, and end their regressive economic policies that burden the poor and middle class with tax cuts for the wealthy. No the Democrats aren’t perfect or even good, but they’ve attempted to work through these issues instead of pretending they do not exist or accuse the oppressed of being the oppressors.
Trump has done a great job at directing all that voter anger at foreigners, the media, and a Washington establishment inside the Republican primary. That’s the place to do it if you get the chance. And yes, Trump voters do have a right to be angry because they’ve been tricked, lied to and abandoned before. But all Trump is doing is playing them for suckers one more time. He’s not going to build a wall, everything he sells comes from China or Mexico and the selling point he focuses on the most is that he’s a great deal maker. Who is he making deals with? China and Mexico? The politicians who’ve lied or abandoned voters before? Trump is not the savior of the American blue collar, low middle class. He is their death. Those who choose Trump are choosing to believe in his lie that he can resurrect the past. Trump’s entire economic philosophy rejects that there can ever be new ideas or innovations that will lead to new economic expansion. He, like his supporters can only think in terms of the past. Factories make things, full stop. That period of American history is gone. A demagogue that tells you he’ll bring it back while outsourcing jobs in every one of his own businesses is just a liar playing on his audiences fears, desperation and naivete. On election day, the Trump aura will vanish and turn back into a pumpkin, one week late for Halloween and thirty years late for a winning coalition.
Also of preeminent importance is the fact that the damage done by Trump will linger long into the future and damage everyone it touches. The entire party is paralyzed with fear, disdain and bewilderment over how to handle Donald Trump. Individuals are being forced to pick their choice of career suicide, endorse him or condemn him. Either way you lose. Forever. What does Chris Christie or Ben Carson’s political future look like now? Do you think it resembles Sarah Palin’s? Some are trying to split the difference by calling him un-presidential, imbalanced or even a mad man, but then say they’ll still support him in the general election. To endorse Donald Trump, after labeling him a dictator-in-waiting in the primary, just because you’ve conditioned voters to see the other party as mortal enemies is an untenable position to hold. It is not sincere and even your own voters will see through it.
The 2016 Presidential election presents many clear distinctions no matter who the candidates are, but Trump winning the nomination heightens those distinctions exponentially. The people will get to decide whether or not to follow an empty, nonsensical platform from a vacant, unserious, egomaniacal third world ‘strong’ man, or someone else. I have faith voters will ultimately make the right decision and you should too. Voter data and trends point in that direction, in the face of Republican denial. Most of them are in too deep to pull up now and those who recognize the impending disaster have no viable alternative other than minimize the damage and begin the campaign against Hillary Clinton in 2020. It will definitely be a wild ride, but, rest assured, the outcome is pre-determined. Thanks for everything Donald Trump, America will be a much better place after you.