How Donald Trump Played America—and Himself
President Dwight D. Eisenhower (serving from 1953 to1961) once said: Never question another man’s motive. His wisdom, yes, but not his motives. Wise words indeed, and especially relevant as the U.S. presidential election campaign—circus may be more appropriate—lurches forward to November 8th.
Plenty of people, including your faithful correspondent, have expressed their views, insights and horror on Donald J. Trump’s attempt, and associated behavior, for the crown jewel of President of the United States. This sickening spectacle, a first since the country’s independence in 1776 (there have been plenty of looney political events in its history), has prompted many to question Trump’s motives.
It certainly begs the question: is Donald Trump that unhinged and dangerous, given his propensity for spontaneous rantings and threats aimed at whomever gets in his crosshairs? Or is he more the cunning strategist, playing to America’s underbelly (Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables”), having an alternate plan if he loses the national election? Indeed, one could argue that Trump never had any expectation of winning the presidency, instead looking at his run for office as a springboard to further building his brand post-election.
And what would that hypothetical plan look like?
Some observers have postulated that Trump may want to create his own Trump TV news show or cable network, something along the lines of the wacky Fox news network and its rag tag band of pseudo journalists.
Or maybe The Donald aims to develop a new reality show targeted at the White House. That would be in keeping with his reality series The Apprentice, a pretend show about the business world.
Keep in mind that Donald Trump is less a businessman (his floundering Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City finally closed its doors in October 2016) and more the masterful self-promoter, analogous to the P.T. Barnum of the 21st Century.
As of writing this leadership post, the media has essentially concluded that Hillary Clinton has won the election. That’s how the media operates, attention span of a budgie and overly quick to conclude. Not long ago it was Trump who was likely going to win. However, what’s at stake here, as more seasoned journalists and political observers have pointed out, is: a) the Republican Party faces dissolution, and b) a Trump loss could create a huge socio-political chasm across America. That would spell disaster if the world’s longest-reigning democracy becomes in effect a one-party state.
In 1993, Canada’s Progressive Conservative Party, once proud and strong, began its implosion following a national election in which the Liberal Party gave it a sound thumping. A decade later, the PC party was no more as it merged with the radical right Canadian Alliance to create the Conservative Party. The point is that change can come swiftly and unforgivingly to those in politics who don’t pay heed to voters.
Like a desperate rat that’s cornered (to borrow from Vladimir Putin’s story as a young man growing up), Donald Trump has been lashing out viciously at whomever pisses him off, and especially following the second debate with Hillary Clinton. It raises the question, therefore, of how much of his behavior is truly spontaneous and uncontrolled, as opposed to playing to his core supporters and also following his playbook (assuming there is one).
Witness his statement at the third and final Presidential debate on October 19 in Nevada. When asked by Fox news moderator Chris Wallace if he would accept a Hillary Clinton victory on November 8th, Trump replied that he didn’t know at that point, noting that he’d keep people in suspense. This contradicts his response at the second debate when asked the same question. At that debate he replied yes he would. His VP running mate Mike Pence has also stated that Trump would accept a Clinton win. This flip flop is more than just a Donald Trump moment. There seems to be an underlying current of: “Just watch me, folks; there’s going to be some big stuff happening if I lose the election.”
One doesn’t have to pretend to be a fear monger to legitimately suggest that even in a Hillary Clinton election victory that Trump will make every effort to bring down the country’s political system, from the Office of the President to the Republican Party to helping spawn violence in the streets. The latter is not an overly dramatic statement.
Indeed, while financial historian Niall Ferguson predicted “blood in the streets” following the 2008 financial meltdown, which didn’t quite occur, your correspondent’s humble view is that it will likely happen following November 8th. Witness the disgraceful fights that have taken place at political events. And yes, it has gone both ways, with Trump supporters beating on Clinton supporters, and vice versa.
Fostering violent behavior seems to be one of Donald Trump’s special competencies, something he condones based on his public statements at rallies. Therefore, it should be expected that following his defeat at the polls on November 8, Trump will pour gasoline on the expected fury from his legend of supporters. It will be ugly and frightening to watch, whether within the United States or from other across the Atlantic Ocean.
What’s so sad about the 2016 nomination process and national election campaign is that the United States has so many inter-twined domestic and global issues to address. And being the world’s dominant military power (for now) and political force for democracy in a world where it’s fast disappearing, a huge amount of national energy is being diverted due to the Machiavellian aims of a half-rate reality show host and bumbling real estate business man.
One couldn’t write a script for a TV series based on what’s been unravelling in the United States and have it accepted by the producers. Take the craziest TV series, such as the cult-followed Dallas in the eighties, and the 2016 U.S. presidential contest tops it.
Donald Trump, in his own self-perceived brilliance, may believe that he’s put one over on a large segment of America, that he’s played his supporters like a grand puppet master. The problem is that Trump appears to have lost his playbook, now ad libbing as he desperately attempts to achieve whatever his desired goal. The scary part is that we’re living—all 7 billion planetary inhabitants—a B-grade movie that’s the real thing. And one man, supported by a cast of millions, appears to be controlling America’s future.
The great sadness is even if Trump doesn’t become president, we live in a country where half the people think he should be.
— Bill Maher (Twitter, October 16, 2016)
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