It’s looking like Trump is going to be the GOP candidate for President this year, isn’t it? Oh, are we ever going to have some fun with this!
The way I see it, he has exactly three cards in his deck:
- The aura of a “winner”
As it turns out, that’s a very appealing skill set in the Republican primaries. All of the candidates can pander, of course (on both sides of the fence), but Trump is easily the most transparent about it. Remember his speech at Liberty University? He reminds me of Kang and Kodos. He’ll just start throwing stuff out there and, if he gets a response, he’ll double down on it.
Pandering alone won’t get the job done, so the real secrets of Trump’s success lie elsewhere. He’s a bully. Ok, he’s really more of a dick, but “bully” will work for this discussion. When he’s called on his bullshit, he goes straight to personal attacks. The press, even Fox News, Breitbart, other Republican candidates, hell, even the Pope*. Now, logically, this is not a very convincing way to respond and you would be laughed out of a real debate for doing that.
Of course, this isn’t a real debate and that kind of aggression plays well with his intended audience. His supporters, by and large, support banning all Muslims from the U.S., they support torture, they support murdering civilians, and they don’t see anything contradictory about dishing it out and not being able to take it. He’s not a white supremacist; he’ll probably sue you if you call him one, but he sure as hell says all kind of white supremacist things and his words sure attract white supremacists, so you be the judge. His message and style are more an artifact of what his audience wants than anything intrinsic about Trump himself.
What is a Trump brad is being a “winner.” You can argue all day about whether or not he actually has been a winner up to this point, but the fact is that he’s perceived as one. The opportunity to defeat him was in New Hampshire. If he’d lost the first two primaries, that image would have been tarnished, perhaps fatally so. No one wants to support a pandering, bullying loser, at least when they don’t have anything else to offer.
But, of course, he didn’t lose. He’s on a roll now and he’s become the very definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy. He’s going to be Republican candidate for president. It’s no longer a question of whether or not it’s a good or bad thing; it’s a true thing.
Now it gets fun.
Trump’s most vehement supporters are wild about him because he’s tailor his campaign specifically for them. It’s worth noting, though, that most of Trump’s messaging is new. He’s never refrained from expressing his opinions, but there’s never been much consistency to them. This Trump-as-wannabe-strongman-war criminal is a new skin for him and it’s fair to ask if it’s just a mask for the Republican primaries. I don’t expect him to change the his personal style, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the message changes dramatically.
And if he wins, why would anyone think he’d actually act on what he’s claimed he was going to do? The wall on the Mexican border is an objectively stupid idea**, and Trump is not a stupid man. He just says stupid things because it gets him votes. He’ll likely say different stupid things in the general election because the rabid jingoism won’t play well with the different audience. When/if he takes office, we may, may find out what he actually believes. If anything.
* Interestingly, the fact that he both constantly plays the victim while launching attack after attack hasn’t hurt him with his fan club, but then, they do a lot of that themselves.
** Made obsolete by the invention of the “ladder.”