Monday, April 4, 2016

By Reed Galen

Quote by a Smart Person: “A bad guy always assumes he’s going to win, whereas the good guy has to struggle with ‘what if I lose?’ and the audience wants to struggle with him.” David Gallagher

Welcome to the American Singularity.

Donald Trump explains why modern presidential campaigns are so risk-averse and overly-controlling. Many candidates left to their own devices either a) don’t think about what they’re saying or b) try their rarely-used cleverness muscles and find they’ve atrophied beyond repair. A few months ago, conventional wisdom stated that in order to beat Trump the GOP needed a two-person race. That was the only way to consolidate the opposition of roughly 55%-60% into a true alternative.

But what the last 10 days have really showed us is that if you want to beat Trump you just need to let him get bored. Without debates to keep him somewhat “focused” or a bunch of states he can barnstorm and own the airwaves, his brain becomes a devil’s workshop of brutish and bizarre pronouncements that must sound better inside his cranium than they do in newsprint. With a loss likely in tomorrow’s Wisconsin primary, Trump must wait another two weeks to get to New York and his next likely win. Question: If Trump by some odd miracle loses New York, does that disqualify him from the current trio of aspirants? After all, he’d be the only one who didn’t win on his home field.


Visiting with some friends this weekend, one of them mentioned that Donald Trump had come up at her church group. And beyond the easy jokes and disbelief, the fact that so many people make comparisons to Trump and early fascist style and rhetoric was no longer funny. How far had we come both as a nation and how far had our discourse declined that the idea of a monomaniac strongman was the favored choice of so many Americans? Without fail, the extreme wings of both ideologies will compare their opponents to some horrible figure from the past, as much to keep themselves fired up as to convince anyone that Candidate A is really the second coming of Uncle Joe Stalin or Chairman Mao. This year the jokes aren’t all that funny anymore and fleeting comparisons, while still thin in their evidentiary backing, are stubbornly persistent.

President Richard Nixon's Chief of Staff, HR Haldeman.

President Richard Nixon's Chief of Staff, HR Haldeman.

The beginning of Trump’s bad stretch started with his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, being charges with assault by a Florida court as a result of his actions toward former Breitbart report Michelle Fields. If you have spent anytime at presidential-level events several things make this incredibly troubling:

·      The campaign manager should be at home making sure a national campaign for leader of the free world is doing all the things it should. You can’t run these efforts from the back of the bus.

·      If the manager is on the road, they’re likely already in the motorcade or talking to reporters about how well the effort is going.

·      Every staff member and volunteer is taught early and often that you NEVER put your hands on ANYONE, press, attendee or otherwise. At every event of this nature there are dozens of guys with guns and badges. If someone is truly causing that much trouble, find one of them and ask them to handle it.

·      Rather than apologizing for his behavior, Lewandowski and Trump doubled down on their bad behavior and in the process tried to impugn the character of a female reporter. Despite anyone’s opinions of the media’s complicity in the rise of Trump, the press corps will always circle the wagons to protect their own. Ms. Fields will be on television between now and November serving as a constant reminder to female voters just what kind of operation Trump is running.

·      Lewandowski is the kind of guy, if he’d done Advance with me, would have been on one trip before we sent him home. Staffers are staff. Cops are cops. Anyone on staff who believes a hard-pin and a wire in their ear elevates them to something approaching security has no place on the road or at the home office.

·      Lewandowski looks like the long-lost son of H.R. Haldeman with his buzz cut and belief that he is both the personal and spiritual protector of his boss. Trump plucked this guy from obscurity and thrust him into the limelight. Lewandowski’s biggest mistake? That he thought that all Trump’s success somehow accrues to his reputation and/or “power.” Trump should have fired him and sent him home.

The Great Wall of #NeverTrump

It took nine months for the #NeverTrump movement to begin. It burned hot and fast as GOP operatives took to Twitter with new hashtags at the ready and examples of Trump’s duplicity, apostasy and general awfulness. And while it may have awoken a few more voters to turn against The Donald, its most valuable service may be to have emboldened “nice states” like Utah and Wisconsin to rise up and blunt his momentum. The Badger State’s talk radio corps has made it their two-week mission to ensure that Trump gets no free pass on Tuesday, and it appears that their efforts will, in addition to Ted Cruz’s organization, leave Cruz atop the podium on Tuesday night.

And while the Anti-Donald forces may indeed succeed in keeping Trump from securing the nomination outright before the Convention, they should not mistake their efforts to deter him with the return of a more moderate or establishment worldview by Republican primary voters. Either Trump and Cruz, both outsiders by any objective political standard, is likely to leave Cleveland as the Republican standard-bearer. Cruz is not succeeding because he is an Establishment darling. Nothing could further from the truth. Cruz is succeeding because he is an anti-DC alternative that angry Republican voters can get behind without having to feel the need to take a shower or hide it from their friends. That Gov. John Kasich is the only remaining quasi-Establishment candidate left in the race should not have anyone along the Acela corridor feeling good about things.

Cleveland's Cuyahoga River catches fire, 1969. Also future image of #GOP Convention.

Cleveland's Cuyahoga River catches fire, 1969. Also future image of #GOP Convention.

Will Cleveland Burn?

This week Nate Silver wrote an excellent analysis of how the Republican delegate selection process works and why, even if Trump got close, say 1200 delegates before Cleveland, that many of those delegates “pledged” to him would just be waiting for a second ballot where they could shake off the chains of The Donald and move to someone else. And what Silver’s piece really reminded me of is the fact that, despite all of the attention we give the primaries and caucuses, they are PARTY nominating contests. You are not voting for Trump or Cruz or Hillary or Bernie. Like any good federal system, you are voting for someone to represent you at a group’s nominating convention. It is not democracy. It is republicanism.

And while those 1200 or so delegates may become unpledged on a second ballot, their decision to do so will likely cause Trump and his supporters to attempt to create chaos and spectacle on the Convention floor or leave the whole event outright. By then it will be too late for Trump to likely qualify for enough state ballots as either an independent or a third-party candidate to achieve 270 electoral votes. But Trump is a media machine. Even if he wasn’t an actual candidate for the presidency, it’s easy to see how he could fly around the country talking to hundreds of thousands of disaffected voters about how the system screwed him and by extension is screwing you, too. It’s looking much more likely that Cleveland will be a mess. The question is how big a mess? Give it to Trump and the Party’s over. Take from Trump and the Party’s over.


AuthorReed Galen