Is Trump’s Campaign Brilliant or Insane?
When Donald Trump launched his Presidential campaign in mid-June, many didn’t think he stood a chance. His first act was to attack immigration issues with Mexico. In regards to illegal Mexican immigrants Trump said: “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some I assume are good people but I speak to border guards and they tell us what we are getting.”
Many Americans have no problem with cracking down on immigration issues. None whatsoever. It is a problem and most reasonable people see it as such.
Immigration is clearly a central issue to the Trump campaign, but it was the way he addressed it that has defined his campaign. It was a defining moment because he violated the PC code and unsurprisingly, people wanted to censure him.
The unwritten code nowadays is if someone says anything remotely offensive, anyone affiliated with said person must denounce and distance themselves from that person. NBC did just that. They issued the requisite statement: “At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values.” It decided to ‘disassociate’ with Trump: “Due to the recent derogatory statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants, NBCUniversal is ending its business relationship with Mr. Trump.” This meant that Trump would no longer host ‘The Apprentice’ and NBC would not broadcast the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants (as part of a joint venture with Trump). Univision, a Spanish-language broadcaster, using similar rhetoric as NBC stated it would not air the Spanish version of the Miss USA pageant.
Trump had clearly entered the political arena and did it in controversial fashion. The PC police have buried people in the past, yet Trump decided to take them on right off the bat. Could he have made his point regarding immigration using more tactful language? Sure. Was there some truth to what he was saying. Sure. Rather than generalizing, he could have used statistics and specific instances. However that isn’t Trump. He isn’t about tact.
At the beginning, it looked like his comments would ensure his campaign was done before it even got started. The PC police say if you make offensive comments, then everything about you must be seen through a narrow lens. In Trump’s case, it would mean no matter what he said, everyone would qualify his remarks by saying he is a racist who hates Mexicans. If any other candidate in the Presidential race had made similar remarks, Its all but certain that is what would have happened and they would have dropped out of the race long ago.
In Trump’s case a funny thing happened. He didn’t back down and he fired back. He fended off the PC police. In response to NBC he released the following statement: “Mr. Trump stands by his statements on illegal immigration, which are accurate. NBC is weak, and like everybody else is trying to be politically correct— that is why our country is in serious trouble.” In regards to Univision he sued them for $500 million and banned their employees from playing on one of his golf courses. He then bought out NBC’s 50% share of the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, quickly sold the entire package to a third party, who in turn sold it to Fox.
Trump not only survived, he thrived. He struck a chord. The fact is that many people are tired of the PC police. They have grown tiresome. Each and every word a public figure says is now subjected to the harshest scrutiny. However, there is still enough rugged individualism amongst Americans to resist the PC police. There is a fine line between trying to protect everyone’s feelings from getting hurt and infringing upon the right to free speech. Some on the left would even like to ban certain words.
Here was the deal: NBC and Univision didn’t need to release statements condemning Trump. The PC code required such statements, but the fact was this: no one cared or at least not enough people cared to make such statements necessary. This was reflected by Trump’s surge in the polls. In him, people finally saw someone disregard PC protocol and resist. The mandatory PC statements basically made Trump the ‘victim’ and the fact he fought back instead of apologizing made him into a sort of folk hero. If NBC had seen thousands of protestors and declining TV ratings, condemning Trump would have made sense. They didn’t wait for that to happen and that was their mistake.
Did Trump get lucky in successfully fending off the PC or did Trump plan this ahead of time? Instead of being something he spoke in the heat of the moment, were his comments regarding Mexican immigrants something he and his advisors carefully crafted ahead of time? Did he plan everything ahead of time? Did he anticipate NBC and Univision’s reactions and already know he could turn it to his advantage? If so, it was brilliant. The end result was strong support.
Trump is clearly the most outlandish and unconventional Presidential candidate over the last century. He is totally unorthodox and unpredictable…and a lot of people seem to love this.
Off the heals of his successful battle with NBC, he was once again confronted with something unpleasant when Fox’s Megyn Kelly asked Trump about negative terms (‘fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals’) he has used in regards to women during the first GOP debate. Obviously Trump didn’t like this, but remember the context. The first question asked in that debate was whether or not any of the candidates were willing to pledge they wouldn’t run as a third party candidate. Trump was the only one who wouldn’t make that pledge. I would argue that given he set himself apart in that respect, he deserved any pointed questions that came his way. Kelly asked a valid question. Do we want a President who might use such terminology while occupying the White House?
Since then, the Trump campaign has continued to evolve. Trump excels at theatrics and he doesn’t like being challenged or attacked. He has eventually exposed NBC as a bunch of hypocrites. In late June, NBC wanted nothing to do with Trump. By early November, he was hosting NBC’s Saturday Night Live! What happened to NBC’s ‘cornerstone’ values of “respect and dignity for all people?” Trump knew all along that no such values ever existed. It was all useless rhetoric and phony altruism.
Say what you will about Trump but he fully understands the value of money. Money trumps (no pun intended) everything else. NBC’s Saturday Night Live show would undoubtedly have lower ratings if hosted by Rand Paul, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush or any other GOP Presidential candidate because those guys aren’t interested in entertaining people and clowning around. It’s not about entertainment, it’s about leadership. Trump hosted because he has marketed his candidacy as a brand. He is selling himself and his unique personality. He grasps his brand not only in political terms but also in business terms and he understands that his brand has entertainment value. Is it smart or insane?
It was from a business and entertainment standpoint that he tried to negotiate with Fox News. In his mind, Thursday’s GOP debate isn’t about politics as much as it is about entertainment and ratings. He sees himself as the ‘star’ of the show. Has the conventional political process really devolved this much? It was one thing for the GOP and its candidates as a whole to refuse to participate in debates moderated by NBC, it’s an entirely different thing for one candidate to try and negotiate terms individually. It’s almost as though Trump were treating the debate as a weekly TV drama or sitcom. It’s not unheard of for the star of a show to orchestrate the dismissal or minimization of another actor. That is exactly what Trump tried to do to Megyn Kelly. He didn’t want to share screen time with her for fear that she might steal the show or make him look bad.
At least that is one train of thought.
Trump viewed the debate as entertainment. Fox News saw it as a news event, not a conventional scripted TV drama or at least not a two-way scripted drama, though it would probably be naive to think they were oblivious to the ratings aspect of it too. Regardless which network and news organization hosted the debate, the moderators decide which questions to ask and so they can script their side. However, there is no way they could script the candidate responses. A skilled debater should be able to handle tough questions and if they are being treated unfairly, they should be able to expose such treatment while it’s happening. Trump sees himself as an entertainer and as such, saw his appearance in the debate from a ratings perspective. To him, it was all a matter of TV ratings.
Sadly, he’s probably right. Does the event hold as much appeal from an entertainment standpoint sans Trump? No. Why? Trump brings to the debate an element of surprise. Who knows what he might say? A lot of people would have undoubtedly watched the debate just to see what Trump would do. The real focus should be on issues and each candidate’s platform. Trump brings the element of throwing a ‘loose cannon’ in the middle of conventional politics.
No news organization with any grain of integrity would allow a candidate to dictate terms to them. Trump tried to play hardball with them and they stuck by their employee. However, Fox News erred by issuing a sarcastic statement about the ayatollah and Putin not treating Trump fairly either. Trump is all about raw emotions. He was able to get under Fox News’ skin and anger them enough to issue a statement that reinforces his original argument about bias. They should have stuck to the moral high ground. Once again, does he plan this stuff out or do things always just seem to fall into place for him?
Then again Trump said on Twitter: “I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct. Instead I will only call her a lightweight reporter!” Trump also said last week he could fire a gun and not lose support. If you take all of it together, a scary picture emerges: Trump has defined political correctness as the great evil. What started out as a blow against extreme PC, a blow that amounted to a victory over NBC, has evolved into something far worse. At its extreme, PC becomes ludicrous and results in absurd acts such as removing the Ten Commandments from public places because it might offend someone. It’s a waste of time to even address people who complain about such things. They aren’t rational. Insinuating that a well-known female reporter is a bimbo and implying that your supporters are so fanatical that they will support you even if you randomly shoot someone? To say that those views are politically incorrect seems reasonable to me. Don’t lump those kinds of statements, which are clearly disconcerting, in with truly nonsensical acts done in the name of PC.
Trump has succeeded in convincing some that any attacks against him or stances contrary to his are all instances of PC gone haywire. What would happen if this man occupied the White House? How would it look if he said the Queen of England is ditzy or the Pope is controlled by the ACLU? No matter how outlandish, virtually any comment is within the realm of possibility with Trump.
Another train of thought is this: This had absolutely nothing to do with Megyn Kelly. Trump has a big lead in the polls. He didn’t attend the debate, but like the Dos Equis pitchman he was the life of a party without even attending. Regardless that he wasn’t physically there, he was definitely a factor in the debate. Given his current poll numbers, the risks associated with not showing up to the debate were acceptable. Why not let the competition tear each other apart while you stay out of it? This is a race. Whoever finishes in second is the first place loser. The most obvious strategy is to attack the leader, but if the leader isn’t there, what good does it do for the 3rd place person attack the 5th place person? Trump has taken a lot of criticism for his decision to avoid the debate, but sometimes in politics there is a certain logic that any publicity is good publicity. The more your name is being discussed, the less anyone else’s name is being discussed whether in a good or bad context. For the lesser known candidates, it decreases their chances of gaining any traction. If you never gain traction, your campaign fizzles. So, in a way it actually benefits Trump to take a few negative hits if it helps him eliminate his opponents one by one. Brilliant?
In one context, one could see Trump’s campaign as brilliant. In another context one could view it as utter insanity that has defied all known political precedents. To paraphrase the lyrics of the Billy Joel song ‘You May Be Right’: “Maybe it is a lunatic that America is looking for…”