07 August 2015

The showman in his element

I don't have a TV and didn't watch the Republican debate latest episode of The Adventures of Donald Trump, but I did follow it on a couple of right-wing forum sites that had open threads to discuss the debate in real time.  Republicans are the intended audience, after all, and how they reacted to what they were seeing is of more practical significance than what objectively happened.

My impression is that not many minds were changed -- those who supported a particular candidate mostly found reasons to continue to do so.  The reactions of such dedicated political junkies, of course, may not be typical of less engaged people tuning in to the race for the first time.  There were a lot of those -- the audience for the debate was an astonishing 24 million, far larger than for any previous such event.  And I think we all know why that was -- the presence of a candidate like no other, the unpredictable man.

Sober pundits mostly seem to be declaring Rubio the winner (which does not make me happy, since I think he would be the most difficult Republican for us to defeat in the general), and many are branding Trump the biggest loser, done in at last by his boorish performance.  I am not so sure.  He's been pronounced politically dead before, most notably after his insulting of McCain's war record, only to rise to new heights in polls of Republicans.  We'll have to wait until polls taken in the debate's wake are released, to see the real effects.  In one sense, however, the Piñata Plutocrat has already carried off the trophy dearest to his heart.  Who is still in the spotlight?  Who is being talked about all over the internet?  The "winner" Rubio?  Yawn.  As P M Carpenter observes, The Donald owned the 20 seconds that mattered, without even saying a word, when he alone refused to swear support for the eventual nominee or renounce the option of a third candidacy if the prize eludes him.  He's keeping the nuclear option in hand.

He may be assembling the elements of a casus belli, too.  Among right-wingers on sites I've been looking at, there's a widespread feeling that Fox's moderators were engaged in a fairly blatant and clumsy attempt to take him down (Horizons somewhat concurs).  Given Fox's status as the propaganda arm of the right wing, it would be easy for Trump (who is already castigating Megyn Kelly and her questions as "unfair") to see the hand of the party establishment behind an effort to neutralize him.

Trump's fans view his bully-in-a-china-shop manner and willingness to escalate confrontations as evidence of toughness and the ability to get things done.  They're wrong.  What he actually possesses is an even more awesome power -- the power of not giving a shit.  Other Republicans are constrained by concern for the good of the party, for their own standing in the eyes of the party leadership and of the public, for the success of whatever ideology they hold.  The Nietzschean Übermensch in their midst has transcended such simpering Sklavenmoral.  He has no stake, nothing to lose, and that is what sets him free to do whatever he damn well pleases.

Note the contrast with the prominent insurgent candidate on our own side, Bernie Sanders.  Sanders is very vigorously promoting his own vision and values, and our party and our country will be the better for it -- as is his aim.  He's not in it for his ego.  He has rejected efforts to draw him into attacks on Hillary Clinton, and has explicitly pledged not to run as a third candidate if he fails to win the Democratic nomination.  That's because he does care -- about the good of the party and the country -- and knows that any course that might help elect a Republican President would be a deadly blow against the very values he is trying to promote.

No such sense of honor or loyalty constrains El Donald.  As I expressed here, I believe that after failing (as he surely will) to win the Republican nomination, he will launch a third candidacy.  Not to avenge himself upon the Republican establishment for treating him badly, although he'll surely construct a pretext along those lines.  No, it will be to win himself another year in the spotlight.  Think about it.  His Presidential run has already gotten him far more attention than anything else he's ever done, and it's going to continue (no, I don't believe his debate performance has knocked him out of the race or even hurt him much).  By the time the nomination is finally bestowed upon Jeb or Rubio or Walker, expecting Trump to go quietly into the night as just one more also-ran would be like expecting a drug addict to quit cold turkey after the greatest and longest high of his life.

The master showman will be part of this story for a long time yet -- right up until Hillary's landslide next November, in fact.  If you think I'm hugely enjoying this, you're damn right I am.  And every day I give thanks that this man is the Republicans' problem and not ours.


Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

"Trump's fans view his bully-in-a-china-shop manner and willingness to escalate confrontations as evidence of toughness and the ability to get things done."

Right. The same "fans" who believed Sarah Palin was an impressive vice presidential candidate and who thought anyone who criticized her was "afraid" of her. There's no accounting for intelligence with those "fans." They keep hitching their political wagons to cartoon candidates and then wonder why they and those cartoon candidates are mercilessly mocked by the rest of the country and world.

08 August, 2015 05:34  
Blogger okjimm said...

there is something of a ...ah, deep disquieting aspect to Trump....the man would give himself a blow-job, just to say he could.

The Sound and the Furry

“I say money has no value; it's just the way you spend it.”
― William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

08 August, 2015 10:43  
Blogger Sue said...

I'm so happy to see you believe Hillary will win big next November! But Rubio as a candidate to fear? Nah, I know many, many from the Democratic party say they would never vote for Hillary, but can you see them voting for Rubio? I can't, not in a million years. Democrats will stick by our nominee, Hillary. As for Trump, I pray he's in it to win it, even as an Independent. Makes me excited for 2016! We could see the country turn solid Blue!

08 August, 2015 12:01  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Shaw: Trump and Palin have a fair amount in common, especially in the nature of their appeal to the "base". Unfortunately the base has gotten a lot angrier and cruder since 2008 -- and thus so have their idols.

Okjimm: I'm sure Trump thinks the main value of money is being able to brag about it.

Sue: I don't actually consider any of 'em "a candidate to fear" -- I think Hillary can beat any of them handily. But if I had to pick one as the most challenging, it would be Rubio. Easiest to beat: Huckabee and, of course, Trump. But neither of them is going to be the Republican nominee, barring some very bizarre circumstance. I do think Trump will run as a third candidate, which in polling produces results like the right-hand one here.

08 August, 2015 14:26  
Blogger maindawg said...

They have already begun name calling. It will escalate and the Donald will appear to be on the defense and so can play the victim card. A favorite among the Republican base. Some women honestly dont get offended by his boorish comments. He is actually very liberal. Hes a democrat and has admitted that too. You see,in politics, it pays to swim upstream no matter the current, so long as you are strong enough. The Donald has collected all the angry mean people who are the GOP's base. No one else was so bold no one had the red meat to offer the radicals. So Donald owns them now. He owns a 20 to 25 percentage of the GOP base. so long as he maintains that block , he will stay in the race.

08 August, 2015 16:07  
Blogger Ahab said...

God, if I see Trump's smug face and bad comb-over one more time, I'm going to scream. I can't wait until he's out of the media spotlight.

Kasich pleasantly surprised me on Thursday night, but I'm ambivalent about his record.

Time posted a transcript of the debate, for anyone who wants to catch up: http://time.com/3988276/republican-debate-primetime-transcript-full-text/

08 August, 2015 16:53  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Maindawg: I don't think he's really a Democrat or a Republican. He's simply Trump. But the baggots are rather stupid and easily fooled. So yes, he owns them. He's their Pied Piper of Hamelin for as long as he wants to be.

Ahab: I can't wait until he's out of the media spotlight.

I'm afraid that may actually be a pretty long wait -- fifteen months or so.

Kasich is going nowhere in today's Republican party. He's too human. His comment that he would still love a child of his who turned out to be gay has reportedly "appalled" the base. He'll be the Huntsman of this cycle.

08 August, 2015 18:31  

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