Thoughts on Trump

By the always great @BruceBartlett:

To save myself from answering this question repeatedly, these are the thoughts I have had about Trump since he became a presidential candidate, which were partly expressed in a Politico article over a month ago.

First of all, I think his support is firm and shows no sign of diminishing. He has already weathered storms such as his criticism of John McCain that would have doomed any other candidate. Anyone who thinks he is the current version of Cain, Bachmann, Santorum or other nutcase that briefly led the GOP field in 2012 is dead wrong.

Keep in mind also that in primary elections, one doesn’t need majority support to win in a field with multiple candidates. And intensity of support is often more important than the percentage. Support for the designated favorite of party insiders is often exaggerated in polls and I think Trump’s supporters are unusually motivated.

Second, Trump’s positions on the issues are largely irrelevant to his success. None of his supporters care whether a wall across Mexico is remotely feasible or that he regularly flip-flops on the issues. What he is selling is attitude and a certain fascistic form of leadership. He will get things done, his supporters believe. And it’s less important what he will do than that he will do something.

Ironically, Republicans brought this on themselves in two ways. To begin with, they grossly oversold what they could do just with control of Congress. The Republican base really seems to have simply forgotten about the presidential veto or the Senate filibuster. They seem to have thought all they had to do was pass bills with a simple majority and they would magically become law. How else to explain voting over and over and over again to repeal Obamacare. It makes no sense unless my assumption is correct.

Additionally, Republicans are suffering from the gridlock that they themselves caused. We all know that nature abhors a vacuum, but I think it abhors gridlock as well. That has always been the appeal of fascism and it would be very foolish to believe that Americans are immune from its attractive qualities of getting things done that need to get done. And let us not forget that Trump is talking about genuine problems even if his solutions are simplistic or even wrongheaded.

My third point in Trump’s favor is his willingness to fund his own campaign and ability to run such a campaign on the cheap. By the latter, I mean that he started his campaign with close to 100% name ID and he has the amazing ability to get massive free media exposure any time he wants it. The mainstream media seem powerless to ignore the newsworthiness of anything he says about anything at any time in any place. In lieu of a traditional campaign staff, all Trump needs are the PR people he has long employed, a scheduler and a pilot for his plane.

Related to this, I would note that Trump has a very powerful ally in the form of talk radio. Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin have been especially strong in their support for Trump, in part because Trump’s base and theirs are one and the same. It is extremely valuable to any candidate to have such a megaphone at his disposal, whipping up support, attacking his enemies, explaining away his mistakes etc. This also explains why Trump can treat Fox News with the disdain it deserves. It helped create the Trump monster, thinking he could be controlled, and discovered to its horror than he cannot.

Fourth, as a consequence, the traditional means of controlling an out-of-control candidate are not available to the GOP leadership. They cannot deny him media exposure or money or organizational support because he doesn’t need them. Moreover, the anointed GOP nominee, Jeb Bush, has turned out to be a remarkably poor politician. His ineptness makes me wonder how he ever got elected dog catcher. And the rest of the GOP field lacks the name ID or support to catch up. But, importantly, because several have deep pocketed supporters, they too can afford to stay in the race indefinitely, keeping the field divided to Trump’s advantage..

This means it is very unlikely that the stop-Trump forces can coalesce around one candidate. The field will remain divided until the end, meaning that Trump needs no more support than he has now to win the nomination. As I have said repeatedly, the key to understanding Trump is not the ceiling on his support, but the floor, which appears higher than the ceiling of all the other candidates.

Lastly, I think many Republicans simply delude themselves that Trump is not a serious candidate who cannot, for some reason, get the nomination. I say, don’t underestimate his ego, which we know is and always has been enormous. If he can win the GOP nomination, why shouldn’t he go for it? I would also point to the example of Wendell Willkie, a very Trump-like candidate who won the GOP nomination in 1940. Then as now, he took advantage of the fact that as the anti-government party, Republicans are unusually attracted to non-politicians.

I am not yet ready to predict that Trump will be the GOP nominee, but I am disinclined to bet against him. I honestly don’t see how any of his current opponents can beat him. I think his odds of winning the nomination are better than even. Whether he can win the general election is another question that I will discuss at a later date.

Final note–the Democrats’ growing disarray plays into Trump’s hands because it reduces the importance of electability as a prime requirement for the GOP nominee.

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Discussions found on the web:
  1. vickispuzzle commented on Aug 31

    Politics revisited: He’ll make sure the trains run on time?
    You are so correct!

    • MikeInSF commented on Aug 31

      “Il douché.”

  2. Moe commented on Aug 31

    He is the manifestation of the “Kardashianization” of our political system. Style over substance.

    • rd commented on Aug 31

      Not necessarily. I wouldn’t say there is much substance running in general. Right now in Iowa the Republicans are running Trump and Carson No. 1 and 2 while the others really have not done anything to convince anyone to vote for them. They generally appear to be trying to run away from their political careers – the ones that aren’t appear to be almost lunatics.

      Meanwhile, the biggest determinant on the Democratic side may be the FBI. Bernie Sanders is at least running on his record and beliefs. Biden could be a breath of fresh air bringing in new blood as the oldest candidate in the race on either side.

      This has to be one of the most depressing election seasons in a long time. It makes me yearn for the good old days of Bush vs. Gore where they could at least pretend to have substance.

    • Moe commented on Sep 1 point

    • rd commented on Sep 1

      I thought you were implying there was some substance somewhere in the field for his “style” to overcome. If there is, it remains well hidden from me.

  3. Iamthe50percent commented on Aug 31

    My dream election is Trump v Sanders and the American people see on which side their bread is buttered.

    My nightmare election is Trump v Clinton and the American people are shafted once again. I’d vote for Mickey Mouse (TM).

    • intlacct commented on Sep 1

      She wouldn’t permit Obamacare/national health care to be repealed (assuming the Senate were to yield to the calls from the right). Repeal would be a nightmare in Republican hands…

    • Iamthe50percent commented on Sep 1

      Obamacare is a farce. Who can afford a $12,000 deductible? I’ll answer for you – Hillary Clinton’s fat cat donors, most of which probably have private doctors.

    • Low Budget Dave commented on Sep 1

      I have had an $8,000 deductible through my employer for many years. The system of corporate health care in the U.S. has made that the standard. According to Ben Carson, anything lower than that is the same thing as slavery.

    • VennData commented on Sep 1

      I use Obamacare.

      The deductible isn’t $12K. Mine’s under two thousand.

      You’re listening to the GOP Media Machine nonsense.

  4. 4whatitsworth commented on Aug 31

    I think that there is a very large group of people who for good reason just ignore what politicians say. This in the genius of Trump he can now say absolutely anything! Unfortunately I think many Women still believe what politicians say and the will probably be the undoing of the Donald. @50% yeah seeing Sanders and Trump would be Awesome. If we can’t get good leadership lets at least have some entertainment!

  5. Rich in NJ commented on Aug 31

    With regard to Jeb’s ineptness and serial stumbles, it’s hard not to wonder how the idea that he is the smarter brother ever emerged.

    To the contrary, Dubya appears to be more articulate (granted, a low bar) and certainly more socially adept.

    • VennData commented on Sep 1

      …and the worst President in the history of the United States. Let’s hope for all time.

  6. miamiocean commented on Aug 31

    Jeb Bush lost his first run for governor in 1994. He won in 1998 running against a relatively unknown, technocrat Lt Governor, Buddy MacKay. The two most cited reasons for Bush’s victory were a lack of a charismatic, compelling Democratic candidate and a Democratic legislature snub of Willie Logan, the Florida African-American representative vying for Speaker, who went on to endorse Bush. Jeb also received 61% of the Hispanic vote which contributed to his 55% victory. The Florida Democratic Party has never recovered their mojo since and seems stuck in supporting mediocre Hail Mary state candidates. In 1998 Bush became the first Florida Republican governor since Reconstruction.

  7. Molesworth commented on Aug 31

    I too am surprised at how weak Bush seems. His words and even the way he holds himself appears weak.
    My understanding is that Romney didn’t run because of fear of Bush juggernaut.
    Is Romney kicking himself for not jumping in?
    Might he?

  8. scottinnj commented on Aug 31

    Where have you gone, Willard Romney, a lonely nation turns its eyes to you.
    What’s that you say Roger Ailes, joltin Mitt has left and gone away.

  9. ilsm commented on Aug 31

    First: what about crashing jets and “surviving” in POW camps makes McCain “sacred”? Much less picking Palin? Enough people were around in ‘73…….. Making heroes of POW is a reason US loses wars along with making war for trougher careerists’ advancement. Look to the viability of the war profiteer sectoir.

    Second: hatred sells, the Nazis used a similar meme.

    Third: Trump disdains buying the system, unlike the Kochs.

    Fourth: Trump is less out of control than the “media”.

    Fifth: there are no rational republicans.

  10. wally commented on Aug 31

    A constant stream of media attention being the requirement for political popularity, I think the team of Donald Trump and Miley Cyrus would be highly electable.

  11. David Merkel commented on Aug 31

    I don’t think Willkie is a good comparison to Trump. He was less flamboyant, had more political experience, and did not have to face primaries. Before primaries, men with limited political experience had a better chance of becoming their party’s nominee.

    I do think the American public is fed up and willing to consider a non-politician, but Trump is too incautious, and it will eventually catch up to him.

    • VennData commented on Sep 1

      Wilkie had no political post, office etc.

  12. Concerned Neighbour commented on Aug 31

    I understand the support for Trump. People sense there are major problems in Washington, and have lost faith in the establishment parties to solve them. I believe this explains the rise of Bernie Sanders as well. Both are outsiders that aren’t beholden to moneyed interests (though for different reasons, obviously).

    I think a Trump presidency would be a disaster, but what’s even scarier is that, given the roster of Republic candidates, he may be among the better choices. This freak show is making Mitt Romney look great. I personally think it will end up being Trump, Bush, or Rubio; all the others either can’t get enough support from the Tea Party base, or aren’t electable in the general (assuming any of them are).

    There isn’t a single Republican candidate I could remotely support. The last Republican candidate I had any interest in was Jon Huntsman, but as soon as he said the Republicans shouldn’t be the anti-science party, he was done for.

  13. Bob K. commented on Aug 31

    I think most Republicans are pissed that our elected officials won’t counter any of Obama’s extra legal activities. They hoped to soft shoe Bush into the White House by default, without taking any positions or controversies.

    I am voting Trump or Sanders. I care not which one wins as they will shake up the status quo in the Axis of Wash DC-LA-SF-Chicago-NY of elite.

    Anyone who underestimates the anger boiling in this country will get steamrolled.

    Also, enough with the style over substance mantra. Obama was an empty suit (still is). Trump has run a major Corporation for decades.

    Finally, Trump is the only man running in this election. People have sensed it. For those now crying fascism, it was not just the Republicans who brought this on. Six years no budget, execuive decrees, prosecutional discretion. Slush funds to supporters, TARP spending. This was Obama. I’d call that pretty Fascist.

    • Iamthe50percent commented on Aug 31

      I think both parties are to blame for “no budget”.

    • VennData commented on Sep 1

      Really? The “Shut down government” people are to blame for the “No budget” budget?

      If there’s “No budget” how do the bills get paid? That is a canard.

      These people that believe the GOP Media Machine have no idea what’s going on.

    • intlacct commented on Sep 1

      “Obama was an empty suit (still is).”

      Heh. Riiiight…

    • Low Budget Dave commented on Sep 1

      TARP was under Obama? Are you talking about the TARP program that was signed into law by George W. Bush on October 3, 2008?

    • DeDude commented on Sep 1

      “Trump has run a major Corporation for decades”

      I think he ran four of them into the ground (or how many bankrupt companies he left behind). The good news is that for every one of those times he bankrupted a company he personally managed to bail out just fine. What a leader.

      “Anyone who underestimates the anger boiling in this country will get steamrolled.”

      Anger – lets make that “anger and ignorance” then I will completely agree. I am astonished whenever the right or the left start attacking their respective politicians for not getting X done. People have no clue how their constitution and parliamentary system works. That is why a douchebag like Trumph can stand up and confidently state that he will do X, and the morons fall for it (and get disappointed when it turns out that he can’t/don’t after they elect him).

    • willid3 commented on Sep 1

      well i can sort of see the complaints as many are probably angry about the fact that DC seemed to put the majority of people at a much lower priority than say the 1%, and even when they had completed rescuing the 1%, they never did any thing for the 99%. that will dive a lot of anger. and while there is the anger about the extra legal action of Obama, there is also the same for Bush, as neither seemed to really connect with any but the 1% much. and once Trump gets into the national election, their will be questions about how he ran those companies. and all of the bankruptcies. and those almost always are cause by management (or mismanagement). so pushing that as your strong suit, is leading with a glass jaw. and he does seem to not be able to deal with adversity, like unwanted questions, or questions about things he doesnt like to talk about. he also seems to anger issues (not some thing you want with some one who has launch codes, and no one that can over ride in the middle of the night).

  14. matsaxel commented on Aug 31

    By demonizing Trump he gains sympathy. So the author of the blog entry is a massive cheerleader for Trump. What do I mean by demonization?
    – Calling Trump fascist. Does the author know what fascism is? A strong relationship between government and business. Does Trump believe in that?
    – Calling his supporters stupid by stating that the supporters do not care about Trump’s specific policies.

    I am no supporter of Trump, but I do not see why the left-wingers single him out for critique. Some of the Republican candidates are much worse that Trump, but few talks about their faults. When I read the blog entry I feel sympathy for Trump.

    Ritholtz blog is more and more becoming a leftwing megaphone. Soon he will start talking positively about democratic socialism and Bernie Sanders. There is another lunatic, naming his political ideology after the hated party in East-Germany.

    • whskyjack commented on Aug 31

      Bartlett is a Republican conservative until the wing nuts redefined conservatism.
      He is addressing this from a Republican POV as the Trumpster is a Republican problem. As a middle of the road Dem, I’m getting a kick out of Trump. Even Bernie and Biden could win if Trump carries the day.

      Bring on the popcorn

    • Iamthe50percent commented on Sep 1

      So Hillary is a Fascist! Along with the rest of the DLC.

    • rd commented on Sep 1

      Trump is a blowhard, but it would never have crossed my mind to call him a fascist.

      Cheney and Rumsfeld are fascists.

    • DeDude commented on Sep 1

      Trump is a win-win for the democrats. He is splitting apart the corporate/redneck coalition in the GOP, and could even split the party by running as a third party candidate. His political inexperience and douchebagery makes him one of the most desirable GOP candidates to run against.

    • VennData commented on Sep 1

      ROFL Yeah “… but few talks about their faults…”

      Just this weekend the (justified) attacks on the Wall to Canada and FedExing immigrants re Brown and Chrisite could fill a papal Homily.

      The reason Republicans spout out such blanket drivel is the facts aren’t on their side.

  15. stonedwino commented on Aug 31

    Cognitive Dissonance in spades given the political post. Great read on Trump BR…

    • NoKidding commented on Sep 1

      Not BR, Bruce Bartlett.

  16. stonedwino commented on Aug 31

    Bruce has the best read on politics…love the Twitter feed too.

  17. Mr Reality commented on Sep 1

    Excuse me? The Democrats growing disarray? Did I miss the memo? Nah I don’t think so.

    Trump may be electable in the primary, but in the general? Not likely

  18. Molesworth commented on Sep 1

    Trump is tapping into a “they can’t get it done so let’s try something new” vibe.
    Given a scenario of Trump v Hillary my life long Democratic spouse suggested Trump would be tempting.

    • willid3 commented on Sep 1

      could be, its the theme from the 2012 and 2008 that the candidate wasnt conservative enough meme. so lets try one that ‘is’. even if he really isnt

  19. bergsten commented on Sep 1

    I’ve been “away” for quite some time, though I’ve looked in on occasion. We will return to this shortly.

    Scott Adams of Dilbert fame has a running commentary on Trump’s campaign from the perspective of his being a “master manipulator.” This can be found here: As Scott’s observations are novel coming from a non-political perspective, I figured Barry would find them interesting and thought provoking. So I thought I’d point them out to Barry and move on.

    First I discover, in whatever number of years have passed, Barry’s email address is no longer valid. The email address cited in this blog isn’t right either (for what it’s worth, mine hasn’t). So, I figure I’ll post it on the chance that this blog is now moderated and Barry will eventually get the message.

    Seems I don’t remember my WordPress password. WordPress gives you TWO changes, then locks you out for two hours, even if you select “forgot my password” then change it via the email link. How’s THIS for user friendly?

    At this point, I’m figuring my “good deed for the day” is getting quite costly in terms of time and effort. Off to dinner then maybe retry.

    Which brings us back to how long I’ve been away and what I observe.

    Barry – you’ve gotten way more partisan than when last I knew ye. Yes, I know, it’s your blog, you can say what you want, and so on. Just mentioning this as a friend who hasn’t seen you in ages (wow, you’ve lost so much weight, you look so much better, I don’t remember that black mole on your back, blah, blah, blah).

    Agreed, so has everyone else. Yes, everyone has to shout louder and be more outrageous and fanatical to be heard. Still, it diminishes ones’ credibility, even when preaching to the choir.

    Aw, shit. Never mind. Sorry I brought it up. How’s the family? Did you ever buy that car?

    Anyway, check out the Scott Adams blog. You’ll be somewhat glad you did.

  20. bergsten commented on Sep 1

    Oh, yeah, Trump.

    Since the BBC killed Top Gear, politically-corrected Doctor Who to death, and (according to my wife) dissed Tom Jones, I’m forced to turn to commentary-about-Trump for entertainment.

    Sad times. Where’s “CNBCsucks” when we need him?

  21. rd commented on Sep 1

    One other thought:

    Trump sucking the air out of the room is going to make it hard for many of the (now) minor candidates to get campaign contributions directly to their campaigns (see Perry, Rick). Without an actual campaign organization on the ground, SuperPAc money isn’t enough.

    Trump can self-fund the entire campaign. Fiorina is probably the only other person with enough wealth to self-fund for an extended period of time if she wants to. Meanwhile, she is polling well enough that she should be getting both campaign contributions and SuperPac money right now. Bush may have a fair amount of his family’s wealth available as well as the Bush funding machine. So it will be interesting to see how long some of the other candidates can survive if their funding sources dry up as they languish in low single digits. I expect we will start seeing candidates running out of money before we even get to the caucuses and polls in Iowa and New Hampshire.

    • formerlawyer commented on Sep 1

      Is Walker no longer a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Enterprises?

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