Friday, August 19, 2016

“Is Donald Trump Actually Trying to Win?” ↦

John Gruber makes the case that Donald Trump isn’t actually trying to win the election for President:

Nate Silver, “Trump Is Doubling Down on a Losing Strategy”:

So it’s not surprising that Trump has undertaken a major shakeup of his campaign, hiring Bannon and promoting the pollster Kellyanne Conway. Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort has effectively been demoted. But rather than make a much-expected “pivot” toward general election voters — as Manafort had reportedly been pushing for — the new plan is to “let Trump be Trump,” doubling down on the strategies that Trump used to win the nomination, including an emphasis on nationalism, populism and “brutal fights with Clinton”.


In short, Trump isn’t trying to appeal to more people, which is how you win elections. He’s trying to appeal more to the people who already support him. That’s how you might build an audience for an “alt-right” media company.

Maybe. There’s another perfectly plausible explanation, however: Trump, and the advisors he recently promoted, genuinely buy into the idea that “let Trump be Trump” is the strategy that won the primaries and is therefore their best chance for the general election. That Trump will no longer have to chafe under the restraints that Manafort wanted to put on him is the icing on the cake. After all, so this line of thinking goes, Manafort was in charge for 2 months and Trump’s numbers went down, not up.

A key piece of evidence that Gruber cites is this quote from a former Trump staffer, Stephanie Cekielski:

Even Trump’s most trusted advisors didn’t expect him to fare this well.

Almost a year ago, recruited for my public relations and public policy expertise, I sat in Trump Tower being told that the goal was to get The Donald to poll in double digits and come in second in delegate count. That was it.

The Trump camp would have been satisfied to see him polling at 12% and taking second place to a candidate who might hold 50%. His candidacy was a protest candidacy.

I’ll just point out that this expectation — of Trump coming in second in the primaries — came from Trump’s advisors, not Trump. It’s likely that, a year ago, Trump’s advisors were just as perplexed by his candidacy as the rest of us were. And although Ms. Cekielski firmly believes that Trump got into the race not expecting to win (an opinion shared by Michael Moore, claiming some unspecified insider knowledge1), she points out what is perhaps Trump’s most salient personality trait:

The Donald does not fail. The Donald does not have any weakness.

As Nate Silver points out, Donald Trump is doubling down on a losing strategy. Maybe that’s because he’s sabotaging a campaign that he never actually wanted to win. Or maybe the truth is as obvious as Mr. Trump’s hairpiece: Donald Trump is a self-absorbed narcissist who actually believes that the best way to win the election is to put his personality on full display instead of trying to smooth it over.

Let’s not forget Hanlon’s2 razor: “Never assume malice when stupidity will suffice.”

  1. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which Michael Moore, the second most vilified liberal after Hillary Clinton, would become the confidant of a Trump and/or Republican insider. Not impossible but very difficult. 

  2. Or is it Heinlein’s razor