“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