Will you tune in?
By ANDY JONES
Donald Trump doesn’t talk so much about walls anymore. Increasingly self-reverential, and ready to proclaim his opposition to anyone who has an opinion different from his (such as his running mate, at a recent debate), Trump talks about the campaign, the polls, and the election, and the adjective he uses most often is “rigged.”
The themes of a campaign can teach us much about its participants. When he was running against John McCain, Barack Obama was considered to be too junior, too fresh, and too untested to be given the presidency. Obama’s supporters pointed to the young Chicagoan’s actual campaign as evidence that he can take on huge and complex tasks, and excel in their execution. In effect, the success of his campaign helped to convince many that his campaign should succeed. Using such infinitely recursive reasoning, one might wonder what we are to learn about the campaign of Donald Trump, who has moved from walls to unsubstantiated paranoid spoutings and conspiracy theories.
As Jonathan Chait said in an essay in the current New York Magazine, “If you do assume that Trump is acting rationally, then it is very hard to explain his campaign moves as steps in a considered plan to get elected president, and much easier to explain them as steps toward monetizing his audience through a media empire.
“This theory would explain why Trump handed control of his campaign to a media mogul (Steve Bannon), why he has needlessly attacked fellow members of his party, and why he has risked demoralizing his own voters by repeatedly calling the election rigged. These are logical decisions if his end goal is to wrest the intense loyalty of a large minority of the country away from other conservative organs and center it around a media brand he can control.”
All those rallies. All those debates. All that incessant TV coverage. All those schoolchildren tuning in to discover more about our political system, and civic discourse. Is Trump a genius if he has been playing us all, and especially that diehard 30 percent who support him no matter what outrageous thing he says?
For the record, as of this morning, Trump indeed is polling at 30 percent in Utah, with Clinton at 28 percent, while he has 37 percent in Alaska, with Clinton right behind him at 36 percent. Trump’s lead in these states would make his campaign smile, if only these were not two of the most conservative states in the union. Something is amiss in Trumpville.
In the past, when Trump’s TV show didn’t win Emmys, Trump complained about the hosts, the judges, the ratings earned by telecast. Maybe he should have paid someone to take away his smartphone. The tone and content of these tweets anticipated his current complaints about how poorly he is doing, again, this time on the bigger stage of the polls, and our elections, America’s new national pastime.
As ABC’s Rick Klein wrote recently, “Trump is closing with allegations of massive conspiracy, suggesting a corporate/media/international cabal to boost the Clintons that would be unprecedented in scope. Even if there’s no evidence for any of it, Trump is now using words (and Tweets) that directly undermine faith in American democracy.” And if Trump plays his cards right, his millions of outraged and combustible supporters will have Trump TV as a new place to cheer, plot and complain.
One imagines that Trump will also find on-air jobs for his campaign advisors, such as Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, and Vladimir Putin. Will you tune in?