MY TRUMP SLUMP: Could a fairy tale come true?

When I have written a post I have always known what it is about, but I’m not so sure about this one.  I have too many unhappy thoughts vying for attention and none of them can be easily encapsulated in a post.  And then again:  Which of you are eager to hear more unhappy thoughts?  Don’t you get a big enough daily dose from our media?

The most fun for me is to write about the Donald Trump Show and its ability to remain a sell out.  It is fascinating that he has become immune to criticism as he turns it all around into just more publicity for himself.   He’s so good at turning the tables, hardly anyone even tries to lay a glove on him these days.  The maxim that “bad publicity is better than no publicity” was tailor made for him.   Even better he transforms bad publicity into good, at least for his numerous supporters, who are so sick of the status quo.

However, the fun I’ve had with the Trump campaign has become hampered by my accepting the possibility he actually could become president.   Having called him a clown in a post last June, I now thinks he rates a good shot to win the Republican nomination, and ponder whether he might actually win the presidency.  If he has been this big of a surprise, whose to say he can’t be an even bigger one?

If world events appear even more unwieldy and dangerous than they are now, Trump’s decisive, strong man, winner image may entice more of the voters than I would imagine.    In a world that has come to seem staggeringly complex, Trump’s simple solution to every problem, i. e. HIM, offers to soothe anxiety, unless you believe as I do that for every complex problem there is a simple solution…..and it’s wrong.

If I did not have a doubt in the world about Trump’s electability, I could enjoy the show a lot more.   But I keep thinking of the Pied Piper who played a magic flute that enticed all the children of a small German town to follow him away.

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The 4th Republican Debate was more Informative than the Other Three: Boring

The general consensus of the media regarding last night’s debate was that it dealt more substantially with the issues, a phrase I have come to equate with “boring”.   The Donald didn’t even spice things up, partially because he has elected to present a lower profile in the debates  while remaining his old outrageous self on the campaign trail.  And partially because he wasn’t attacked much.

As such I could only stand watching for a few minutes at a time, so I switched back and forth most often to a recording of the TV series Fargo, which is not brilliantly funny like the movie but is grimly gripping.

During the last presidential race I often heard complaints that a key issue to most of us, the economy, was seldom really talked about.  It wasn’t but then, truth be told, most of us don’t want to hear about plans for the economy, even if we indicate we want to in polls.  We all want a better economy, but we don’t want to hear about detailed plans that will only be pilloried by various “experts” and we laymen won’t really be able to figure them out because it would require a major devotion of time and energy which would likely confuse us more than anything else.

AND WE DO HAVE LIVES.  Even me.

And even if it is a great plan, it will die on the desiccated vine of congressional politics, so……what’s the point?   This is a good part of the recipe for Donald Trump’s and Ben Carson’s success thus far.  They have no plans.  They just want us to believe in them as trustworthy successful individuals who can parley that success into making government work better.  Given the frustrations we all feel about government, a good share of us are willing to put our faith in their being able to do just that.  At least at the moment.

While the candidates touted their various economic plans and directed viewers to their web sites for details, the most important point seemed a sin of omission:  none indicated where they would cut spending, despite often wanting to spend more on one or more areas, national defense being the prime example.  This implication of greater spending is a weak spot for a party whose identity is based on fiscal conservatism to a large degree, something Rand Paul pointed out.  But the others were mostly content to emphasize their spending would be less and serve us better than Hillary Clinton’s would be.

From what I’ve read since the debate it seems all eight presenters at the main debate were judged to have performed reasonably well, even Jeb Bush, who I’ve come to think of as “dead man walking.”   Chris Christie is said to have won the preliminary four candidate debate and you may have noticed he has a heart felt video on drug addiction that has gone viral, so his campaign seems to be picking up.

But I would rather not dwell on how anyone is doing in the Republican race as it seems that the chances of each candidate will go up and down like the stock market in upcoming months (for example, in Christi’s case there are still trials pending on bridge gate which still could damage his campaign).

The one thing that does seem clear is that the party is divided enough that most of these candidates will be sticking around for a few months at least, most betting that over time the believe-in-me candidacies of Trump and Carson will gradually lose steam and the race will become wide open at that point.  When the music stops who knows who will be in position to crab the one remaining chair?

For those interested in knowing more about the debate, google:  We’re finally seeing the deep fault lines at the heart of the GOP nomination battle   It’s the title of an article in the Washington Post which I’ve tried to link you to, but the link doesn’t work..

The next Republican debate is five weeks from now.   I hope something will attract my interest by then.

THE TRUMP SHOW: The Surreality of Politics as Reality TV

I’m beginning to tire of Donald Trump, but not of the process that has made him a wrecking ball to the campaigns of other Republican candidates.  Not true of all those candidates – Ted Cruz, for example, always says nice things about the man while positioning himself just close enough to siphon off fall away voters later.  Like Nascar drivers, Ted is drafting behind the Donald in good position to make his move when (if?) the frontrunner falters.

The others, though, seem on a tight rope, careful to show how they are both like him (to attract his supporters later) and not (to also attract his detractors).  Sometimes these lesser sorts dare cross from the prick of wit to the sting of insult in Donald’s eyes, which prompts a verbal whack, such as his pointing to Carly Fiorina and asking:  “Would you vote for this face?”

This, I surmise, in response to her saying that in dealing with foreign policy it is important to have some sense of the major players, playing off Trump’s confusing the Quds Force of Iran with the Kurds of Iraq in an interview.   If you criticize the Donald better expect a pie in your face.

Under normal circumstances I would suggest Carly produce a poster of Trump with the caption: “Would you vote for this face?”   But then I fear Trump would hold it up in some mass rally, and his fans would cheer wildly “yes.”  It’s not politics as usual since the Donald hit town.

I happen to know one of these fans who just emailed me:  “The more he takes cheap shots, the more popular he becomes.  Amazing. ”  Like so many others, he likes Trump’s unfiltered side, a sign of how mind numbing our politics have become that anything that actually seems unscripted is cheered no matter what it matters.   There must be some limit, right?  He can’t say something like “stone them to death” and still get cheers can he?

Well, perhaps.  Afterwards he could say he didn’t mean “stone to death” literally, as later he said he wasn’t criticing Carly’s looks but her “persona,” and later still that his comments were made “as an entertainer,” ….which means exactly what?  Is he saying his comments shouldn’t be taken so seriously, for after all, he’s just entertaining us.  Who knows but the not knowing further fuels interest as if it really matters what comes out of his mouth.

That we might further ponder the issue is evidence of his wiliness.  See how much coverage he gets from saying something contemptible and then changing what he said and then getting coverage for that and prompting fools like me to further ponder?

That’s the joke folks.   What he says doesn’t matter.  It’s his jabbing politicians and the politically correct police that matters to his fans, not exactly what he says.  It’s the rest of us who don’t get the joke.

People like me need to kick the habit (addiction?) of wondering out loud what Trump is up to now?   I have high hopes I can, and even think many of Trump’s fans will tire of his act or think more seriously about whether they actually want a person for president whose “primary” goal is to entertain us.

But my Trump-fan friend indicates I may be wrong.  When asked whether he would actually vote for Trump for president, he said he would if he got the nomination..

While typing I’ve been thinking of Bette Midler’s singing:  “Let me entertain you.  Let me make you smile.”

“The Science Behind Trump-Mania”: The Bloomberg Poll

Regular readers know that my disdain for Donald Trump of only a couple of months ago has given way to the excitement of a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert.  I just can’t wait to see more.   How far can reality TV go before it is our collective river of reality, not just one of many tributaries?  All the way to the presidency?

When can I laugh at the man again and not worry about it?

Although the Donald is riding a great wave right now, the waters figure to get more and more choppy in the months ahead, something I will speculate upon as time goes by.   But I’m riding his surf board piggy back until the upsurge.   No matter how it eventually plays out, the future of The Candidate reality show is secured.   It’s a big hit that figures to remain big for months to come.  Perhaps the great greatest success of this consummate narcissist.

There has been endless theorizing how Trump has pulled this off, but the recent Bloomberg/Des Moines Register poll breaks it down as well as anybody, so let’s take a look at what they have to say:

“Donald Trump‘s startling transformation from reality TV star to serious presidential contender in the eyes of some key Republican voters happened because he’s been able to sell himself as the straight-talker most candidates aspire to be, a Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll shows.

A look underneath the poll’s headline numbers, which put Trump atop the GOP field in the state that holds the nation’s first nominating caucuses on Feb. 1, suggests the New York real estate mogul is making the sale in large part because of qualities that aren’t part of the average political résumé. Everything that conventional wisdom says would torpedo his candidacy is instead making it stronger.

Penchant for brash pronouncements: Thirty-seven percent of Iowa’s likely Republican caucus-goers say the billionaire’s willingness to “tell it like it is” is the most attractive feature of his candidacy, according the poll.

Lack of political experience: Trump’s next best-scoring assets, at 18 percent each, were his success in business and the fact he’s not a career politician.

Ostentatious lifestyle: His outsized wealth came next in the list of qualities that voters find attractive, with 12 percent saying they like it because it might free him from outside influence. Seven percent said Trump’s most attractive quality was that he’ll do what he says he’ll do.

“I think he would be a good change to have the government run more like a business,” said Trump supporter Garrison Reekers, 43, a deputy sheriff from Belle Plaine, Iowa, who participated in the poll. “He can afford to pay his own way so he doesn’t have to take special interest money.”

So there you have it, or much of it.  Go to the poll and you can find caucus goer mentality sliced and diced in numerous ways.  Two points stick out in my mind. First, that of these projected caucus goers, 35% of them don’t believe President Obama was born in the United States, with the number rising to 46% of Trump supporters.   OMG! Are they still around in such numbers?

Funny, as the birther movement was forging my image of Trump as political clown, it was planting the seeds of his present campaign.  I lose. The Donald wins. (So far).

Second, while Trump gets a favorable response in terms of most campaign issues, especially the economic ones like world trade and job creation (in the 80’s), his worse two ratings are in “working with congress to get things done” (43%) and “improving race relations” (42%)…….

If predominantly white Iowans (over 90% in the state), many of them supporters, see Trump as weak on those last two issues, can you imagine the rest of the country giving him higher marks?

How do you become elected president if race relations and working with congress are your two weakest suits?

Well, it depends on how frustrated and angry we are down deep with our present collective circumstances.  How desperate we are to find a simple solution in the form of a savior.  As shocking as it would be here, it wouldn’t be the first time in history a dictator has been elected.

Egads! I Can’t Get Donald Trump out of my Mind

I feel stricken.  I don’t want to write about Donald Trump, but I can’t get him out of my mind, mostly because I watch too much cable TV, and they won’t let me.   His ubiquitous video clips won’t let me.

I am afflicted with Donaldism.   I want it all to end but until it does I can’t stop watching.  I want to to see him take a big fall, but every time he seems to stumble, he’s like the Terminator, he just keeps going.   “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever…”   What did you say he just said?  Well, he meant nose he now says.  Who could think anything differently?  And who said what about what about that and the other thing?  Where is he now?  Where might he go next?  What might he say?

I may need to go back to therapy.

I think of Donald Trump like a wildfire in California fueled by the deep discontent of many voters like the withered bushes and trees in this state.   And each tisk tisk he receives from the Republican political establishment (and liberal press) prompts his peeps to double down.  Spit more oil in their eyes Donald.

After the dust has settled somewhat from Thursday’s debates (the preliminary bout won hands down by Carly Fiorina and the main event starring the Donald), the NBC News/Survey Monkey Poll (no, I’m not kidding about the monkey part) shows Fiorina as having won the “debate” according to 22% of likely Republican voters with Trump finishing 2nd with 18% (while his overall support for the presidency held firm at around 23%).

But here is the kicker:  While many thought he did well, even more thought he did worst of all.  He topped the who-lost-the-debate category with 29%.  Love is in the eye of the beholder.

So the Donald remains this huge sliver in the Republican party, the size of a railroad spike.  And like a sliver well dug in it’s hard to think about  anything else until you get it out.

And that could take a long time.

So, I’ll need to see that therapist again.

The First GOP Debate a.k.a. The Donald Show

As certain as I am that the Donald Trump campaign balloon will pop at some point, I’m revising my thinking as to how he’ll perform tonight.   Forget what I said in my last post about him turning the evening into some form of The Apprentice.  He doesn’t need to make the debate all about him, it already is.

He has already established himself as the clear cut leading Republican candidate in the polls, so he does not need to be as outrageous as usual. He simply has to get through the night without the other candidates successfully tearing him down and I think the other candidates on stage will be wary of doing that, lest they seem like they are ganging up on him and dismissing the anger and frustration of a large proportion of the Republican base.   The Donald’s peeps.

In short, Trump does not need to score points on his opponents.  He’s already the big leader.  He just needs to counter punch a bit if they try to land punches on him.   So, the stage is set for Trump to look more presidential than usual which is all he needs to maintain his lead in the polls. What I’ll be curious to see is whether any of the other candidates impress sufficiently to rise in the polls themselves and what they’ll do to distinguish themselves. (1)

The difficulty for them is that anything that sounds like a serious approach to some problem, such as Chris Christie’s proposal for entitlement reform, will prompt glazed over eyes when compared with the Donald’s hubris.  You want entitlement reform?  Elect me president and I’ll show you entitlement reform, just as I built up a real estate empire.   I’ll also fix the border problem as well as put China in its place.  Wait and see.  The Great Wall will become The Great Wall of Trump.

The basic reason I think the Donald’s campaign will fizzle over time is that as much as we all want to fix a number of problems in this country, we have different ideas as to how to fix what and even what needs to be fixed, often polarized ideas.  The herculean challenge for a president these days is not to fix everything, but to get the rest of us (in the form of Congress) to agree upon a path to fix anything.

About a 100 years ago a wise man said something like:  For every complex problem there is a simple solution.  And it’s wrong. (2)   For Donald Trump and those who favor him in the poles, he is the simple solution.  Elect him and he’ll fix what others have been too feckless to fix.

Ah, I wish life were that easy.

But for now, and tonight and the immediate future, Trump mania seems likely to thrive and the solutions to our complex problems will seem that easy to a sizable some.

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(1)  As you know, there are actually two debates tonight, the first for the seven candidates who did not make the top 10 in the polls.  They have the advantage of not worrying about clashing with Trump directly and one or more might say something that gets pumped up by the media later.  Carly Fiorina, the lone woman GOP candidate and good at articulating her ideas, would be my first guess.

(2)   The guy was H. L. Mencken, an influential American thinker of the period.  He actually wrote:  “There is always an easy solution to every human problem–neat, plausible, and wrong.”  But I think my bastardized version suits the Trump situation better.

Donald Trump’s Presidential Bid as Reality TV

O.K.  O.K.  So what if I said ’nuff said’ after calling the Donald a clown six weeks ago.  I’m a bout to say more.  Not about Trump the candidate, but Trump the political phenomenon.  I’m compelled to do this because the media could not resist dwelling on Trump’s always controversial statements which was like throwing gasoline on a fire.

Now Trump mania is raging out of control, and the clown has become the ring master of the Republican debate to be held this Thursday.  Who knows what he might ignite, least of all the Donald. As he recently said, he doesn’t plan on attacking anyone that night, that he’s a counter puncher, so the big question is how much other candidates will pounce on him, and what he’ll say to strike back (which could be just about anything).  Or will the other candidates play rope a dope,  waiting to punch back at him?  Of will they actually just try to stick to big issues, sort of talking past him and boring us all to death?

Probably that won’t happen because the Donald is not to be ignored.  One way or another he will try to make this all about him.   He’s very good at that, so how that plays out is what arouses curiosity.

Lots of style points to be awarded.

Most of the Donald’s specific attacks on others have come in response to their attacks on him.  Take Lindsay Graham and John McCain as examples.   Forget that he began the contentiousness by casting generic barbs at all serving politicians as incompetent, ineffective wafflers, his initial hat thrown into the ring under the rubric Making America Great Again.

These other guys can’t do it, only he can.  If they were nicer to him, like Ted Cruz, he probably wouldn’t have been so nasty to them,  just like there are probably some Mexican immigrants who “aren’t bad people”,….  Trumps attacks were initially general.  The dismissive responses they elicited he takes personally. So, my guess is that Trump will make this Thursday evening into some kind of metamorphosis of The Apprentice, with him firing others at one point or another.

But the Donald is unpredictable enough that maybe he will come out of this debate looking more presidential than when he came into it.   If so, the Republican Party will really be in trouble.

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P. S. – I assume you realize that when I use the term “reality TV”, I do so with a sense of irony, as most reality TV is largely scripted, unlike life.  Politics today have become more and more scripted, but unlike with reality TV , many Americans don’t like the story lines.   Hence the popularity of Trump’s unpredictability.