You know, I don’t really disagree at this point. It’s too late to pivot now. If he spent the next three months reading off of cue cards held in front of him by Paul Manafort, voters would laugh and say “that’s not the real Trump.” He is who he is and everyone knows who he is. He’s better off not pretending.
Two things about this. One: If the race is out of hand in October, the spectacle of Trump unleashed on the stump with nothing to lose by attacking his enemies on every side is going to be the greatest show on earth. Don’t expect decorum in defeat. Expect blood. Two: Ironically, he’s making the same mistake here about the general election that Trump skeptics like me made about the primaries. My suspicion was that his lead in the polls was a bubble, that it would burst, and that the trajectory of the race would change. Never mind all of the data that showed Republican voters warming to him. Things simply couldn’t keep going the way they were going, I thought — although I had no very concrete reason for believing that apart from the fact that inexperienced “outsider” candidates like Herman Cain had always faltered before. Big mistake. Trump’s doing the same thing now. Hillary’s poll lead is a bubble and it’ll burst, just as Cruz’s ascendancy after the Wisconsin primary burst. Ignore all of the data showing Americans deeply sour on him. Things simply can’t keep going the way they’re going — even though he’s dealing with an entirely different electorate now.
“Everyone talks about, ‘Oh, you’ve got to pivot,’” Trump added in La Crosse, Wis. “I don’t want to pivot. I don’t want to change.
“You have to be you. If you start pivoting, you’re not being honest with people. No, I am who I am.”
Trump said critics had inaccurately predicted the demise of his Oval Office bid several times in the GOP presidential primary.
“Don’t forget, when I lost Wisconsin, it was over for Trump,” he said. “Except for one problem – I then went on a very good run.
“I’ve gotten here in a landslide,” the Republican presidential nominee added. “So we’ll see what happens. I am who I am.”
You can watch the video of that here. His “landslide” was less than half of the Republican primary vote plus an unfavorable rating among the general electorate that’s been 60 percent or worse for the past 15 months. The whole point of getting him to “pivot” is recognizing, as Paul Manafort and the rest of the inner circle appear to do, that primary voters and general election voters are two different audiences. His advisors are asking Trump to be a salesman, which he’s been for 35 years in other contexts, and adjust his pitch to make it more appealing to a new customer. He refuses to do it. The problem, I think, is that the Trump we saw in the primaries is the real Trump and now, implicitly, he’s being told that America writ large doesn’t want the real Trump. There’s nothing more vicious or confusing you could say to a narcissist, especially one who’s been nationally famous for most of his adult life. He’s not going to believe that America doesn’t want the uncensored Trump until he sees it for himself on Election Day. Too bad for the GOP and downballot Republicans.
All of which makes me wonder what Roger Ailes could possibly be telling him about debate prep in his new role as campaign advisor. (Team Trump denies that Ailes is part of the team.) Ailes’s specialty is attacking the left, but attacking is already Trump’s specialty too. Ailes could feed him some potent lines of argument against Hillary, but so could Manafort or Stephen Miller or any half-sentient Trump advisor. There’s no shortage of Clinton dirt. The best things Trump can do to help himself significantly at the debates are (1) study, study, study, and show America that the media caricature of him as an ignorant blowhard is wrong, and (2) don’t be needlessly aggressive and boorish, i.e. Trump-y, onstage. Trump’s core problem is that voters see him as unfit for office; a low-key performance in which he sounds like he knows the issues would do wonders to ease the skepticism about his “temperament” and qualifications. But being low-key and thoroughly briefed on policy details would be the very definition of a major pivot, and here’s Trump telling you that there’s no problem with the race right now that two extra scoops of vintage Trump can’t solve. If you’re Ailes, what can you possibly do about that? If he doesn’t want to pivot, or if he can’t, game over.
There’s one more irony lurking in all of this. Nationalists love Trump because he’s the first candidate in ages to not only embrace their entire agenda (rather than bits and pieces like border security) but to prove that it’s capable of winning an election as momentous as a national presidential primary. But that sword is double-edged. If Trump’s success in the primaries is allegedly proof of nationalism’s viability, Trump’s failure will be seized as proof that it’s completely unviable in the general election. And neither of those things is necessarily true. It may be that a garden-variety nationalist could never have sold Republican voters on that ideology the way the colorful celebrity alpha-male Trump could. But it also may be that a garden-variety nationalist with a disciplined message, an even temper, a solid organization, and government experience could have gone a long way this year. Quote:
As part of a broad study of white working class politics, I solicited white Americans’ support for Donald Trump, but also for a hypothetical third party dedicated to “stopping mass immigration, providing American jobs to American workers, preserving America’s Christian heritage, and stopping the threat of Islam”—essentially the platform of the UK’s right-wing British National Party, adapted to the United States. How many white Americans do you think would consider voting for this type of protectionist, xenophobic party?
Clearly, Trump’s allure is bigger than Trump himself.
If Trump, the supposed avatar of nationalism, takes an historic beating from Clinton, critics of nationalism will use it to prove that the ideology itself is curdled and doomed. That is to say, Trump’s personal shortcomings (character, disorganization, inexperience) could render nationalism DOA as a winning approach even though, with a more skillful candidate, it really might succeed. Was this guy the savior of nationalism or the angel of death?
Speaking of people who can’t pivot, here’s Rick Perry very stupidly taking the bait to go another round with the Khans publicly even though that does Trump no good. I guess, once you’ve bought into Trumpism like Perry has, there’s no choice but to emulate the leader.