After bruising news cycle, Trump says he “may go a different route”

Donald Trump at Marla Maples at the US Open in 1991—photo: Timothy Clary

Donald Trump and Marla Maples at the US Open in 1991—photo: Timothy Clary

According to its FEC filing, the Trump campaign raised $3.1 million dollars in May, compared to $27 million donors gave to Hillary Clinton. That’s a startling gap, especially considering Trump clinched the nomination on May 3. Possibly in response to this dismal performance or maybe because of everything else he ever did, campaign manager Corey Lewandowski got fired yesterday. It’s fun when Trump does that on television, but political people tend to interpret it as a sign of weakness. It was such a tough day that the pathologically sanguine candidate struck a glum note. This morning, he called in to Fox and Friends and complained that he wasn’t getting enough support from Republicans. “It would be nice to have full support from people that are in office, full verbal support,” he said. “With all of that being said, I may go a different route if things don’t happen.”

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Republicans condemn Trump, urge voters to make him president

Paul Ryan learns his father was a muppet.

Paul Ryan learns his father was a muppet.

We all know the expression “damning with faint praise;” our parents explained it after we won Most Improved in little league. Why is there no expression for the opposite behavior? Someone ought to coin a phrase for condemning as you endorse—you know, like Republicans keep doing with Donald Trump. Here’s Paul Ryan addressing the Republican nominee’s complaint that the judge in his fraud lawsuit is Mexican:

I disavow these comments — I regret those comments that he made. Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment. I think that should be absolutely disavowed. It’s absolutely unacceptable. But do I believe that Hillary Clinton is the answer? No, I do not.

This is the strictest use of “disavow” ever. The speaker does say that what Trump did is “absolutely unacceptable,” before accepting, in the next sentence, that he is the only alternative to Clinton. Maybe he meant to say “I disregard these comments.” It’s not important. The important thing is that once again, cynicism affords us the opportunity to say “I told you so.”

You knew all the little pink men in suits would find reasons to endorse Trump, didn’t you? Their beginning to see his contradiction of their deeply held beliefs in a new light, now that he’s the only Republican in the race. Although they remain committed to conservative principals when it’s time to cut taxes and welfare, their allegiance is to the team. It’s too bad the new captain is a racist megalomaniac, but we still want to win the game, right guys? That’s how Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, for Pete’s sake, has to see it:

I am a Republican, but what I care more about is our nation, and where we’re going as a nation. And so again, I hope this isn’t the pattern that is going to occur between now and November. But what I see is, okay, you have got a binary choice.

That’s rich. Corker hopes Trump doesn’t say any more racist stuff, but even if he does, he still won’t be Hillary Clinton. I guess it’s good he’s being honest. But I worry such thinking could lure the Republican Party into damaging its brand more than it has to during this election cycle.

Senator Coker raises a useful question: Is there some theoretical maximum amount of bullshit the Republican Party will tolerate from its nominee? If Trump, for example, broke into the Smithsonian and added “no fat chicks” to the Declaration of Independence, would Ryan pull his endorsement? If the answer is no, no such maximum exists, I don’t know what to tell you. But if there is a limit to what Republicans will tolerate from Trump, they should set it with an eye toward expected value.

Let’s say Nate Silver is right, and Trump has a one-in-three chance of winning the election. It’s twice as likely he will lose. Whenever Trump says some crazy/evil thing, the party has to push more of its reputation into the pot or fold and withdraw its endorsement. As the election continues, it will cost the Republican brand more and more. It will also hurt the personal brands of individual party members. Probably, there will come a point of inflection, when the likelihood of his winning looks slim enough that these Republicans fold en masse.

Either that or no member of the GOP will ever admit that Trump can’t win, because that’s like voting for Hillary Clinton. In 2012, Karl Rove couldn’t even do it after the results were in. Maybe they’ll all go down with the ship. But there’s still time for them to think about it. Republicans should consider what Trump might say between now and when he loses this election, and what else they could lose by agreeing with him.

Ways to lose to Donald Trump: Run on land war in Asia

As Vizzini in The Princess Bride, Wallace Shawn taught us a classic error.

As Vizzini in The Princess Bride, Wallace Shawn taught us a classic error.

Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee, Hillary Clinton is guaranteed to become president. It’s obvious Trump can’t win. He’s utterly unqualified. His negatives are too high. Everyone of sense can see he is doomed in the general, just as we all knew his candidacy was going nowhere in the primaries. Okay, so he won almost all the primaries, but that was a fluke. This time, there’s no way. Democrats will keep the White House in 2016, because all of Trump’s signature issues appeal to fundamentally limited subsets of voters. He’s not selling anything the majority of Americans can agree on. On a completely unrelated note, the Intercept has reported that Trump called Hillary “trigger happy” at a rally in Lynden, Washington, where he warned that she would embroil the United States in another land war in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Hillary is courting neoconservatives put off by Trump’s isolationism. Here’s Republican strategist Steve Schmidt:

Donald Trump will be running to the left as we understand it against Hillary Clinton on national security issues. And the candidate in the race most like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney from a foreign policy perspective is in fact Hillary Clinton, not the Republican nominee.

Finally, the Democrats have an opportunity to position themselves as the party of hawks—and at a moment when war is so popular!

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Donald Trump embodies core conservative principle of winning

Donald Trump in Des Moines earlier this year

Donald Trump in Des Moines earlier this year

Back in 2010, newly-minted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the Heritage Foundation, “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.” It was a blunt statement of Republican principle. Lower taxes and deregulation are well and good, but the central plank in the modern GOP platform is winning. Maybe it started when John McCain mortgaged his reputation for Sarah Palin. Maybe it began with the election of Barack Obama and the party’s redefinition of itself as his negative image. But it ends like this. Donald Trump will win the Republican nomination for president on the strength of saying whatever works. And between now and November, most of the people who called him an unqualified catastrophe—party leaders, conservative commentators, other Republican politicians—will get behind him.

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On the appeal of the Trump message


There is no Trump message. There’s not enough of one, anyway. His signature move, rhetorically, is to deplore the problem for 45 seconds and praise the solution for his remaining 15. We’re going to have better deals with China, and it’s going to be great. We’ll get rid of illegal immigrants. If you ask him where he plans to hold the illegal immigrants before he deports them but after he rounds them up, he says it will be great. From a message standpoint, his campaign is like if you went car shopping, and one guy was just selling a picture of you and him riding in a Corvette with boners.

His message doesn’t make sense to me. But it makes sense to a lot of people, and more of them have voted for him than for any other Republican candidate. They can’t all be dumb. Some of them must like something about him besides that he is brightly colored and easy to understand. There is a Trump message. It is under-articulated and thick, like a walrus flipper, but it is strong enough to heave his campaign up onto the ice floe of popular democracy, where it can devour the penguins of cable news. He’s saying something, and it’s not “make America great.” It’s make America great again.

The oft remarked premise of this slogan is that America sucks now. He’s not wrong. Something does suck about America in 2016. It started in the last decade, when George W. Bush made the economy work really well for rich people until it broke. Don’t worry: it’s working well for rich people again.

That’s how you get a candidate like Trump. For the last 30 years or so, the American system has worked increasingly well for a dwindling number of people. When the middle class shrinks and the ruling class gets richer but stays the same size, society gets weird. People lose confidence in the existing system. Their taste in leaders becomes more personality-driven, because they don’t believe specific policies will get anything done. They’re cynical and broke. They don’t care how we fix this broken system. They just want some dynamo to cut through the bullshit and set things right—someone to make America great again.

Trump’s message is “everything sucks, and I will undo it.” It’s a call to either action or apocalypse, depending on how far you think it through. I think it’s nuts. But if you only consider it for a second or two—basically, the time it takes to decide whether you like that guy—it’s true. The first part is, anyway. America is not great right now. The system has become unfair. We used to be the country that didn’t care who your dad was, but then the president’s son fucked it up.

Or immigrants and women’s studies majors did it—it depends on what meetings you go to.  On one side of that divide, the president’s wife has offered to make things more fair and merit-based, plus fight another war to clean up after the last two. On the other side, “make America great again” has won more delegates than “make America constitutional again” and “neither of these maniacs.” But it hasn’t won a majority. The GOP could broker its convention and keep Trump from detonating the party and/or United States of America.

But maybe they shouldn’t? If Trump wins the most delegates and somebody else wins the nomination, the GOP will prove him right. It will demonstrate the truth of his message and disappoint its largest single bloc of voters in one stroke. The Republican Party blackballed the guy who said democracy is rigged even though he got the most votes, huh? I guess I’ll vote for Clinton—no, Hillary Clinton.

FiveThirtyEight believes people agree with Trump’s message that the Republican nominating process is rigged if it doesn’t give him the nomination. Quote:

Last week’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 62 percent of Republicans thought the “candidate with the most votes in the primaries” should become the nominee in the event that no candidate wins a majority of delegates, compared with 33 percent who said Republicans should choose the “candidate who the delegates think would be the best nominee.” Only 40 percent of Republicans had Trump as their first choice in the same poll, which implies that there’s a group of Republicans who personally don’t prefer Trump but wouldn’t want to deny him the nomination if he finished with the plurality of delegates and votes, as he is almost certain to do.

The Republican Party stands to lose more than Trump supporters if it nominates someone else. I submit that denying him the nomination would make his message more convincing—the larger one about how this country works, not just his micro-message about the convention. I don’t care for Donald Trump. I think he is a symptom of an unhealthy democracy. But I don’t know if another insult to our system will cure it.