Years from now, Donald Trump will think back on that brief, shining moment when the entire, mad, impossible, outrageous and astounding possibility of becoming the next president of the United States presented itself. And when, seconds later, it all began to unravel. He made the most fundamental error in judgment a businessman could make: He forgot who signed his paychecks.
Sealing His Fate
Trump doesn't know it yet, but he has been seeding his presidential campaign with landmines of his own making. He may finally step on some of them in the CNN GOP presidential debate on September 16. Yet, while the debate may prove the beginning of the end for him, the actual turning point in his improbable presidential campaign was the day when he signed the RNC Pledge. That's when he promised to support the Republican Party's eventual nominee and that he would not run as a third-party candidate.
From Trump's perspective, it seemed a practical and logical maneuver. A good betting man always hedges his bets. Supporters, too, appeared to accept his claim that this was a victory for their cause: That the Republican establishment -- watching Trump dominate the national conversation and suck all the light out of their more traditional, and beholden, party candidates -- was finally showing their man some respect.
But some of his defenders accepted his logic reluctantly. Katrina Pierson of the Tea Party Leadership Fund said to CNN, "I can't see any reason why he would give up (his) leverage, considering a lot of his supporters like the idea that he's running against the establishment."
While Trump continues to draw energetic crowds and lead in some polls, there are signs of trouble ahead. For example, the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Clinton and Trump essentially running head-to-head. However, it also observes, "six in 10 Americans see (Trump) as unqualified to serve as president ... His rating for empathy is far worse than Clinton's; for honesty and trustworthiness, slightly worse."
A more recent New York Times/CBS News poll places Ben Carson alongside Trump in popularity, at 23 percent versus Trump's 27 percent.
The media is also beginning to revive potential scandals in his past. A Washington Post story questions the legitimacy of Trump University, from which three pending lawsuits seek $40 million in restitution from former students. Republican rivals are also growing bolder in their responses to him. They're coming to the CNN debate with their fingers on the trigger.
Followers in a Fashion
Trump has also been underestimating the emotionally volatility of his followers. Comments such as his claim that attending military school was like serving in the military can't sit too well with many of them. They are fiercely patriotic and believe in the sanctity of fighting for their country. As well, declaring the Bible as his favorite book is a dangerous game to play with the religious right. For them, the Bible really is their favorite book -- and they don't take too kindly to heathens who use it for their own personal gains.
As a result, the kernel of doubt about Trump's motives, planted by his signing of the pledge so quickly -- and so happily -- may finally become difficult to contain. Supporters could soon reach several unpleasant conclusions:
He never really intended to run. He enjoyed stirring the pot, creating controversy and gaining publicity for his many projects. That the whole insane campaign took on a life of its own and people actually began to take him seriously was completely unexpected -- and perhaps frightened him a little. It's one thing to stir the pot. It's another to be boiled in it.
The pledge is his trump card. It allows him to exit gracefully if his reputation starts taking a bruising or his campaign starts losing steam. He doesn't have the fortitude -- or desire -- to slog through the tedious demands of the campaign road, if he's no longer in the lead. The pledge also ensured he'll get to give a speech at the Republican National Convention, where he can boast about how he energized the American voters and gave the Republicans a fighting chance -- and leave to thunderous applause.
He was just messing with them. The kinds of people who support Trump are also the kinds of people he has never -- and will never -- mix with in a social setting. These people are all losers (in his eyes), too far below him in social status, accomplishment, and -- most definitely -- wealth, to ever deserve equal treatment. The fact that they eagerly devour all his swaggering proclamations like dogs being thrown a bone only feeds his disdain for them.
It's got to be the biggest joke to Trump, that his most ardent supporters idolize and defend him as a compassionate and caring champion of the downtrodden, when all his life he has snubbed people like them and blamed them for their own condition.
Proof can be found in Trump's favorite comeback line: "I'm right because I've got more money than you do." It effectively ends all his arguments with people. For him, wealth is the ultimate standard by which he judges people.
Trump also seems to be getting too comfortable with his lead in the polls. He has been carelessly tossing out incendiary responses to reporters' questions like the absentminded zookeeper flinging meat to the lions, his hand getting too close to the cage. He may be operating under the mistaken notion that his followers will support him no matter what he says or does, but that is not true. They are quick and eager to latch on to any champion for their cause, but just as quick to turn on them. They've been burned too many times by politicians who pandered to them to get elected, and once in office, quickly betrayed them.
And let's be honest. Trump has also rubbed political analysts the wrong way, and they're itching to bring him down. They refuse to accept the sobering reality that the American political system is so broken that any person spouting nonsense can become President of the United State.
By now, the benefit of 20/20 hindsight should have taught them that many such people already have!