Donald Trump is not the first crackpot to run for president of the United States, and probably won’t be the last.
The nature of the presidential form of government is badly flawed, compared with Parliamentary systems, but that’s a topic for another day.
It’s interesting to note, however, that Trump appears to be “channeling” Alabama Governor George Wallace Jr., who ran in 1968 as the American Independent Party candidate for president on a platform rooted firmly against the civil rights movement.
The similarities were noted in a recent NPR interview with Wallace’s daughter, Peggy Wallace Kennedy: “They both understood, my father and Donald Trump, that low-information voters, tend to feed off of the threats to their livelihood and safety without really considering what that threat really is, or even if it’s real.”
She is critical of the Trump campaign, and noted “My father would say, ‘The federal government is not going to tell me what to do, so we’re going to stand up for ourselves. His theme was ‘Stand up for America.’ Donald Trump’s theme is let’s ‘Make America Great Again.’
Her insights are instructive. Both men hated opponents, the media and encouraged violence at their rallies. Also, Trump’s fear-mongering and threats about minorities — namely Mexicans and Muslims — is code reminiscent of Wallace’s racist, segregationist views against African Americans.
The good news is that Wallace ended up winning only five Deep South states.
By contrast, Trump appeals nationally among “low-information voters,” but the good news is that he has begun to lose support as his increasingly controversial pronouncements dominate the media and have become impossible to escape.
Every day, more prominent Republicans and donors abandon the GOP ship. An open letter, signed by 50 Republican national security experts, from the Bush regime, said Trump represented a threat to the nation’s security. Another, signed by 70 Republicans, requested that the party divert any funds for Trump’s unacceptable presidential candidacy to supporting “down ticket” Republicans instead to salvage the party.
All this crumbling on the Republican side, has been the result of Clinton’s argument that he’s “unfit” to be Commander in Chief as well as Michael Bloomberg’s description of him as a “dangerous demagogue.”
Instead of pivoting, Trump has doubled-down and begun to trot out a narrative that the entire system is “rigged.” This is tailored for his extreme base, but it is also an exit strategy for him so he can be a “victim” and not a “loser” should he be defeated.
Every day, more prominent Republicans and donors abandon the GOP ship.
Odds are he cannot reverse the downward trajectory of his polling numbers. This has led to speculation he will quit. (A report this week was that some Republican insiders are preparing a Plan B if that happens).
But quitting would not appear to be his modus operandi. He’s delusional or a trickster or both. After all, this is a man who says he remains convinced that President Vlad Putin is a respected world leader and that President Barack Obama is a foreign-born agent and co-founder, with Hillary Clinton, of ISIS.
This week’s he showed how he just messing around with the media and everyone’s heads.
After his claim that Obama and Hillary were co-founders of ISIS, he was pressed the next day and given an opportunity to clarify. But he said bluntly: “I meant he’s the founder of ISIS.”
Then, hours later, he Tweeted: “Ratings challenged @CNN reports so seriously that I call President Obama (and Clinton) “the founder” of ISIS, & MVP [most valuable players for ISIS}. THEY DON’T GET SARCASM?”
This is Trump World, a barrage of verbal grenades that can be denied, repurposed and contradicted so that they have to be parsed so intensely by the media that they melt away and the public tunes out. That technique distinguishes him from Wallace’s no-nonsense fear mongering.
This guerrilla campaigning has gotten him far even though he’s thoroughly unsuitable. He encourages lawlessness, yet seeks an office that must uphold the rule of law. He insults everyone and everything on his way to a job that requires consensus-building and diplomacy. He has no policies, only insults.
This is hardly smart brand management for a brand master. This is why the only conclusion is that Trump simply craves the limelight and enjoys being cast in the starring role in the biggest reality show on the planet and making fools of everyone in the political establishment.
Such craziness is crazy-making, which is why people want this election over and done with. In just 12 weeks, 130 million Americans will have a chance to vote him off the island, and they will… and not a minute too soon.
First published National Post August 12, 2016