Cher has said that if Donald Trump is elected President, she has an exit plan -- she will move to Jupiter. Stay put, Cher. Trump is not going to be nominated or elected, and everyone knows it (except possibly Trump). Eventually our national nightmare will be over, and we can all return to Earth.
Yes, he can attract a crowd of the curious and, as John McCain describes them, "the crazies." Trump can be loud, obnoxious, egotistical, and still draw a group of misguided followers who believe he will show Washington, D.C. and the world who is the boss. He is a pro at fear-mongering. He has somehow managed to posture and portray himself as an outsider ready to fight for the little guy, particularly if that guy is white and professes that "I want my country back." You really don't see a lot of minorities at his campaign events, the exception being protesters. His supporters chanted "USA! USA! USA!" when some non-believers were recently thrown out of a Trump event in Phoenix -- as if they were cheering at Wrestlemania.
In fact, Trump himself has quite a history with the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). This is his kind of venue and crowd. Click here for some highlights.
He offers three things to his audience: money, fame, and bravado -- temptations they find irresistible. His "take no prisoners" and "never back down" rhetoric sells to his crowd. They love it when he unapologetically bashes Washington, the Democrats, the Republicans, the Mexicans, the Chinese, and anyone else they perceive as enemies of their vision of America. Perhaps the underlying truth is that they believe if a guy like him can strike it rich, so can they.
Trump's official campaign slogan is "Make America Great Again." This resonates with those who see their country slipping away from them. It feeds on their paranoia and desire for nostalgia. They see the demographics changing, China rising, guys wearing dresses, gays getting married, Confederate flags being put in museums, minorities succeeding where his supporters may have failed, and they feel threatened. There's even a song for that: Click here to listen.
They cheer when Trump ridicules President Obama and doubts his place of birth, religion, and patriotism. And they applaud him when he insults many major Republican candidates and pundits, including the same Mitt Romney he previously endorsed, as well as Rick Perry, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, John Huntsman, Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, George Will, and Charles Krauthammer. His favorite low-brow barbs are "dummy," "loser," and "clown," again something right out of the WWE playbook. (I never heard JFK call anyone such names.) In a vindictive stunt, he publicly released Lindsey Graham's private cell phone number. In this theater of the absurd, Trump is the kingpin who offers a taste of victory and a moment of glory to every member of the cheering crowd.
Trump even calls Vietnam War hero, John McCain, the obligatory "dummy" and states "He's not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured." Trump has never fought or even been in the military, but he bravely battles in a war of words. (Trump was the beneficiary of multiple student deferments followed by a very useful medical deferment.) Why would many of his supporters absolve him for this brutal attack of McCain? There are a couple of reasons. In the first place, McCain is too liberal for them. They will never forgive him for supporting immigration reform. In addition, McCain was the only Republican to not only go after Trump, but to challenge his followers -- he called them "crazies." While probably an honest assessment, this was a political misstep by McCain, who is running for his sixth Senate term in 2016. Some of the GOP Presidential candidates are willing go after Trump, but not his supporters. They want to recruit them, not alienate them.
Trump has damaged his prior brand, with mass exodus by NBC, Univision, Macy's, NASCAR, ESPN, NYC, and many others. His beauty pageant career is effectively over, as are his made in China line of clothing and his Apprentice TV show.
When he doesn't get the GOP nomination (and he won't), he has told them that if he feels he isn't treated fairly and with respect, he may run as an independent. It would be irrelevant to Trump if this would cost the Republicans the White House in the same manner Ralph Nader may have cost Al Gore the Presidency in 2000, or how Ross Perot's independent bid helped elect Bill Clinton in 1992. Whatever road he takes, Trump will lose. He will not be President of the United States. But he will turn that loss into a win.
What is Trump's exit plan? He will simply re-brand himself. It's the same template used by Sarah Palin and many others who ran and weren't chosen -- like the Phoenix bird, he will rise from the ashes and reinvent himself as an author, pundit, lecturer , host, and showman. He will keep selling what they are buying. Trump is 69 years old, and this should keep him in business for quite some time. He can peddle his books, get paid for his opinions, earn big speaking fees, host a political radio or TV show, or find other clever and creative ways to cash in on all of it. His audience will get what they want, and he will get what he so desires and needs -- more power, fame, and fortune. In those immortal words often attributed to P.T. Barnum, "There's a sucker born every minute."