In 2008 an inexperienced junior senator from Illinois burst on to the political scene on the eve of primary season. It was supposed to be “Hillary’s turn” after years of dealing with Bill’s career. She paid her dues. The country was suffering Bush fatigue and the Republicans were fielding their own subpar”its his turn” candidate in a bland, uninspiring John McCain. It was a lock. Another four years (at minimum) of a Clinton presidency. At least we’d have Bill to laugh at!
But then a strange thing happened. Barack Obama whupped Clinton’s ass in the primaries and went on to make history. The GOP never stood a chance. They were playing politics the “old” way. They were outsmarted, outpaced and outshone by the Obama campaign from day one. They used social media and technology to push out the message. He went on late night shows and courted daytime talk hosts even as the GOP derided him for being “unprofessional”.
Strategists and pundits complained that Obama got a pass from the media on just about everything. No one bothered to really look closely at his record or his past. Any scandal that would have sunk any other person seemed to lose traction almost immediately. The media fawned all over the Obama campaign. Nothing touched him.
What no one on the GOP side seemed to understand was that Obama had changed the rules. They were reading a playbook from 30 years ago and they weren’t even playing in the same league. This was the “new” game and the winner was clear.
Now, just like 2008 everyone is perplexed. Donald Trump crushed his primary competition to secure the Republican nomination this week. The media was beside themselves over Trump’s popularity.
Sure, he went bankrupt a few times, was involved in shady business deals, contributed to Democrat campaigns, had Bill and Hillary at his wedding…
This week at the RNC Melania Trump was accused of plagiarizing her speech and Ted Cruz basically gave Trump the finger during his blistering prime time speech at the RNC.
The Trump Train keeps rolling.
So what is it about this guy? Why does he seem to be “Teflon Don”? Why doesn’t anything seem to slow his momentum or discourage his supporters?
The rise of Trump is a subject for another post. However, the reason is simple for why no matter how much Trump and his campaign bungle his strategy they just keep gaining momentum.
The game has changed again and this time it’s the media that is trying to read from the old playbook.
What you have to understand that Trump isn’t a political candidate. Trump is the media. He is entertainment. He was working the media angle during Obama’s entire administration. He created successful tv shows and made himself into an entertainment brand. He learned how to control his own narrative, how to manipulate the camera and soundbites, how to tweak media reporters; how to create a “feud” with another celebrity for attention and coverage. It worked. “The Apprentice” has become a huge brand and the Trump name went beyond real estate and wives for the first time in his career.
He brought that same knowledge to his campaign. Trump knows its not what he says that matters…its how many people he can get to watch him say it. Many Americans (I suspect more than polling can discern right now) see him as an entertainer first. Americans do love to be entertained.
During the RNC a CNN pundit on an overcrowded panel said, “Sometimes I can’t tell if Trump is just trolling us.”
That’s the thing. He is. Whether or not he believes one single word he’s saying he is indeed “trolling” the media and they are falling hook, line and sinker. That’s because they’re still playing the old “new” game ushered in by Obama and company. They think if they can just stick to the “Republicans are racists” script and bury the bad stuff about Hillary they’ll lock it up for Hillary like they did Obama. They think if Hillary goes on enough talk shows and cackles with enough fawning hosts it’ll be a repeat 2012 all over again. The “likable” candidate vs. the EVIL REPUBLICAN WHO EATS BABIES AND PUPPIES.
They’re the 2008 GOP at this point. They have no clue the rules have changed, and not just the rules. Trump (like Obama before him) has changed the game entirely. The old rules don’t apply. He’s got a new ball, a wider field and a shiny cheerleading squad behind him. He’s running every play while smoke machines bathe him in dramatic fog and sequins fly out from cannons. The presidential election isn’t “the show” anymore. Trump is the show.
It doesn’t matter what you or I think of how he treats people; if he lies; if he says stupid things; if he seems xenophobic. It doesn’t matter because nobody cares. Nobody who isn’t glued to the 24-hour-news cycle, anyway…which is almost everyone in America.
If you think exposing his inconsistencies will be enough to take Trump down, you’re wrong. The “new” game is now the “old” game and Trump is playing the new “new” game. You follow?
We’re in uncharted territories. It’ll probably save a lot of ulcers to simply accept that there is no sense to be made of any of it yet. Its all virgin territory, and Trump is the bulldozer.