Though I found Trump’s acceptance speech underwhelming, it was nonetheless probably one of the best “serious” speeches he ever gave. So naturally, he spent the next day talking about Ted Cruz’s father and JFK. It’s almost as though he resents the teleprompter so much that he has to “get his revenge” afterwards. Which is fine for me, since I want to keep as much of the intransigents as intransigent as possible. Also, he said that he might start a SuperPAC to get revenge on Cruz and Kasich.

Some people have wondered, or at least mock-wondered, precisely why it is that despite being in a general election with an uphill climb, that he keeps going after party members whose help he actually needs. Kasich’s lack of support, for example, is tying up resources in a state that he needs. So many people predicted that once he had the nomination he would normalize and moderate, but it just hasn’t happened. They predicted he would become a more traditional Republican candidate, but that hasn’t happened, either. He knocks Cruz and tries to befriend Bernie Sanders. He and the RNC attack the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee for being too moderate.

What’s going on?

There are several interrelated issues here. But the most surprising is the continued attacks on Cruz, Kasich, and company. There have been a number of theories put forward.

  1. He’s secretly a Clinton plant out to destroy the Republican Party. “Trump as a Clinton plant” has had currency among some on the right for some time now. People still ask the question “If he was a Clinton plant, what would he do differently?” But for the most part, the key “proof” of this theory (his tendency to blow up whenever Hillary Clinton gets bad publicity) has a more credible alternative explanation: He hates anyone but him getting attention, even if it’s his rival getting negative attention.
    He’s just super-duper petty. Well, I think there is some truth to this. But this only gets us part of the way there. It’s not like Clinton is being nice to him. And yet he spends remarkably little time on her.
  2. It’s a matter of principle. He knows Hillary Clinton will go after him, but people like Cruz shouldn’t because they’re on the same team. This might make sense, except that Donald Trump isn’t a team player. You get what you give. I’m sure he sees it this way, but it is not an argument that especially works.
  3. It’s tactical: Before he can charge forward, he needs a secure flank. There was an argument for this up until recently, but it’s become sort of clear that he’s not going to have a secure flank. So if he’s committing to getting everyone in line behind him, he’ll be doing that until November.
  4. It’s tactical: Everyone hates Republicans and so he’s coming out of this looking good. Here, too, there was an argument for it once upon a time but its time has passed. By any reasonable measure, John Kasich and Mitt Romney are more popular or at least less unpopular than he is among the general population. At some point, the perceived lack of unity actually has a cascading effect, making it harder for people outside to support a guy whose party is so reluctant to. There’s a reason Hillary Clinton is hammering on this. It’s not to Trump’s benefit.
  5. He’s really a liberal who hates Republicans more than Democrats. I think there actually is some truth to this one, if you squint your eyes and cock your head. It’s not that he has strong feelings about Republicans and Democrats in the ideological sense, but there are people he considers “his people” and people he doesn’t. The people he likes and who he thinks should like him lean to the left. I can actually sort of relate to this, in a way. My friendships have always drawn disproportionately to the left. I suspect this is true of a lot of Republicans, but most manage to compartmentalize their personal selves and professional selves. Trump has no need. His professional self is his personal brand. I do think this explains another political idiosyncraticity, which is Trump’s illusions of flipping deep blue states. He thinks he can win states like California and New York because he likes them and they should like him. He’ll go to Ohio and Indiana, but only grudgingly. He couldn’t even stay in Ohio for his own nomination convention.

My own theory has not gotten as much play, and it is this: He’s the auto mechanic who won’t stop talking about what a star he was on the high school football team.

He likes talking about the Republicans he has defeated because he won. He is bored going after Hillary Clinton because he is losing. This ends when and if he cracks open a durable lead against Hillary Clinton. But right now there are few polls he can cite where he is ahead. He has gone from the guy who never stops citing polls to the guy who talks about the polls and election results of battles already won. He likes criticizing Cruz because, at the end of the day, he can say that he beat him. He knows that he will never lose to him. Cruz is the ultimate safe target, as is Kasich. (Which aside from thriftiness is, by the way, why he will not actually start a PAC to defeat them in 2020). He loves talking about his victories, which is a part of why he kept talking about Jeb Bush since long after he dropped out of the race.

It’s not just Trump, though. His staunchest supporters really like it. For some of the same reasons. (And for some of the same reasons that a lot of High Republicans follow British politics more closely. Hey, we’re winning over there!). Quite a bit of it is personal, though. They all took a lot of crap in the primaries by being told they were going to lose and they won. Their loudest denigrations were from opposing Republican supporters while a lot of Democrats liked him like Donald Trump likes funny fat people. It’s hard to blame them for wanting to lord it over on us.

Also, we’re the more proximate enemy and they really don’t like us. This goes beyond the frustrations of a lack of cooperation. They dislike us almost as much as they dislike mainstream Democrats, which is quite a bit. It veers from the personal to the professional, though. They’ve come to the determination that they have no particular reason to be mend bridges at this juncture. Those that are going to get on board have, and the rest are going to be quarantined. They’re better off without us. Besides, we’re actually getting in the way of the voters they really want, and need both to replace us and go on to victory. In the same way that we sought to replace some of them with theoretical voters they were repelling, they see the same addition-by-subtraction by replacing us with voters we theoretically repel.

Their affection for Bernie Sanders supporters has mostly been genuine (as genuine as any such thing can be, involving Trump). On the Kaine announcement, the RNC pointing out Kaine’s relative moderation as a betrayal of their base wasn’t just spit-stirring, but actually a part of a novel strategy. They think they can win them over. They are viewed as natural allies. A Trumper recently described to me his support for Donald Trump as “trade, immigration, and fewer wars.” Bernie Sanders represents two out of the three. It’s not terribly unlike how Republicans have traditionally looked at the Jewish as natural allies despite all available evidence. It’s also likely to be about as unsuccessful. But it’s one of the few plays they have, and one that would solve multiple issues (replacing us, getting to 51%, and the Trump coalition’s age problems).

For all of the bad moves it seems to me like they’re making, though, I can’t think of very many good ones that they aren’t making. I worry about the future but I look at the numbers and the challenges, and I don’t see how they win this time around. On the other hand, I don’t see how Hillary Clinton is polling at only 45%.


As I wrote this, of course, Trump turned on Bernie:

So on to Plan W?

Category: Newsroom

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9 Responses to The Nationalist Republicans

  1. ScarletNumber says:

    [Disclaimer: I voted for Sanders on June 7. While I haven’t decided if I am voting for Trump or Johnson on November 8, I think and hope Trump is going to win.]

    I found Trump’s acceptance speech underwhelming

    I don’t see how Hillary Clinton is polling at only 45%

    Maybe if you took your head out of your ass, you could see more clearly.

    It is amazing how condescending anti-Trumpers come off. It is more amazing that none of them recognize it, or if they do, none of them care. Anti-Trumpers are quintessential victim blamers. It would never occur to them that Trumpers have perfectly valid reasons for supporting him. Instead, they take those reasons and use them as personal insults against his supporters. Politically I deal with mostly Hillary supporters, so I get to witness this first hand, as well as Over There and other message boards I read.

    I think part of your problem is that you have no real-life male friends or a job. If you did, and you talked the way that you write on here, you would at least get another perspective. As it stands, you choose to interact with people who agree with you, so it’s very easy to hear what you want to hear and dismiss the rest.

    Remember that a writer at Taki’s Magazine made a reference to Over There in an article entitled “This Week in Epic Beta Male Faggotry”. So you have someone like Kazzy, who is such a beta that he teaches pre-school and whose wife left him right after kid number 2. He is such a Defender of Black People that if I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I would think that his kids were black. Then you have Saul Degraw, who can’t seem to keep a job and whom Kazzy looks upon with contempt. Finally you have Burt Likko, who in spite of being an attorney has chosen to run an illegal lottery in order to raise money for the site.

    Now the gang will be gathering in Portland, which is a hub for this sort of thinking, but I think everyone there is going to be in for a rude awakening come November 8. And I’ll laugh and I’ll laugh…

    • trumwill says:

      To clarify, I found the delivery of Trump’s speech underwhelming. I was actually pretty complimentary of the speech as written.

    • trumwill says:

      Actually, the speech provides a good window into my dueling views of Trump. The speech and the persona.

      We’ll see how November goes, but I remain relatively confident that Trump is going to lose. I don’t see him overcoming the problems he has with white women and minorities and organization to pull it off. At this point I’m mostly watching it to see how close he comes. I won’t get worried until he starts polling above 45 with any consistency, or if a few week hence HRC is still struggling to get above 47% or so.

      I do confess to being somewhat aghast at his success, but at this point that has more to do with him than anything else.

      But I’ve also been pretty consistent about something else: Trumpism can win. It depends on how we define it and where his success rests, but the coalition that has formed is substantial. I am really quite worried at how unworried liberals are about this. But a virulently anti-immigration plus white ethnocentric plus law and order party unbound by existing political norms and “small government” conservatism? Basically, the party of the speech as written?

      I’m not going to get too deep into it because I am constructing a post on it, but while a lot of people think such a coalition is doomed because What About The Minority Vote, I see it as a work in progress that merely needs to work out some bugs (or just wait for the Democrats to screw up badly enough) and it’ll win.

  2. Lowe says:

    [Disclaimer: I voted for Trump, and presumably I will do it again in November.]

    I have been surprised by some of what you have written about Trump. The impression I get is that you think he is losing, badly even. I don’t think the polls support that.

    My understanding is that he’s lagged Clinton over the last month or two, but only a couple polls ever had her leading by more than 5 points, and he’s been gaining lately.

    If he’s even within 3 points of her by the election, he could win. Right now he isn’t in a bad spot, let alone losing badly.

    In attacking Cruz now, is his tactical error very big, considering his polls-position isn’t bad? He probably doesn’t have reasoning for his choice, but is just playing it by ear / out of personal habit, as you suggest.

    Maybe he’d act differently, reflecting more on his actions, if it looked like dire straits. But it doesn’t. Whatever seat-of-his-pants thought process he has used till now, has apparently worked. In the absence of meaningful negative feedback at the polls, he won’t change it.

    • trumwill says:

      He is at what I hope is a high point, which he has reached before and fall from on a couple of occasions. On the heels of a convention, it’s not remarkably unexpected. John McCain was ahead at this point, too.

      It could be my own blind spot, but I have a lot of difficulty seeing him getting to 51%. Most of the tightening has, at least up to this point, been HRC falling. He has been stuck between 40-44% or so, which she has been more variable, which indicates to me that they’re more flirtatious with her than with him.

      There is a poll out this morning that cocked an eyebrow. He’s up by three, but what got my attention is that he’s at 48%. That’s new, if it holds, and that will cause me to re-evaluate.

      So right now I am kind of in a holding pattern. If in two weeks he hasn’t fallen behind and/or is polling above 45%, at that point I will be worried. Hillary Clinton is a terrible candidate.

    • Lowe says:

      As recently as last month she was beating him by 6 points on average. So I am wrong about his performance in June. It was only starting in July that he starting gaining on her.

      However, since the beginning of July, she’s been more than 5 points ahead only twice.

      The picture isn’t as good for Trump as I thought initially, so maybe it’s possible that attacks on Cruz will undo his recent gains.

      What was the proximate cause of his dip starting in late May? I remember that he responded very quickly to the Orlando shooting, and may have been perceived as self-serving. Although assuming that was the cause, that event bears little similarity to attacking Cruz purposelessly. People generally sympathize with shooting victims, but not as much with Ted Cruz.

      • trumwill says:

        I don’t expect the attacks on Cruz to cause his numbers to fall so much as adding gravity towards getting to 50%. (With Kasich, it’s more likely to hurt him organizationally rather than in polls, though the gravity thing still applies.) And it’s not that he’s attacking Cruz, but the JFK attack in particular. The reminder that he’s dealing from a different deck of cards. So far, there’s no indication that a majority has ever really been on board with that.

        Which, if he stops doing it tomorrow, people will forget or cease to care.

        As for late May, I don’t recall anything in particular. His response to Orlando may have played a role. My guess is that it was simply things returning to form (the fundamentals) where HRC has a natural advantage. His catch-up at that point mostly being a product of a temporary boost from Republicans saying “I guess he’s our guy.” A clinching-the-nomination bounce, as it were (while HRC was still campaigning against Sanders).

        • Lowe says:

          I think you are right that he hurts himself with anything that reminds people of the Birther stuff, anything related to conspiracies.

          Around the time of the Orlando shooting, he had recently criticized Gonzalo Curiel as biased. Together with the too-quick response to the shooting, this could have hurt him.

          Questioning a judge’s impartiality based on his ancestry is unusual, and even if someone could swallow that, there’s still the reminder of Trump U.

          Starting in early June multiple bad things happened at once, all related to Trump opening his mouth. This culminated in Lewandowski being dropped, which I guess was the ship righting itself.

          This leads to the question of whether Manafort can control Trump’s topics of choice, where Lewandowski was unable or unwilling.

        • trumwill says:

          Ohhhhh yeah, I forgot about the judge thing. That’s a pretty good explanation.

          That last paragraph is also a downside to some of the things he’s said. Not what he said, entirely, but that he said it. Donald still being Donald. Or, as passive supporter Byron York, put it:

          Even if it doesn’t hurt with voters, it hurts recruiting ground troops to line them up and donors to fund everything.

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