Obviously, most media people, including myself, had been predicting his political demise since he first stepped foot on that down elevator in Trump Tower. Not surprisingly, in the wake of his astounding victory, a bunch of journalists have come out with “How did we get this so wrong?”-type pieces.
Chief among them was Nate Cohn, the data-based political prognosticator for The New York Times (not to be confused with statistics guru Nate Silver, who went from The New York Times to ESPN and fivethirtyeight blog).
Cohn, among others, referred to the Trump win as a black swan, a historical event that in hindsight seems inevitable but at the time could not be anticipated. Certainly, the Trump win has upended every bit of “conventional wisdom” around.
And yet, we (or at least I) keep expecting him to change, to sound more “presidential.” But his essential pomposity, which translates to Tromposity, (bigger, better, braggier, and more bullying!) will never change, and that’s exactly why he’s winning.
Yet crazy as it sounds, I still imagined that in his Indiana victory speech, surrounded at the podium by all those tall, blonde-ish fembots, he’d take on a more humble, grateful tone, and say some reassuring things, aimed at the Republican elite, to prove that he was up to the job.
So I sat there wide-eyed as right off the bat, within the first four minutes, His Orangeness started complaining about the number of attack ads (“false and disgusting”) that interrupted him while he was “trying to watch a show.”
He said 60,000 negative ads were run against him. “Probably about $8 million was spent against me, and we spent $900,000.”
Never mind not rising to the standard “unity” theme.
This is Trump’s essential genius. To brag, talk money, (which haute Republicans never do in polite company) get personal, and in his own easily affronted bridge-and-tunnel vernacular, talk about how badly treated he was by certain people.
In this way, he’s like a political Kathy Griffin: He provides all the behind-the-scenes dirt about his opponents, giving them cruel names, and dishes like a politically aggrieved Queens housewife from the 1950s, taking a smoking break on her front porch.
So far, how many lumps of conventional political wisdom has Trump, the king of free media and hate-tweeting, sat on and squashed?
Let’s start with Number One: the importance of Big Data. The conventional wisdom is that a canny use of Big Data was Obama’s secret weapon in his victory over Mitt Romney.
But according to Wired magazine, “Cruz was the king of the data strategizers,” who worked with all of the leading vendors, not only to target voters based on demographics, but also on the psychographics.
And Jeb, Scott Walker, and Marco Rubio all invested heavily in data and analytics. (Ben Carson used Facebook’s analytics, and ran 200-plus ads in October alone).
Number Two: money. Sadly, for proof that it’s really not about SuperPACS and the never-ending need to fund-raise in order to run expensive TV commercials, just look at the disastrous candidacy of one very poignant Jeb!
His PAC, “Right to Rise,” alone spent somewhere around $40 million just against Trump. I always think of Monty Python’s famous Black Knight, who ended up losing all of his limbs and claiming they were mere “flesh wounds.” In the case of all of these negative ads, (not only Jeb’s), Trump’s limbs are about as impervious as cement walls.
Speaking of negative advertising, Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has come out with two new and bash-y ads against Trump that have gone viral on social media. Many of the headlines so far describe them as “brutal” and “scathing.”
Sadly, the first spot goes down the exact same rabbit hole as Ted, Marco, and Jeb did before her. In fact, Hillary is never seen. The spot is a montage of clips showing Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, among other party-of-Lincoln establishment types, all lambasting Trump.
They call him out on his narcissism, misogyny, third-grade antics, pathological lying, etc. But talk about preaching to the converted. At best, it might make some Hillary people feel better. But not one Trump backer will be swayed by these critiques. This is a line-up of all the failed candidates whom Trump took such delight in destroying. They are the “losers “who convinced them to vote Trump in the first place. What does it matter what they say?
The second one is slightly better, only because it uses clips of Trump himself, and it knits together all of his most outrageous and controversial statements, from Hispanics being drug dealers and rapists, to the need to punish women who have abortions. But again, Hillary followers will sicken and thrill to every word. Trump voters will blame the media and say that the craziest of the statements was taken out of context.
Frankly, I’m not looking forward to the next six months, and the viciousness that will no doubt be a big part of the campaign.
Ironically, all of those same pundits who were proven wrong about Trump are now talking about his need to hire establishment consultants who know what to do in the general election. Ed Rollins, who was Ronald Reagan’s campaign manager, is heading up a new pro-Trump super PAC, and others are predicting that his new access to the RNC’s data base will make all the difference. And Trump himself has mentioned picking an established politician as his VP.
Which would mean that he is embracing all of the conventional wisdom that his candidacy so far has upended. Come on: can you say Black Swan?