Time Magazine serves up a fascinating look at Donald Trump’s evolving campaign strategy, in which Trump and his top advisers leave little doubt that they think they can win mainly by dominating the media environment, in a way that will smash all the old rules of politics.
The piece recaps several recent episodes in which Trump was able to suck up all the media oxygen simply by being himself, and details some frustration in the Clinton camp with the same. But the Clinton team thinks that this dynamic doesn’t necessarily work in Trump’s favor, because much of that media attention is negative, such as when his attacks on a Mexican-American judge exploded across days of critical coverage. All that media focus is only deepening his hole with key general election constituencies. Besides, Clinton is breaking through at key moments, such as when she delivered her recent speech dismantling Trump as dangerously unprepared for the presidency, in part by drawing a sharp contrast between the two candidates’ policy preparedness, or lack of it.
— Donald Trump just said policy won’t matter in this election. He’s wrong., Greg Sargent, Washington Post, today
No, actually Trump’s right, because Clinton and her campaign are ensuring that policy won’t matter in this election.
Two weeks ago when the details from the Trump University deposition and other documents emerged after the judge ordered them released I thought the Trump campaign could not survive it. But as the headlines and details became a major news story Trump made his big play: the judge is biased because he is, Trump thinks, Mexican, and what he’s doing is an outrage and he should be looked into.
Voila! Gone were the headlines, and the media conversations, and consideration by the Clinton campaign (if there had been consideration) of running ads detailing these reports, about the Trump University scam operation and exactly whom it targeted, and how. Instead, the last 10 days or so have been about what Trump said about the judge.
Early this week the Washington Post ran a lengthy article about more details from the release of the lawsuit information. The information was extensive, and the reporter had by then read most of it. As I read the article I thought, maybe this new information will break through the look-what-Trump-said-about-the-judge-because-he’s-Mexican-American loop repeated again and again because another Republican pol said something about it or because Hillary Clinton did or because her campaign released yet another comment, ad, tweet about it.
Mission continues on-track.
The Democrats are nominating someone who believes fundamentally that nothing matters unless it’s about race, ethnicity, gender or religion. She won’t change, even if she actually ventures beyond a rope line in Ohio or Michigan or Indiana and talks to a few blue-collar workers who were laid off because their manufacturing plant closed, and now work for half of their old income and receive no benefits. Some of them have voted Democratic all their lives.* And now they think Trump might be their savior.
So they’re considering voting for him, despite, rather than because of, his “Build the Wall” and “Ban Muslims.” They know about the-judge-is-biased-because-he’s-Mexican. They think it’s ridiculous. But it’s not what they care most about.
Yes, the “Mexican” judge comments were ugly. But in a different and also important way, so is what Trump University was. So are the details of that. In fact, Trump believes they’re more important than the judge comments. Which is why he made the judge comments.
Trump says, “Jump.” And everyone does. But especially Clinton does, because Trump knows what to dangle in front of her, and exactly when to dangle it.
Trump University isn’t exactly policy. But it’s bait to get into economic and fiscal policy. Or it would be if Clinton could figure out that there are some things that are already getting all the publicity needed. And some things that matter that aren’t. And that it might be a good idea to inform the public about the latter.
The specifics of what those documents and transcripts show cut to the very heart of who Trump is, just as much, and in just as significant a way, as the race and ethnicity baiting. The difference is that everyone doesn’t already know about most of them. Or know that Republican pols now know about them but also think he’ll help enact the Ryan fiscal plan.
Even that Japanese WWII soldier still hiding in a cave because he doesn’t know that the war has ended knows about the latest ethnic or racial or gender insult by Trump. But not about much else, because Trump and Clinton and her campaign, along with the news media, partner to ensure that.
ADDENDUM: *I inserted that link into that sentence this morning after reading the comments thread to this post. The link is to a gut-wrenching May 14 Washington Post article by Eli Saslow titled “From belief to outrage: The decline of the middle class reaches the next American town.” The town is Huntington, Ind., and it details the closure over a period of several months this year of a United Technologies plant there, which is moving its operations to Mexico although the plant has been very profitable. It focuses on one family but also mentions others. Here are the money excerpts:
As second shift finished in Huntington, several of those UTEC workers gathered at an Applebee’s that displayed construction hats on the wall. Earlier in the day, an employee had been suspended for taping a “Run for the Border” bumper sticker to one of the company’s roving robots — the biggest act of rebellion yet. A few employees had been trying to popularize a boycott of United Technologies products, and others had started using their regular 10-minute breaks to campaign for Trump in a traditionally Democratic factory. But for the most part their work was continuing unchanged, with attendance steady and factory production on the rise. They couldn’t risk losing their jobs or their UTEC severance packages, so the only way to vent was to come here, where the discussion on this night was of a country in decline.
“This is how it feels to be sold out by your country.”
“It’s pure greed.”
“They wanted to add another 6 feet to their yachts.”
Setser had begun looking for his next job, too, because he had heard rumors that UTEC might begin layoffs sooner than he originally thought. He had inquired about work at a local milk factory and at the General Motors plant in Fort Wayne, but both places already had waiting lists and both would likely require a shift change and an initial pay cut.
“We’re getting to the point where there aren’t really any good options left,” he said. “The system is broken. Maybe its time to blow it up and start from scratch, like Trump’s been saying.”
Krystal rolled her eyes at him. “Come on. You’re a Democrat.”
“I was. But that was before we started turning into a weak country,” he said. “Pretty soon there won’t be anything left. We’ll all be flipping burgers.”
“Fine, but so what?” she said. “We just turn everything over to the guy who yells the loudest?”
Setser leaned into the table and banged it once for emphasis. “They’re throwing our work back in our face,” he said. “China is doing better. Even Mexico is doing better. Don’t you want someone to go kick ass?”
“That doesn’t really seem like you,” she said, and for a few seconds she stared back at him, as if examining someone for the first time. The spices were alphabetized on the shelves. The family schedule was printed on the wall. Theirs was a happy home, a stable home.
You said it always evens out,” she told him.
“Maybe I was wrong,” he said, but now his voice was quiet.
“You said things just have a way of working.”
“Maybe not,” he said, because with each passing day he was seeing it more clearly. The town was losing its best employer, and all around him stability was giving way to uncertainty, to resentment, to anger, to fear.
A few days ago I read that conservative Republicans were pushing the RNC to pass a rule that would release the delegates on the first ballot. This crowd is leaning toward supporting Scott Walker for the nomination. I laughed out loud. Then I said to myself: “Yes! Please, please nominate Scott Walker.”
That itself tells you all you need to know about how highly the Republican Party itself values Rust Belt union members. They’re also the people who are now feeding Trump “scripts” to read. Literally, according to Mitch McConnell.
Not sure why so many Democrats, including Clinton and her campaign, think this is trivial–not worth talking about when you can talk instead, constantly, about the slurs Trump spews out that everyone already knows about.
And, btw, Obama won Indiana in 2008 by a smidgen. The difference? Two or three northernmost counties that border Michigan and that have ties to the UAW. They’re very white counties.
Added 6/11 at 9:46 a.m.