I'm all in on the Donald Trump Candidacy
For the record, I don't mean I want Donald Trump to be President. In fact, if Donald Trump becomes President I think it's time to leave. Go the Expat route. I'm thinking Ecuador. But I digress.
What I mean is that I am totally absorbed in what the Donald Trumps candidacy says about our electoral process. The way it has unfolded and the way it has been covered is fascinating. I think it exposes the myth that we have a functioning system that is "The Best in The World" as the cruel hoax it is. Let me explain.
Our electoral process is a popularity contest
Think about it. Leaving aside the Electoral College bizarreness, the candidate with the most votes wins. Not the most qualified, but the most popular. This truth is undeniable.
Let's play a hypothetical game. Imagine that you are the owner of the United States of America. You own it - but you don't want to run it. You need to appoint a manager - you give him the title of President - to be the Chief Executive. You will review his/her performance every 4 years. How might you go about selecting the person to be in charge of your most precious asset. Would you choose the most popular person in the room? You might. But more likely you would evaluate and nurture candidates on a number of dimensions. Some possible criteria are: Relevant experience, Areas of expertise. Negotiating skills. Consensus-building skills. Personality. Speaking skills.
Donald Trump is currently the leading Republican candidate and he demonstrates none of these characteristics. He is a joke. But - he is the most popular candidate by the measure of every poll. By a wide margin.
Everyone dismissed him when he entered the race. They predicted his demise gaffe after gaffe. But his popularity has only increased. At this point, we need to entertain the possibility that he becomes the Republican nominee. And if he is the Republican nominee he has a 50/50 chance of becoming President.
Donald Trump exposes the process for what it is - a popularity contest. Qualifications be damned, the one with the most votes wins. Full stop.
Donald Trump exposes the other candidates as empty suits
Watching the first Republican debate was an out-of-body experience. Trump is a joke. Everyone knows he is a joke. All the other "serious" candidates should be able to swallow him whole and spit him out without breaking a sweat.
But that did not happen. Instead, the serious candidates were exposed as automatons who can repeat focus-group derived talking points while saying absolutely nothing of substance. There was not a new idea among them. Not a spark of life. Not a glint of hope for a future different than the present.
Instead of making Trump look out-matched, they made themselves seem small and insignificant. He came across as a breath of fresh air at a legionnaires convention. He came across as the antidote, not the problem - and this is not because he had anything worthwhile to say. No. It was because the other serious candidates had nothing. Nada. Zilch.
This was fascinating to watch. My jaw dropped as the realization of what was happening sunk in. OMG! These other candidates had no idea what to do with The Donald. Weakness was exposed. Regurgitated thinking predominated. Focus group platitudes were rampant. And all of this was obvious to even the casual viewer (which I was).
Lest you think I am just ragging on Republicans, I don't think that Democrats on the stage would have made much of a difference. With the possible exception of Bernie Sanders (whose politics I don't agree with but whose sincerity and integrity I find compelling), I don't believe they would have faired any better. They would have been exposed as political blowhards and hacks just as the Republicans were. Conjecture on my part, I admit.
If the Trump candidacy has just set sail, then the other candidates on that stage gave him an initial wind to get on his way.
Right around the time of the debate we had the spectacle of the leading Republican candidates lining up for a Koch brothers conference to whore themselves out in hopes of getting Koch money. Trump was the only major candidate who did not attend. He issued a statement where he called the other candidates "Puppets" for their performance.
This may be the only valuable and truthful thing Trump says in the whole campaign.
Media response: All Trump All The Time
The mainstream media does not know what to do with Trump. They know he is a joke and they want to seem like they are casting a critical eye on him. But they are obsessed. They lead with Trump stories every day. By talking about him incessantly they give him an unintended shot in the arm.
The earned media that Trump enjoys is beyond parallel. As wealthy as he is, he could not afford to buy this type of exposure. The media are playing right into his hands and rather than tearing him down, they are building him up. Why would they continue to do this?
They can't help themselves. At the end of the day, they are about ratings and subscriptions. Trump stories sell. If they followed their conscience they would be following an issues-based story line - jobs, war and peace, environment, race, immigration, etc. - and filtering candidates through the lens of these issues. But that does not sell. Sensationalism sells - and the Trump candidacy is nothing if not sensational.
The End Game
The Trump Candidacy may yet crash and burn. It is still early yet. But the denouement may say as much about the process as Act One. How will he be shown the exit door? Who will manage that process? What bargain will he strike on the way out? All of this will further expose the farce.