Ignore just about every bit of analysis you’re hearing in the national media about Trump’s campaign — it’s based on a false assumption. Examining his words and actions through the prism of a traditional presidential campaign is a futile exercise. Trump isn’t campaigning for the White House, but for a white nationalist “awakening.” Under that rubric, everything he’s doing makes sense.
The New York Times paints Donald Trump as a lost and confused puppy:
Advisers who once hoped a Pygmalion-like transformation would refashion a crudely effective political showman into a plausible American president now increasingly concede that Mr. Trump may be beyond coaching. … In private, Mr. Trump’s mood is often sullen and erratic, his associates say. He veers from barking at members of his staff to grumbling about how he was better off following his own instincts during the primaries and suggesting he should not have heeded their calls for change. He broods about his souring relationship with the news media, calling Mr. Manafort several times a day to talk about specific stories. Occasionally, Mr. Trump blows off steam in bursts of boyish exuberance: At the end of a fund-raiser on Long Island last week, he playfully buzzed the crowd twice with his helicopter.
I don’t buy it.
Trump knows exactly what he’s doing — it’s just not what the media and pundits think it is:
I don’t know if Trump got to this point by design or accident, whether he always planned to seize a moment in history or whether he realized he couldn’t defeat Hillary so he simply aimed higher than the presidency.
Like so many other political professionals, pundits, writers and reporters, I’ve grappled mightily with the cognitive dissonance of Trump’s candidacy.
Even a 10-year-old could understand (and implement) the simple idea of a general election pivot. That Trump has ratcheted up his dangerous rhetoric rather than dial it back has confounded the national commentariat and stumped GOP leaders.
And then it hit me: Trump’s strategy makes perfect sense. Not for a presidential candidate, but for someone seeking to lead an uprising — and perhaps a violent one.
It’s a classic example of Occam’s razor: the simplest explanation, the one with the fewest assumptions, is the correct one.
Ditch all the contortions of campaign logic, the psychobabble about “narcissism,” the myriad excuses about reality TV, entertainment, etc., and listen to Trump’s words. They speak painfully and dangerously clearly. And they are being met with precisely the desired effect:
The leader of Italy’s far-right Northern League party, Matteo Salvini, hailed US presidential hopeful Donald Trump as ‘heroic.’
KKK leader Thomas Robb:
“At least he’s saying things that many, many people in this country are identifying with and are saying, “Yeah, that needs to be done.” So it isn’t Donald Trump that you guys are concerned with. You’re not afraid of Donald Trump. You’re afraid of the masses of people, the millions of people supporting Donald Trump becoming awakened to what they feel to be a country that’s being taken away from them.”
“There’s an insurgency among our people that has been seething for decades that have felt intimidated and demoralized. The Trump candidacy has changed all that. Whatever he says, even if he gets the facts wrong, it still resonates with people.”
And there’s more:
Richard Spencer, a leading white nationalist who coined the term “alt-right” … came to national attention last year when he pronounced Donald Trump as the candidate for white Americans in an interview with The Washington Post’s David Weigel. Almost exactly a year later, he’s even happier with the presumptive GOP nominee. “I think with Trump, you shouldn’t look at his policies. His policies aren’t important. What’s most important about Trump is the emotion. He’s awakened a sense of ‘Us’ a sense of nationalism among white people. He’s done more to awaken that nationalism than anyone in my lifetime. I love the man.”
Trump’s unwillingness to carry out the basic requirements of a presidential campaign, his refusal to build a national infrastructure, his willful ignorance of issues, his inexplicable campaign schedule — these betray not stupidity, but intentionality. He doesn’t care. And he doesn’t care because he’s not after the presidency. It’s possible he never was.
He’s after something bigger, something to match his grand ambitions:
His plan is working, not to win the White House, but to change America — and the world — by triggering a white nationalist uprising and becoming a “heroic” figurehead in what his followers see as a defining war against inexorable demographic shifts.
Virtually all the punditry about Trump’s campaign assumes he is running to win the presidency. Seen through that lens, little he’s doing makes sense. And so we get Rube Goldberg excuses and explanations, none of which really add up to a coherent view of the 2016 race. When you’re operating under a false assumption, the result of your analysis will necessarily be wrong.
But there’s a simpler, scarier, more logical rationale for Trump’s behavior: That he’s a shrewd, politically talented and ambitious man who seeks to lead a historic uprising, a white nationalist “awakening” that will transform America and the world.
Otherwise how do you explain this:
His Alex Jones-style conspiracy-mongering; his meticulously crafted words of incitement and exhortations to violence; his attacks on a federal judge; his description of President Obama as a terrorist (the “founder of ISIS”); his birtherism; his eliminationist language toward Hillary Clinton; his fierce misogyny and indifference to sexual harassment; his feud with the Khan family; his Muslim ban; his use of anti-Semitic symbols; his embrace of torture; his capriciousness about the proliferation and use of nuclear weapons; his praise for dictators; his flirtations with Putin and Russian hackers; his undiluted xenophobia; his racist dog whistles (“look at my African-American”); his infamous border wall and relentless anti-Mexican bigotry; his claims of a “rigged” election; his unconcealed calls for voter intimidation; his refusal to disavow ties to white supremacists.
We can’t attribute all that to happenstance, accident, entertainment, foolishness, ignorance or inexperience. If we do, we will end up regretting it.
Trump has a purpose — it’s just not the one the “experts” think it is. And it could prove to be much more dangerous. Which means we have to work even harder to defeat and delegitimize him in November.