On August 13 and 14, I laid out a theory of Trump’s (non)campaign, arguing that the evidence is clear: Trump Is Seeking a White Nationalist Awakening NOT the White House. Three days later, my theory has been confirmed.
The Washington Post covers Trump’s campaign shake-up:
Stephen Bannon, a former banker who runs the influential conservative outlet Breitbart News and is known for his fiercely anti-establishment politics, has been named the Trump campaign’s chief executive. Bannon has been telling Trump to run more fully as an outsider and an unabashed nationalist. Trump has listened intently to Bannon and agreed with him, believing that voters will ultimately want a presidential candidate who represents disruption more than a candidate with polished appeal, the aides said. “Buckle up,” wrote a Trump strategist in a text message Wednesday to The Washington Post.
Read that language carefully:
- “Run more fully as an outsider and an unabashed nationalist.”
- “A presidential candidate who represents disruption.”
- “Buckle up.”
And note this about the site Bannon runs:
Over the past year however, [Breitbart] has undergone a noticeable shift toward embracing ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas. Race-baiting ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-Immigrant ideas –– all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the “Alt-Right.” The Alt-Right is a loose set of far-right ideologies at the core of which is a belief that “white identity” is under attack through policies prioritizing multiculturalism, political correctness and social justice and must be preserved, usually through white-identified online communities and physical ethno-states.
Several days before the Trump shake-up news broke, I laid out in careful detail my argument that Trump’s campaign is not a presidential campaign at all, but an effort to make Trump a “heroic” figure leading a white nationalist awakening:
If we set aside conventional wisdom and the reflexive urge to attribute his behavior to something unintentional (foolishness, incompetence, sociopathy, psychological problems, personal inadequacies, etc.), we end up in a very different place from mainstream pundits. Donald Trump is neither stupid, nor deranged, nor off message. He is a smart, manipulative, shrewd, successful, cold and cunning man executing on a plan. The reason he is confounding the national media and political establishment is because they are assuming his plan is to run a successful presidential campaign. It is not.
Below is the case I made, re-posted in full:
AUGUST 14, 2016
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 retweets of neo-Nazis; 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; his welcoming of Russian cyber-espionage; 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.
UPDATE: Vanity Fair confirms what I predicted days ago:
It is likely that Bannon’s political calculus here, if not Trump’s, will be less about winning an election that seems a bit out of hand and more about cementing an American nationalist movement.