The circus that is the American election cycle has an added bit of flair this time. No, not the possibility of a female on the ticket. We had that buzz of excitement in 1984 and 2008. It is the spectacle of a self-promoting, billionaire blowhard taking the “Bulworth” approach towards a legitimate run for the presidency. Donald Trump has added spice to the 2016 presidential election cycle and in the slow, summer news season to excite cable news operatives. He has rocketed to the top of the polls, rustled Establishment jimmies, and caused conversations to take place that no one would expect.
As much as he is loathed by the Establishment, he is a demon of their design.
Trump has toyed with the idea of running for president in prior elections. Trump would make television appearances and discuss the idea of being president. He was also an employee of NBC. Those runs were seen as momentary public relations moves to give himself visibility before declining to run and saying, “Oh by the way, check out The Apprentice that starts next month.” It was very savvy for a man who knows he needs to generate ratings and an awareness of his brand. Even then, Trump had high polling numbers versus the field.
This reveals the first contribution the system made to Trump’s run: the celebrity effect. Barack Obama was “Obama: the cool black guy” Hollywood had always told Americans about–until we discovered Obama was not that guy. There is the Clinton brand, and no one would vote for Hillary unless she was Bill’s wife. The Bush brand exists. There is value to being a symbolic figure that has some cache and is cool. How much power does the presidency really have? Not much, so let’s promote cool types who fit roles for our voting coalition to identify with to get into the booth. Trump is an international brand with decades of exposure. He can parlay this into solid polling numbers early solely due to name recognition. Why else would Hillary Clinton take selfies with Kim Kardashian that look like stills from a “Weekend at Bernie’s” reboot?
|Hillary is alive right?|
Trump is aware of branding. It generates income for him in his incredibly convoluted wealth holdings. Half of his value seems to be in being “The Donald”. Trump understands the media game runs the show with elections, and he is a skillful publicity hound and generator. Chuck Johnson has written about Trump’s understanding of the modern game. He can get everyone talking about him, which sucks the air out of the room for everyone else. Other candidates can die purely from obscurity and lack of air time. Trump has years of active Twitter use to get inside the media’s OODA loop and change the framing of any report. The media’s biased use of Twitter, as if it is the pulse of “the people” despite Twitter’s proven liberal and black demographic skew, allows Trump to use what is the equivalent of an Internet CB Radio to increase visibility and shape media coverage. The system has allowed Twitter to have an effect because Twitter is a leftist tool to shape narratives in the left’s favor.
The media itself contributes to his rise by how far left it leans, how it selects our leaders for us, and how nasty it has become. This is the media that included Barack Obama on a list of 100 greatest Americans–in 2005. Planting proper voting seeds can never be too early. The narrative framing and media reports feed Trump’s outsider appeal. Any attack on Trump by the media he can spin as baseless, gutter-style attacks, and the American public eats it up because the media is at record low approval ratings.
The media has spent decades slanting the news one way and chopping conservative heads off (see Gov. Christie + Bridgegate), so a conservative primary audience cheers as Trump calls them names and throws schoolyard insults their way. The media thinks this will doom him, yet he keeps bouncing along as Teflon Don. The media lives in a bubble and fails to see their faults. Proof of this is that Don Henley’s pop hit ripping the news media “Dirty Laundry” is thirty-years-old. Has the media improved since 1982? No, and Trump can prey on that track record and societal frustration with the media.
Trump is also tapping into a vein of life that is devoid on the professional left and barely existent on the professional right: machismo. Trump has a masculine energy that progressives have worked hard to erase from the managerial class and the pool of officials to select for a president. This energy exists in all walks of life on both the left and right, but the media, academics, and government officials do their best to subvert and attack it.
Trump could be slayed quickly if an experienced politician took him to task for his lack of substance or experience. None have yet because modern conflict values the victim and group consensus that requires persuasion and amiability. His bravado is magnetic, and the role of president has lacked magnetism for countless years. Americans have watched a black president admit to not smoking because he is afraid of his wife. Most of Governor Chris Christie’s draw early in his governorship was his “in your face” attitude when dealing with greedy public employees. With the talk of a rising Hispanic voting pool, forget Trump, maybe machismo has a bright future in American politics.
Trump’s very wealth and celebrity is a product of our modern economic and political system, and here is the second contribution made by the system to Trump’s run: the FIRE economy. In the early 1980s, the American economy transitioned to push more of the financial, insurance, and real estate sectors of the economy for growth. This created a debt-based asset bubble in the ’80s, but was not cemented until the Clinton years. Clinton’s administration took a finance-centric, strong dollar policy approach, rather than a weak dollar, labor-centric stance. Robert Rubin beat Robert Reich in the Oval Office meetings. Trump inherited massive real estate holdings. His wealth is based on government and monetary policies of inflating asset bubbles, ever decreasing interest rates, and policies that cater to wealthy asset holders and leverage. Trump is not a billionaire without this system’s policies.
The system’s fifth contribution is the absurd election process for picking a national leader. Anyone can run as long as they have the cash to spend on a staff and pay for media exposure through advertising and what not. As long as a candidate will spout what wealthy donors want said, they can run. This allows anyone to enter, which is exhibited in this cycle not just by Donald Trump, but by millionaire, failed executive and failed candidate Carly Fiorina and Dr. Ben Carson. Fiorina has money, can speak well, and is a woman. Dr. Ben Carson gave one speech where he chastised Barack Obama, and the GOP handlers can use him to make money consulting this election round for a guy going nowhere, who should not be within 100 miles of the Oval Office.
What qualifications do any of these three candidates have for what is supposedly an active role leading the nation? It is hard to argue against them after the whirlwind rise of Obama from middling state senator to president within five years.
Trump would still have nowhere to go and nothing to pitch, though, if not for the structural contribution by the system: creating the sandbox. The progressive cathedral has constructed a sandbox for polite, approved politicians to play in with many important topics off limits. Crime and immigration are two topics that are off-limits. Everything has become off-limits due to political correctness.
The system limited the sandbox’s size so much that they did not realize the wide open playground they left behind. Trump is running free in that zone. He openly states that there is no time for PC nonsense, which only makes him more appealing in an age of progressive endorsed protests of fast food chicken joints over private political opinions. He even noted in the first debate that if not for him, they would not even be talking about immigration. There are few critical jobs a national government is responsible for, and securing the territory from invaders is one. Trump latched onto this failure, and now he has a unique topic to run on that differentiates him from everyone else. He has an issue to pair with his name recognition.
The last contribution is that the system’s architects created such a transparently fake system that a man lacking sincerity like Trump can gain legitimacy by pointing out its fraudulent nature. Trump has donated to politicians on both sides. He can point out how bought and paid for all politicians are and the begging that politicians have to do because he has dealt with it first hand. In a world drowning in illusion that seeks authenticity in everything, Trump is supposedly offering voters a real candidate.
America elected Barack Obama with the tagline of “Hope and Change”. In eight years, not a single Wall Street executive has gone to jail or even been charged for any shenanigans in the 2007-2008 era. “Hope and Change” covered for the the 21st century Democratic corporate donor base. Obama’s greatest gift to the nation may be the disillusionment of the Millennials at such a young age about our corrupt political process. Boomers still cling to their ’60s illusions.
Perfect storm is a bad cliche in this instance. Trump is a logical manifestation of the system’s design. Todd Marinovich was a child bred and trained from his infancy to be the perfect NFL quarterback. It worked as his size and skill turned him into one briefly, but it failed. Why? All of those careful decisions and choices created a player so capable, so focused and impervious to stress that he could abuse drugs, drink and still play at a sharp, professional level. The progressive system has created a perfect little election process for their puppet leaders to rise and defeat the false opposition which never brings up taboo, yet critical issues. It increasingly became disconnected from the electorate.
Do not blame Trump for this wild, anti-system run. Blame the architects of the American political process. They created a Potemkin village.