It’s increasingly clear that Donald Trump is likely to lose the presidential election on November 8th. But that would be the best thing that could happen for him.
I’ve written before about his private desire not to win from the outset, which is no headline-grabber by now. The reason is, in part, because of rumors about a “Trump TV” network launching after it’s all told. But there’s more to it than that, as fellow Billionaire Mark Cuban says.
Once he’s no longer a political threat, odds are the anger and resistance toward him will subside, leaving him with inflated credibility as an international political and news figure. This, Cuban predicts, could increase his net worth as much as ten-fold. “He would be a former candidate who has a winning and compelling story,” says Cuban. “He may even get sympathy from people. That would be Huuuge for him.”
He would, in many ways, become the populist voice against “the System,” perhaps even becoming the figure around which the elusive third party could coalesce. We would get the credit for doing so and would have tremendous power in such a scenario; money, of course, would follow.
But, you may be thinking, he’s not popular enough, or he would have won the election in the first place. This is only true if the two-party systems holds up. If there are multiple contenders vying for political position, the share of the voting public required to affect change is lessened. And even if this “party of Trump” only brought together 20-25% of the disgruntled, disaffected adult population, they would be a bloc with which both major parties would have to contend.
Trump would be the kingmaker. He would get the credit and would reap the rewards, all without ever having to take on the mantle of actually governing.
Who are These People?
They are, in large part, older, white, Christian men: the share of the population that, until very recently, maintained a vice-grip on power in a America, by and large. Not only can we see this changing with both Obama’s election and the likelihood of welcoming the first-ever woman into the Oval Office; we can look at a body like the Supreme Court, in which we have no white, male Protestants serving on the bench. Zero. And though this may be uncommon to date, both are signs of a sea change, not only in American leadership, but also in the greater tapestry of the American public.
And the white guys (at the risk over over-simplification and generalizing) are pissed about it. No one likes to accede their voice and power. They feel they earned it, and we’re all inclined to be myopic when it comes to our own networks of privilege that helped us get where we are.
Put another way: if you don’t see the privilege that others do, you’re probably the one with the privilege.
So Trump speaks to, and for, this disaffected – and shrinking – segment. But they still have money, passion and their fair share of influence. Trump just happens to be the one who has seen it and figured out a way to capitalize on it, arguably better than anyone else.
How Is He Doing It?
Over and over, people have bemoaned the fact that Donald Trump once was a vocal supporter of the Clintons and other Democrats, then pivoting to identify as a Republican. But for influencers in the for-profit world, this is simply smart business. Leaders change, and you have to be able to work with whomever has the reins at the time. Also, rather than being an ideologue, Trump is an opportunist. He sees a path to self-enrichment, and he exploits the means to get him there, whatever they are. This single-mindedness led him to run as part of the GOP, given that they are the ones speaking most clearly to the people he wanted to reach.
And man, is he reaching them. His formula is simple too, and eerily similar to that of the hellfire-and-brimstone preachers within Christian culture. He stokes anger, fear and paranoia toward a corrupted system. The election is rigged. The news media is rigged. The FBI, the Justice Department and Treasury, all rigged to benefit themselves and to maintain pawer at the cost of the Common Man.
Sadly, there’s just enough evidence of such self-preserving behavior to fuel his rhetoric. And who better to serve as the prefect foil for his argument than a figure seen as a perennially privileged insider than Hillary Clinton?
The email leaks support his cause. The condemnations from the media writ large do too, as do the scads of personal accusations against him and his character, or the dozens of lawsuits filed against his businesses. All of it serves as proof-positive that there’s a nefarious shadow network hell-bent on bringing him down, all because he’s onto them.
He’s framed the epic battle of good and evil, combatting the Evil Empire on behalf of the “little guy” (actually the soon-to-be outnumbered vocal majority). He’s the new populist hero, and any accusations against him, his company or campaign only serve to reinforce the perception that the world is out to take him down which, for his followers, means the system is attacking them by proxy.
If he won, the battle would be over. It doesn’t serve his interests to do so. Best for him to lose and bring a critical cross-section of the American public along with him to mull the next move in the chess game of the national culture wars.
Chances are this is the new normal, at least for a generation. Trumpians will not go quietly into the night. They love a good fight, and they are used to being heard and obeyed. He’s the New People’s Hero, and believe it or not, he’s exactly where he wants to be.