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Donald Trump and the Perfect Imperfect Campaign

Updated on July 24, 2016

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This is not politics as usual

Throughout this very strange presidential election season, political commentators have been criticizing how Donald Trump and his advisors have handled his campaign. In the past month or so in particular, there have been plenty of things to criticize. The Republican convention was a mess, he botched the announcement of his running mate, and he has not been able to raise very much money in order to do all of the things that campaigns supposedly must do. He also has been unable to contain his tendency to show utter disdain for the Republican establishment (whose help he supposedly needs) and to say things that offend various groups of people, particularly any judges of Mexican descent. Given the amateurish handling of this so-called campaign, one would think that Trump is in serious trouble, especially since he is facing a well-funded political veteran like Hillary Clinton.

Many of these commentators, however, fail to understand a simple truth. It doesn't seem to matter that this campaign is being handled so badly. In fact, I would take this a little further. The supposed mishandling of the campaign has been and may continue to be one of the keys to Trump's success. The basic theme, after all, of this election has been that politicians suck. And it's not just the politicians themselves that make voters so angry. Voters are also tired of politics as usual: the canned answers, polished campaign ads, slick political conventions, junk mail stuffed in our mail boxes, and all the rest of it. So the less the Trump campaign looks like politics as usual, the more appealing many voters may find him.

People who fail to understand this, especially political commentators and professional political advisors, will probably keep pulling their collective hair out over the next three and a half months. They know, after all, that when a president announces his VP pick, he should not spend more time talking about himself than the VP pick. As a general rule, a washed-up up TV personality like Scott Baio and one of the rednecks from "Duck Dynasty" should probably not be keynote speakers. It is also generally a bad thing to have the aspiring first lady's speechwriters lift language from the current first lady of the opposing party and for the presidential candidate to not be formally endorsed by the guy who came in second. Also, an hour and fifteen minute speech is a bit on the long side, especially for a speech that is short, to say the least, on any kinds of meaningful, specific policy proposals. And finally, letting the Clinton campaign have a monopoly over the airwaves cannot be good over the long run.

From what I can gather, the time has never been riper for a guy like Donald Trump. It's a perfect storm situation. For various reasons, Americans over the past couple of decades have gotten increasingly frustrated with politicians. And now, Donald Trump, the prototypical non-politician, is running against Hillary Clinton, an icon of the political establishment. With social media so ingrained into our society, Trump can keep getting his message out through barrages of "tweets" and countless news sites that cover his every word. And, helped somewhat by this social media that has turned Americans even more into entertainment addicted drones, we have a society in which a large percentage of people have the historical and political literacy of a 2nd grader. A politician doesn't need to provide policy details. Those are boring anyway and tend to take more than 140 characters. You just need someone who can tell a simple, emotional, compelling story.

Trump should have really considered going into the children's book business before running for president. This would not only provide potential supporters with a book they might actually read. It would also help create a whole new generation of voters who will choose future candidates that carry on the Trumpist faith. The first book could have adapted the "Goodnight Moon" format with the title "Goodnight America." It would have a traumatized mother rabbit telling her bunny child bedtime stories about the Mexicans and Muslims who lurk outside looking to rape or kill him. Since politics is all about storytelling, you really can't start too early, and the shorter and simpler the story, the better.


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    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 15 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Excellent analysis Paul, and I think you are right on the money. Some of the very things many of us find so appalling or at least unappealing about Trump are the very things that make his followers, his followers. They do not want politics as usual, and they don't really want their leader to sound like or act like an establishment politician. That begs the question of course, whether he would be able to work with the senate or other nations, build a budget, appoint competent staff or judges.... Thank you for writing this and discussing Trump and his success in a thoughtful and non-inflammatory manner.