Historical Interpretation of the Trump Strategy
by Marion Marks
The “ultimate contrived stunt” might be the Daniel Boorstin1 interpretation of the manner in which Donald Trump managed his campaign to become the leader and presidential candidate of the Republican Party. The Trump methodology of employing his brand of reality show in the real world demonstrated an implementation of feeding the news cycle that other candidates failed to leverage. Every step along the way, using primaries and caucuses Trump found how poorly prepared his opposition was and how an eager electorate, with the assistance of the media, devoured his message as news addicts. Trump static, referred to here as “Trumpland”, has swamped the airwaves since his announcement to run and other candidates fight to create blips in the news cycle. As the video indicates,“Whether it’s Fox or MSNBC or CNN you can’t tell the difference… it’s All Trump, All the time!”
Never has so little conquered so much since the Big Bad Wolf wiped out the House of Straw. Trump blew through candidate straw houses of Republican rivals and they collapsed with a mild breath. Trump cast recognizable and publicly accepted tags, always denigrating, on each candidate designed to cast scorn and ridicule. And as each was singled out, the others, not believing or recognizing that they would be next, waited patiently, unable to withstand the wolf’s putrid breath.
Jeb Bush was “weak” or “low-energy.” Rand Paul took early hits from Trump, as Trump tweeted, “Truly weird Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky reminds me of a spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain. He was terrible at DEBATE!”
Carly Fiorina was labeled with a slight that all women should have risen with horror when Trump stated, “look at that face!” Ben Carson assisted Trump with his own description in his autobiography. Trump picked up on Carson’s words referring to himself: “it’s in the book that he’s got a pathological temper,” Trump continued. “That’s a big problem because you don’t cure that.”
Marco Rubio was repeatedly just “Little” Marco; Ted Cruz was “Lyin’” Ted, and John Kasich was “disgusting” because of the way he “shoveled” food.
One by one Trump understood the media hunger for a story. Trump fed the fire with a vengeance unparalleled in American presidential primary history. The political landscape became littered with failures and crafted messages that would have succeeded in almost any prior campaign. The candidate who initially may have been written off as a joke or publicity-seeking huckster has succeeded because he played the game better than his opponents.
The question now becomes: is his next challenge against a house of sticks or a house of bricks? The factors in play may be focused on the electorate as well as the press, because Trump has proven that his part of the equation has been far more adept at playing the game than anyone in the national Republican Party.
If the Democrats at this point have to rely on either the Clinton or the Sanders forces alone, I suggest the house is made mostly of sticks, even though the Sanders polling numbers are ahead of Trump. It’s partially because Trump has not put Bernie in his crosshairs so much, and Bernie has been able to retain his shield and higher ratings. The Clinton machine has been attacked for over twenty-five years, and even though Trump claims to have new ammunition, his target may also have some armor that is untested. Trump has even used some of Bernie’s tactics to attack Clinton.
Daniel Boorstin understood or explained the model of pseudo news that was contrived by candidates and their campaigns. The frivolous 1960 events of Kennedy and Nixon that led up to the “Great Television Debates” were new to the public. Never before had the small screen attracted both candidates, side by side, for the public to see them address the same issues in real time without handlers filtering and directing responses. There had been radio interactions and primary TV debates previously, but never of this magnitude.
All other campaigning up to this time (1960) and in prior elections relied on the media to reach more than what could be communicated singularly on the radio or TV with paid time slots or whistle-stop or caravan tours. The modern news cycle became ripe political manipulation of what Boorstin called “pseudo” news, contrived to cater to the hunger to fill space that advertisers were willing to invest. The greater the ability to hype the story, the higher the potential amount the media could charge for the slot. Free Enterprise at its best!
So Donald Trump, the successful Reality Show huckster, has transformed and refined what Boorstin would have called “clinical examples of pseudo events” into not just money, but power — raw power to one who appreciates it for what it is. The consequences for democracy and America basically are that the formula or system has been rigged by someone who has learned how to play better than any of his opponents.
Just as cable TV appreciates “The Big Story” of a war, a terrorist attack, or a major conflict, a contrived political conflict, seasoned with anger and bigotry and more than hints of a weak economy with business leaders or homeowners afraid they may lose their shirts — along come the savior, Donald Trump. The seemingly weekly debates throughout the primaries were basically “Who gets thrown off the island this week?” Or, who can Donald yell out “You’re Fired!”?
The feeding frenzy for anchors, moderators, comedians, and bloggers showed so much blood in the water and so many houses of straw that everyone looked like a winner knocking down the unprepared weaklings. I never mentioned former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal because poor “Booby” should never have even been allowed on a stage. But when things were so easy, they let him in and Trump didn’t really have do more than allow him to fail on his own.
Perhaps the next stage will show a little stronger group of candidate plans, whoever or whatever the Democrats decide. And, the media needs to put a little more of a challenge to the seeming Big Bad Wolf Trump.
11961, “The Image” by Daniel J. Boorstin