Over the past months there have been numerous opinions by those in the know about why Donald Trump will be not successful in the primaries and, then, not successful in the presidential race.
If the track record of these pundits is anything to go by, Trump has an excellent shot at winning the presidency.
Political experts have a comprehensive knowledge of politics, polling and policy, like any insider. What they do not have, and continue to demonstrate that they do not have, is an understanding of the day-to-day thinking of day-to-day people who, frankly, admire Trump’s bravado. While I don’t admire it, I am fascinated by it.
Hillary Clinton has, euphemistically speaking, baggage. (It is worth knowing that the word for baggage in the Roman legions of Julius Caesar was “impediment.”) Whether she has earned the baggage or had it foisted upon her by her many enemies is immaterial.
Whether it is real or not is also immaterial; it is there, it is seen and it is believed to exist by the majority of the American public. In fact, much of it is there because it has long been a tactic of the right to burden their opponents with both real and fabricated baggage, beginning with the presidency of her husband, continuing through Obama’s presidency, and now, her campaign.
The tactic has two facets, to make the public doubt the truthfulness of the person and to keep the candidate on the defensive to the exclusion of being able to respond effectively with anything positive. The desired result of this tactic is to discourage marginal supporters of the candidate from voting, and to encourage enemies and detractors to vote against the candidate. In short, vilify the opposition and turn out your supporters.
Democrats are doing their best to attack Trump in like manner, but with a significantly lesser effect.
Why? Well, first of all the people making the attacks are the very people Trump supporters despise, “the Establishment.” The same held true for his Republican primary opponents. Worked well, didn’t it?
Secondly, Clinton has some very real issues with truth and caution which keep her constantly on the defensive. That defensive position increases as her arguments countering one claim or another are shown or believed to be false. Third, she is a politician, and people are already predisposed to think the worst about politicians’ character.
Trump, contrariwise, is a businessman, a showman and to great extent, a charlatan, none of whom are expected to have a great deal of integrity. He is seldom on the defensive, almost always on the attack.
He shrugs off the most heinous accusations and then makes an even more egregious statement about an individual or issue. Clinton may or may not be arrogant, but is working too hard so as not be seen that way. Trump is arrogant and revels in it.
The field of debate is ever changing with Trump, it is ever constant with Clinton. Clinton is seen as wanting desperately to be president, Trump is seen as wanting to be president, but enjoying getting there enormously. For Clinton it is a goal, for Trump, a journey.
He is also a master of deflecting blame. Take Melania Trump’s Republican convention speech, which included a section plagiarized from Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2008 Democratic convention. Two days after the incident made news, a longtime Trump speechwriter, Meredith McIver, finally came forward to claim responsibility and offered her resignation. She then put out a statement on Trump company letterhead.
“Yesterday,” it said, “I offered my resignation to Mr. Trump and the Trump family, but they rejected it. Mr. Trump told me that people make innocent mistakes and that we learn and grow from these experiences.”
What would be considered a criminal offense by some is presented by Trump as an innocent mistake offering an opportunity for the perp to correct her moral compass. And it worked. It’s hard to top a guy like that.
Jim Elliott is a former chairman of the Montana Democratic Party and a former state senator from Trout Creek.