There’s been a lot of talk since Trumps started his run if this was just a ploy to boost his business. This was most ably stated by President Obama in the White House Correspondents Dinner in May, scolding the press for overhyping him. “The guy wanted to give his hotel business a boost and now we are praying that Cleveland makes it through July.” The thrust of this is that he just wanted publicity, started winning, and it overtook him.
The correlation to this theory is that he doesn’t actually want to be President, which is why he is sabotaging himself with bizarre rants and a refusal to actually do anything it takes to be President. He’s worried about his business interests and wants to get out. This is exemplified in the Politico report where he had 20 top donors to call, called three, got bored, and stopped. He’s unserious, the thinking goes, because he doesn’t want to be President. He’s sabotaging himself.
The idea that it is a grift was furthered this week by unsubstantiated reports that he was looking to set up a TV station. He had riled up the rubes, using his undeniable skills as a demagogue, and then is going to drop out and get more money doing things his way. The whole thing was a grift that got taken too seriously, and now we’re faced with an openly white nationalist campaign.
Overlooking how scary that aspect is- and even overlooking, for the moment, what it says about our country and the Republican Party that such an obvious grift (if that is what it was) could have won, I think he need to come up with a more unified theory of Trump. His campaign isn’t a grift. It’s a con, and always has been.
There’s a slight difference there. A grift is to engage in petty theft, to take money pretty much outright, with no other goal. Sarah Palin’s whole career in the national spotlight has been a grift. If Trump were just doing this for his business, or to get a TV show, it would have been the merest (and biggest) grift.
I don’t think that’s what it was. I think he thinks he can be President, and thinks it is the best outlet for his petty grievances, his desire to punish enemies, to control people, and to propitiate his massive ego. It’s also a way to pursue the racism and anti-foreigner bias he’s harbored his whole life. He’s not interested in acting as the President, just being him. And, it is good for business as well.
So that’s the con they’ve been running: pretending to want to be a good President just so he can be President, if that makes sense. The goal was the further the Trump brand and let the boss have all the power in the world. So they ran it like a con: promising to be so Presidential later on, promising to raise money, saying they had the money, claiming they gave money to troops, and treating his campaign like any of his other businesses: an opportunity to tell people lies that they’ll believe, not deliver, and then tell them more lies. They’ll be so deep in the hole in their (financial, emotional, partisan) investment that they can’t back out. The long con, getting power, is based on a series of small cons that ensnare the gullible. Trump’s excellent at it.
He’s also excellent at getting out and letting other suckers hold the bag, which is why I think the self-sabotage theories have some validity. I think most of the damage is the fact that his is a lily-fingered narcissist who can pull things over on a lot of people, but not everyone at once, and whose ugliness and ill-tempered paranoia is exposed in the summer sun. But I do think he kind of wants to get out. His whole scheme his whole life has been to build a house of cards and then get out before the collapse, leveraging himself deeply, using one project to finance another one, stiffing creditors, and making money.
So now that he has historically terrible numbers, he can see the writing on the wall, and I think he might be looking for a reason to be treated “very unfairly” so he can leave, and pretend he’s a winner, and make more money off of the rubes. The TV thing is plausible, because the mark of a good con is to have a lot of outs.
But I don’t think this will happen. This is the biggest con of his life, and it has been amazing, in a terrible and godless sort of way. The heat of a Presidential campaign can give the feeling of power and destiny to even a dedicated public servant like Bernie Sanders. Imagine what it has done to Trump. I bet he thinks he can still pull off this huge con, because for god’s sake, he’s Trump. It’s what he does.
The one nice thing about this is that, possibly, it will all come down, be exposed, and he’ll be humiliated and revealed to all but the diehards for what he is. A cheap swindler whose only core beliefs are enriching himself and hating non-whites. It’s usually when you reach too high that the con gets brought down. Just ask Doyle Lonnegan.