August 24, 2016

Has Donald Trump given up on trying to win the election in November because, as Greg Sargent speculates, he's more interested in constructing a post-election white nationalist media empire? I think there could be some truth to this, but I don't think Sargent has it quite right.

Sargent writes:

Has Donald Trump given up on winning the White House and “pivoted” (this might be his real pivot) to a full-blown effort to build a national following that will outlast the election, perhaps allowing him to establish a media empire with him at the helm -- one that caters, at least to some degree, to a white nationalist or “alt-right” audience? Was that his plan all along? ...

* Vanity Fair media writer Sarah Ellison reports in a radio interview that Trump has had private discussions with his inner circle about “how to monetize” the new audience he’s built up. As Ellison puts it, this potential goal should no longer be seen as “speculation.”

* The New York Times reports today that in July, Trump’s campaign “spent more on renting arenas for his speeches” than he did on setting up a national field operation, leaving him with no operation to speak of. That is consistent with the idea that Trump (as I’ve speculated) is very consciously sinking most of his resources into a format (rallies) that allows him to continue staging his unique form of raucous WWE-style political entertainment, and building an audience that thrills to it, rather than winning a general election.

My guess is that Trump doesn't believe he has to choose.

I know he's running a terrible campaign. I know he isn't building much-needed campaign infrastructure. That makes it look as if he's throwing the fight.

But he did all that in the primaries and got away with it. Trump's view of himself is that he's so popular and has devised such a brilliant hack of the electoral system that he doesn't need to do all the boring things mere mortals have to do to win political races. So I say he's still in it to win.

Further evidence of that is the brief flurry of semi-conciliatory gestures he's made in the past week or so -- the pseudo-apology for harsh language in the primaries, the faux-outreach to Hispanics over the weekend (and I'd throw in the failed outreach to blacks as well.) Why would he bother with any of this if he isn't trying to win the election? Why wouldn't he just keep tossing out red meat to the alt-rightists?

I'm thinking about something else Sarah Ellison has reported:

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump reportedly discussed with an NBC executive continuing “The Apprentice” reality show from the White House if he were elected president, long before he launched his bid.

The anecdote was reported in June by Vanity Faircontributing editor Sarah Ellison but appeared to go largely unnoticed until she was interviewed on "The Takeaway" podcast over the weekend.

Trump has actually considered the possibility that he can host a reality series while serving as president. He thinks he's such a superior being that he could handle both jobs at once. So why wouldn't he think he can run an alt-right TV channel while serving as president?

Ellison's original Vanity Fair story said that Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the owner of The New York Observer, would be very much involved in a new Trump media venture. I keep trying to figure out why Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, would want to work on a media start-up aimed at people who harass Jews on Twitter with Xyklon B jokes. But I don't think Donald Trump is smart enough to grasp that particular problem. He wants what he wants, and I still think what everything he seems to be pursuing, all at once.

Crossposted to No More Mr. Nice Blog

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