Can Trump Sustain His Success Story? – OpEd
By Paul Woodward - War in Context
Michael Wolff writes: One thing to understand about Trump is that, rather unexpectedly, he’s neither angry nor combative. He may be the most threatening and frightening and menacing presidential candidate in modern life, and yet, in person he’s almost soothing. His extreme self-satisfaction rubs off. He’s a New Yorker who actually might be more at home in California (in fact, he says he usually comes to his home here — two buildings on Rodeo Drive [in Beverly Hills] — only once a year). Life is sunny. Trump is an optimist — at least about himself. He’s in easy and relaxed form campaigning here in these final days before the June 7 California primary, even with Hillary Clinton’s biggest backers and a city that is about half Latino surrounding him.
Earlier in the day, I’d met with Trump at a taping of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! at the El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, where he was the single guest for the evening (musicians The Weeknd and Belly canceled upon learning of his appearance). “Have you ever seen anything like this?” he asked. He meant this, the Trump phenomenon. Circumventing any chance that I might dampen the sentiment, he quickly answered his own question: “No one ever has.”
His son-in-law, New York Observer owner Jared Kushner, married to his daughter Ivanka and also a real estate scion — but clearly a more modest and tempered fellow, a wisp next to his beefsteak father-in-law — offered that they may have reached 100 percent name recognition. In other words, Trump could be the most famous man in the world right now. “I may be,” says Trump, almost philosophically, and referencing the many people who have told him they’ve never seen anything like this. “Bill O’Reilly said in his lifetime this is the greatest phenomenon he’s ever seen.”
That notion is what’s at the center of this improbable campaign, its own brilliant success. It’s its main subject — the one you can’t argue with. You can argue about issues, but you can’t argue with success. Hence, to Trump, you’re really foolish to argue with the Trump campaign. “I’ve spent $50 million of my own money to go through the primaries. Other people spent $230 million and they came in last. You know what I’m saying?” And this provides him the reason to talk endlessly and repetitively about the phenomenon of the campaign. [Continue reading…]
Trump doesn’t have to make serious campaign promises or coherently articulate his vision for how exactly he intends to make America great again. Instead, he’s offering himself as the embodiment of success.
The long calendar of the primaries and the large number of GOP contestants have served the Trump campaign well by sustaining a rolling narrative of perpetual and rising success.
The question is, once Trump has had his official coronation at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next month, how will he sustain his success narrative for three more months with little else to point at than polling numbers?
Of course, if he soars ahead in the polls, then Trump America is just around the corner. But if he doesn’t pull away, his message of success may start to lose a lot of its power.
The Democrats might try to build solidarity around fear of Trump with the unintended effect of magnifying both negative and positive perceptions of his strength, but perhaps instead they need to focus their attack on the Trump brand of success. Once Trump loses a firm grip on his success story, he has nothing.