Presidential Campaign: Late Summer Observations

We’re well into the contest for a new president, who will be selected in about 15 months. With a two-term president wrapping up his term and his vice-president apparently not going to run, the scene is pretty much a free-for-all, which we don’t often see. There’s no presumptive nominee among the Republicans, and while Hillary Rodham Clinton for a long time was predicted to be the nominee for the Democrats, that’s not looking like so much of a lock. The outcome matters immensely, of course, for the world, the nation, the state, and our city. For every ten decisions coming out of the White House that gain the attention of the media and public, there are 200 that never register beyond the inside-insiders. The plethora of administrative choices made each day by White House staff, appointees, and the executive can affect the mechanics of government and direction of policy for many years into subsequent administrations. No president reverses his or her predecessor’s myriad decisions in a year, four, or even eight. It matters who sits at a certain address on Pennsylvannia Avenue in Washington, D.C.

I understand but then don’t understand why the media is not all over a candidate who shows surprising strength and is drawing 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 people to his rallies. You would think this would be the lead story of the summer, the rise of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is tapping the anti-oligarchy rage. “Feel the Bern” has to be the best phrase from this campaign season so far. But no, “Bern” is not the top story because he wasn’t supposed to be a factor. The corporate media is mesmerized by the gaudy exposition bearing the signature of Donald Trump, a billionaire showman who has commandeered the wheel on what used to be Sen. John McCain’s “Straight Talk Express.” Now we have royal blue or is it royal purple helicopters and jets and extra-long buses stamped with TRUMP. The professional politicians on the GOP side who, of course, hate professional politicians for a living, are livid that Trump is playing keep-away with the campaign ball. It’s interesting to read or listen to the smug media wise-men and -women who are clearly annoyed by both Trump and Sanders for messing up the acts and scenes of the play as those in the know had it already sketched out. The experts are getting impatient with the distraction. They want to get down to the real business of a Bush-Clinton bash. The clash of the dynasties. The thrash of the titans. It’s like a summer blockbuster movie that opens poorly at the box office and can’t get traction. Danger, danger. Labor Day is in sight.

I’ve been watching and thinking about Donald Trump. I think he can win on the Republican side. (The GOP, while being smart enough as an organization to figure out how to win control of both houses of Congress, basically holds minority views on most of the important issues of the day. To their credit, the bosses and spinners figured out how to get a TKO in the Congressional election of 2014. I think it’s a huge mistake for the Democratic candidates for their party’s nomination not to be trying to run with the message of winning two branches of government, the executive and the legislative branches. We’ve seen how Republicans in Washington, even with one house in their hands, were a massive obstacle to implementing the President’s policies.)

But back to Trump. I don’t think he is very different than Ronald Reagan. Both come from the entertainment sector. Both favor the interests of Big Business, as we used to call it (General Electric, the Trump conglomerate). Both play to “the crowd” while being nowhere near the crowd in their social position. Each holds up caricatures of people to demonize them (the welfare queen, the bad immigrant). Both are running against government. Trump has trumped that, so to say, by running against politicians, too. He not only thinks but also says that a lot of them are losers, fakes, and even stupid. He just said that about Boston’s mayor (“Get a real mayor.”). Both project the “I’m in charge” attitude. With Reagan, it was a role he assigned himself as a professional actor who was an elected governor. With Trump, he really believes it. Nevertheless, they were/are good at it. Weirdly enough, Trump may be the Tea Party dream candidate. He’s not “one of them,” the professional politicians who have screwed things up. He doesn’t need anybody else’s money. He can’t be bought, it looks like. Even when Trump steps on land mines he doesn’t explode. He absorbs the shock and keeps moving. This will be fascinating to watch through the fall.