Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Does The Party Decide? Explaining the Trump Phenomenon

Longtime readers know that I have periodically expressed skepticism regarding “The Party Decides” thesis. That is the argument, made most thoroughly by the book of that title,  that party leaders act in effect as gatekeepers who control who wins their party’s nomination. They do so through a variety of signaling mechanisms, such as endorsements, or by steering financial contributions, that collectively help winnow the candidate field and, ideally, focuses voter support behind a single candidate – preferably one who shares the party’s dominant ideological perspective and can still win the general election. Moreover, much of that winnowing takes place prior to any actual voting for party delegates, as party leaders work behind the scenes to eliminate unwanted candidates as soon as possible.

My skepticism rests on three essential points. First, the authors use what I consider to be a rather generous definition of “party”, or intense policy demanders. This allows them to claim that, for the most part, party leaders have retained control of the nominating process despite ostensibly significant changes in how delegates are selected, as in the movement from a convention-centered nominating process to the current post-McGovern-Fraser emphasis on caucus and primaries. (By the way, the book does a wonderful job providing an historical overview of the evolution of the presidential nominating process, which is an important reason why I continue to assign it in my elections class.) A second concern – and perhaps an unfair one – is the difficulty the authors have in showing how this coordinating process actually takes place. As far as I can tell, there’s no smoking memo where party leaders confirm which candidates they will support. So one must infer the existence of a party-driven winnowing process.

Of course, as I tell my students, when it comes to explaining political behavior, you don’t beat something with nothing. If the party isn’t deciding, then who is? My sense is that at least since the McGovern-Fraser reforms, it is more typically the voters who decide – at least those voters who participate in the series of caucuses and primaries that constitute the modern nominating process.  Admittedly, they are not generally representative of the broader public but neither are they the equivalent, at least from my perspective, of the traditional “party bosses” who used to control blocs of delegates. However, voters aren’t free to choose just any candidate.  Instead, they choose from a candidate menu that is heavily influenced by the media’s perception of which candidates are truly viable. The media does not do well with candidate complexity, and so it moves early to simplify the narrative by classifying candidates based on expected strength.  For example, think of the segmentation of the Republican debate participants by the various cable networks into a “grown up” and “kiddie table”. Under this alternative scenario, party elites don’t decide so much as they anticipate who the likely nominee will be based on their read of the political landscape and potential candidates. When the indicators all point in the direction of a particular candidate, party leaders endorse early, in order to position themselves for any benefits that may accrue from being among the first to jump on the winning candidate’s bandwagon. But when the crystal ball is a bit foggier, they wait to endorse, heeding the famous adage to “don’t back no losers.” It is precisely that uncertainty, I believe, that has caused many Republican leaders to hold back on endorsing anyone during the current election cycle. It is not, as some political scientists claim, that they have simply decided not to endorse – it is that they don’t know who to endorse.

Of course, one can’t possibly do full justice in a blog post to the Party Decides thesis, which rests on a slew of data and careful analysis – you really should read the book and decide for yourself. For what it is worth, most of my students who have experience working on campaigns seem not to buy the argument.  However, I haven’t presented any evidence indicating that my alternative take is more plausible (although my students and I are working on it!)

“But what about Donald Trump?” you may ask.  With his commanding victory yesterday in Nevada, Trump has now won three of the four Republican nominating contests to date.  Moreover, despite not having the support of the Republican Party (at least not by the usual indicators) he seems to be gaining strength and appears poised to do quite well on Super Tuesday.  Doesn’t he disprove the Party Decide thesis?

Perhaps.  But I’m in no position to make that case! I often tell my students that in contrast to the general election, political scientists have a more difficult time predicting the outcome of the nominating process – there are too many candidates and decision points, and the party label doesn’t serve as a useful decision cue. But this year I made it quite clear that I was certain about one thing: Donald Trump would not win the Republican nomination. Indeed, on the day he made his announcement that he was running, I wrote what I believed to be a very clever and amusing tongue-firmly-in-cheek post explaining why I was breaking my long tradition of not voting in presidential elections in order to cast my ballot for The Donald.  Alas, it was too clever by half and, at this point, the laugh is on me. Make no mistake about it: Donald Trump is clearly the front-runner for the Republican nomination. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Note that I disagree with my colleagues who claim the Republican Party has implicitly allowed him to take the lead. I just think they don’t have any tools to stop him. He clearly doesn’t need their endorsements to win – I think one member of Congress has endorsed him so far although if my theory is correct I expect more members to get on the Trump bandwagon. Nor does he need party funding. Indeed, he has proved a master at getting free publicity and he has spent comparatively little on advertising. Leading party members and fellow candidates – most notably Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and poor Jeb! Bush – have openly criticized him. But it seems to have no effect – instead, Trump uses that opposition as a selling point to his followers, as I’ve seen firsthand at his rallies.

And it is those rallies that, to me, hold the key to understanding Trump’s success. I’ve described them elsewhere,  but a couple of points are worth highlighting. First, it is commonplace to describe Trump’s followers as “angry.” But his rallies are anything but an expression of anger – in fact, audience members seem to take particular delight in hearing Trump explain how he will make America Great Again. These are festive events, replete with vendors hawking Trump memorabilia, musicians playing, and crowd members chatting excitedly despite lengthy lines and often inclement weather.  Audiences even participate at key moments, as when Trump asks “Who is going to pay for the wall?” and they scream out in unison “Mexico!” The second point is that Trump does not talk down to his audience – instead, he takes their views seriously, and by expressing those views in plain, often politically-incorrect (and admittedly superficial) talking points, he appears to validate them. Yes, part of his support is driven by economic discontent – for many middle and lower-income Americans, wages have been stagnant for some time, manufacturing jobs have disappeared, and the future holds little promise of improvement. But he is winning across all income groups, although his support is  stronger among lower- and middle-income voters.

In addition to his policy stances, then, part of his appeal is that he appears to be on his audience’s side – he doesn’t try to excuse or explain their beliefs as an illustration of intolerance or bigotry. Instead, he says they are right to hold those beliefs, and if elected president he is going to act on them. At the same time he doesn’t pretend to be one of them. Instead, he flaunts his wealth, his education, his beautiful wife and his “New York values” lifestyle. In so doing, he comes across as authentic. But he also says, “See – I’ve made it. Don’t you want to make it too?” They understand that Trump doesn’t have to be doing this – he tells them as much in his standard stump speech – but that he really does want to make America, and by extension, his audience, great again. And they really believe he will – or at least they are willing to take that chance. After all, what do they have to lose?

Yes, we need to be careful in overstating the extent of Trump’s support – but it appears to be growing, despite high unfavorable ratings. And it is not immediately clear who the alternative candidate will be. Despite repeated media attempts to prop him up, Marco Rubio hasn’t come close to challenging Trump since his overhyped third-place finish in Iowa. Ted Cruz has a solid core of conservative followers, but he’s shown little ability to expand beyond that base. Maybe John Kasich will take off, but so far his brand of sunny optimism and social conservatism hasn’t caught on, despite a strong resume. And Ben Carson’s support continues to dwindle.

So what will it be?  Will The Party decide to back The Donald, or to block him? At this point, it doesn’t seem to matter.

The Donald, Debates and Those Smug Political Scientists

It has become increasingly clear to me that beyond the uptick he has caused in their respective audiences, political pundits are enjoying Donald Trump’s ascendancy in the polls not least because they believe it exposes political scientists’ inability to explain the 2015-16 presidential electoral dynamics. As @JGreenDC recently tweeted, “[t]he most pleasurable part of this campaign cycle is that traditional insiders don’t have any idea what’s going on and they’re losing cachet.” By “traditional insiders” the pundits mean – as this Josh Barro tweet suggests – my arrogant political scientist colleagues! Barro tweets: “My favorite part is watching smug political scientists be dumbfounded.”  (Me?  Smug?  I’m sure Barro was referring to others in the profession. After all, only one pundit has blocked my twitter feed…..so far.)

However, as I discovered in an interview last week on Ari Melber’s Let’s Talk radio show, a post I wrote for US News in mid-August headlined “Do the Rules Apply to Donald?” may have inadvertently contributed to the perception that political scientists are baffled by Trump’s staying power. In asking me to explain Trump’s position atop the polls, Melber pointed out that in the article I noted that the duration of Trump’s front-runner status already far exceeded that experienced by the four Republicans – Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Herman Cain – who spent a significant period leading the polls in the 2012 Republican race. On average, their period of discovery, scrutiny and, eventually, a polling decline lasted about two months. Trump, in contrast, has been leading polls going on four months, with no clear sign of a polling decline as yet.

As I conceded to Melber, when The Donald announced his candidacy last July, I did not anticipate that he would remain atop the polls for this long. (Nor, I suspect, did many of my colleagues). But this doesn’t mean we are clueless when it comes to understanding why he has remained the front-runner for so long. As I wrote in July soon after Trump began his meteoric rise in the polls, his candidacy was being fueled by a media that found his controversial, over-the-top rhetoric impossible to ignore.  I concluded that post by writing, “The sooner the media begins evaluating The Donald on the details of his policies and his governing expertise, rather than on his deliberately provocative comments designed to mobilize a disaffected public, the sooner The Donald’s political bubble is likely to burst. Alas, I have little confidence that most journalists, in this era of dwindling audiences and shrinking profit margins, will be able to resist taking the easy road by dismissing The Donald as a serious candidate. To date, it is a media strategy that has The Donald laughing all the way to the top of polls.”

In retrospect, where I miscalculated was in not fully believing my own prediction; clearly I underestimated the media’s willingness to resist The Donald’s ability to dictate his press coverage. It turns out that pundits have found it impossible not to report on Trump’s rhetorical excesses, even as they chide themselves for doing so. As John Sides demonstrates, The Donald’s standing in the polls closely tracks the amount of media coverage he has received; as coverage goes up, so does his standing in the polls.

Note that it hardly matters whether the coverage is negative or not – as Sides indicates, it is not as if the media has refrained from criticizing The Donald for his often intemperate remarks. But that simply provides him with more free publicity, which seems to boost his polling support.

So what, if anything, will cause Trump to drop out of the top polling spot? The simple answer is that it will require someone more newsworthy to begin to eat into his media coverage.  For what it is worth, for the first time in months someone other than Trump – in this case Ben Carson – landed atop a recent national poll, although it may be too early to read much into this. This one poll notwithstanding, Trump remains in the lead based on aggregate polling.

And it would not be surprising if Trump gets a temporary polling boost based on tonight’s Republican debate due to the renewed media focus on his candidacy. Of course, that depends in part on whether the media finds someone other than Trump’s performance even more newsworthy. In this respect, tonight offers one of the few remaining opportunities for underfunded candidates, such as John Kasich or Marco Rubio, who are currently trying to break out as the alternative to Trump, to take advantage of the free media and have their Carly Fiorina debate moment. Fiorina, you will recall, saw her polling numbers blip upward after each of the first two Republican debates in which she participated although she has found it difficult to maintain that momentum. For those like Jeb Bush who have the resources to play a long game based on winning delegates, on the other hand, tonight’s debate may be less crucial, at least in the short run. Still, he undoubtedly wants to perform well if for no other reason than to stem the spate of stories citing his recent staff cutbacks, and his consultation with “Mommy and Daddy” Bush, as evidence that his candidacy is in trouble.

I suspect the immediate media focus tonight, given recent polls, will be on Ben Carson. It will be interesting to see how much the CNBC moderators John Harwood, Becky Quick and Carl Quintanilla focus their critical questions on the Good Doctor, given some of his recent statements equating abortion with slavery and linking gun control to the Holocaust. You will recall that Jake Tapper spent much of his time moderating the first CNN Republican debate by trying to goad the candidates into personally attacking one another, while the Fox crew focused much more on substantive policy differences. Let’s hope we don’t see a repeat of Tapper’s strategy.

As always, I’ll be live blogging the main debate, beginning shortly before it gets started at 8 p.m. EDT on CNBC. (Alas, it is not showing on any over-the-air broadcast channels.) Ten candidates will participate in the grownup event, while the remaining four – Lindsey Graham, Bobbie Jindal, George Pataki, and Rick Santorum, hold their own “kiddie” discussion at 6 p.m. I hope you can join in by posting comments at this site – it is always more fun with some audience participation. Just post in the comment box, or hit the twitter follow button at the top of the page.

See you at 7:45!

The Media to Trump: Thank You Donald! May I Have Another?

Another day, another poll showing Donald Trump leading the Republican field for the 2016 presidential nomination and another round  of hand wringing by political pundits baffled by The Donald’s staying power. The latest WashingtonPost/ABC national survey has The Donald trumping his nearest Republican rival Jeb Bush by a whopping 10%, 23%-13%. That’s a gain of 18% for The Donald in just under two months, while Jeb’s support has remained static. To be sure, the poll was in the field just as The Donald’s comments regarding John McCain’s war hero status hit the airwaves, so the impact of this latest contretemps may yet to be fully felt in the polls. Still, it is clear that The Donald is exhibiting surprising – at least to the punditocracy – staying power as measured in national surveys of voting-age adults.

Of course, we have seen these types of candidate boomlets before. Political scientists John Sides and Lynn Vavreck documented this process of discovery, scrutiny and decline in their book The Gamble, the definitive study of the 2012 presidential campaign. But Trump’s “discovery” phase has exceeded those of his 2016 Republican rivals in terms of size and duration and, so far, he has sustained and even enhanced his support during the ensuing period of scrutiny.

It is tempting to attribute The Donald’s polling success to some combination of his personal characteristics and his stance on the issues. Perhaps, as some pundits contend, The Donald has tapped into a vein of deep-seated anger among Republican voters. From this perspective, his blunt talk and forthright stance on controversial issues like immigration resonate with a good portion of likely Republican voters. Perhaps. But there is likely a more prosaic reason to explain the Trump phenomenon: he is exploiting the media’s tendency to view nominating contests through the prism of campaign tactics and especially candidate personalities, a point I’ve made in previous posts. Trump has decades of experience in attracting and manipulating media coverage, and he had drawn on that knowledge and training to issue a succession of attention-getting statements that have consistently kept him in the media spotlight. In particular, capitalizing on the media’s focus on candidate personalities, he has turned the Republican nomination contest into a series of personality-driven feuds between Trump and leading members of what might be called the Republican Party establishment. The latest exhibit is Trump’s testy exchanges with South Carolina Senator and presidential candidate Lindsey Graham, culminating in Trump’s decision to give out Graham’s cell phone number during a campaign stop yesterday. “I did it for fun and everybody had a good time,” Trump said during a Fox & Friends interview last night. No, he did it because he knew the story would lead just about every news outlet for the next 24 hours, which it did. Like him or not, The Donald has the media on a string, and they seem only too happy to help him exploit their own vulnerabilities.

Consistent with my argument, in a Monkeycage blog post yesterday Sides and Vavreck show data indicating that Trump has received a disproportionate amount of news coverage since announcing his candidacy. That has surely contributed to his rise in the national polls, much as I suggested in earlier posts.

But does the media have any choice in the matter? In a comment to my last post, Middlebury College student (and presidency seminar alum!) Becky Van Dercook asks, “My one question/comment regarding this post is although the media should be taking Donald’s candidacy seriously, do you think that they shouldn’t be engaging in the outlandish and offensive commentary that he is making at all? And if they do, how can the buffoonish …nature of his commentary be completely ignored?” My short answer is: no, they shouldn’t engage in his outlandish and offensive commentary and yes, they can ignore it. And they should.  However, as I wrote in an earlier post, this does NOT mean relegating Trump to the entertainment pages. “Instead, journalists should take his candidacy seriously by pressing him on the details of his policy pronouncements, and helping the public understand the differences between the public and private sector. The sooner the media begins evaluating The Donald on the details of his policies and his governing expertise, rather than on his deliberately provocative comments designed to mobilize a disaffected public, the sooner The Donald’s political bubble is likely to burst.”  It’s that easy.  When Donald seeks the limelight by saying something outrageous, bury the statement and focus instead on what really matters in a presidential campaign.  If you absolutely must quote The Donald’s more outrageous claims, at least put them in some type of real-world context.

Put simply, the media makes choices about what constitutes “the news” and how it should be covered. There’s no reason why Trump giving out Graham’s cell phone number should have led almost every news story yesterday. And yet the political punditocracy fell all over themselves to report it.

How likely is it that the media will follow my advice regarding how to cover Trump? Not likely at all. That’s  because it has little incentive to do so. As Robert Schlesinger (another proud Middlebury graduate and presidency seminar alum!) acknowledged in his US News column yesterday, “’I’ll be honest, I burst out in giggles of delight when I saw the Washington Post/ABC News poll yesterday showing that Trump had opened substantial lead in the GOP field – not because I believe he has even the remotest chance of becoming the GOP nominee (though that would be fun too) but because it guarantees at a least a few more days of Web traffic Trump-mentum.”

Schlesinger is not the only journalist not-so-secretly rejoicing in Trump’s staying power. Despite the media’s harrumphing and hand-wringing over Trump’s “sideshow” candidacy and how it detracts from a discussion of serious issues, most journalists are absolutely giddy that rather than having to write months of stories analyzing meaningless polls and rehashing stale candidate biographies (Hillary’s pantsuits anyone?), they instead get to wax indignant about The Donald engaging in blood feuds with his Republican rivals. What could be better for a profession that has seen its audience and profit margins dwindling for years?  The Donald is the gift that, so far, keeps on giving!

Of course, it is worth remembering two important points. First, polls this early in the nominating process have very little predictive value in terms of forecasting the eventual nominee. Second, these are polls – not votes. To date, I know of no research indicating whether Trump has put together the infrastructure for an effective ground game in Iowa or New Hampshire. Political science studies indicate that the best way to get people to the polls is to contact them personally.  This is particularly crucial in low-turnout affairs like the Iowa caucus. There’s no evidence as yet that Trump has developed the necessary organization to do this. So, for now, Trump is exhibiting a lot of sizzle. But we have yet to see any steak.

In the short run, of course, the lack of a campaign organization is not likely to dampen media coverage of The Donald. But the next time you see a political pundit publicly weeping over what The Donald is doing to political discourse in this country, pay no attention to those crocodile tears. The media loves The Donald almost as much as he loves himself. And they are more than willing to show their love by engaging in the endless self-flagellation that is the essence of covering Trump’s run for the presidency. Please, please, stop me before I write another Trump story!

Never mind. He just said something newsworthy. Thank you Donald! May I have another?

Addendum 2.29 p.m.: Greg Dworkin points to still another poll, this one in the field after Trump’s war hero comments, that still shows The Donald leading the Republican pack.  So, the early evidence suggests his criticism of McCain apparently hasn’t hurt The Donald among Republican voters.

Why The Donald Trumps the Media (and What They Should Do About It)

With Donald Trump now vying with Jeb Bush for the top spot in the national polls for the Republican presidential nomination, one would think the media would begin more deeply investigating his stance on the issues, or documenting his governing philosophy. Instead, this morning’s Sunday talk shows all featured discussion of The Bombastic One’s latest off-the-cuff personal attack, this one targeting Arizona Senator John McCain for his recent description of Trump supporters as “crazies”.  The Donald, of course, is not one to miss an opportunity to engage in personal warfare against any critic (Rosie O’Donnell anyone?) – indeed, he relishes these public feuds in no small part because he knows they provoke the media coverage that is partly responsible for fueling his meteoric rise to the top of the national polls.

In this instance, Trump responded to McCain’s “crazies” comment by calling McCain “a dummy”. When asked Saturday at the Family Leadership summit about criticizing a war hero, Trump opined, “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” Because the media has focused on these two sentences, it’s worth putting The Donald’s comments in context – here’s his extended remarks when asked about McCain – notice the audience reaction:

The Donald’s comments about McCain – as he intended – sucked up almost all the weekend media coverage, and left second-tier Republican candidates like Rick Perry trying to bolster their own anemic polling by expressing outrage over Trump’s criticism of a decorated war veteran. That, of course, meant that they spent part of their brief media time talking about The Donald, rather than their own candidacies – which is precisely what The Bombastic one wants.

Trump’s media coverage to date reflects a basic weakness of how journalists cover elections more generally – one I’ve talked about in previous posts: it tends to describe election contests in terms of candidate personalities and campaign tactics rather than focusing on candidates’ issue stances and expertise.  In Trump’s case, we see these media tendencies illustrated in spades. But by characterizing Trump as a bombastic buffoon who shouldn’t be taken seriously (the left-leaning Huffington Post recently announced it would move its Trump coverage to the entertainment pages) journalists are playing directly into Trump’s hands. In fact, his polling support is coming from that part of the electorate that is increasingly dissatisfied with what it views as a corrupt political establishment, one that is not addressing bread-and-butter issues like job creation, trade policy, immigration reform and border security. And the media, like it or not, is often viewed by these voters as part of that establishment.

As a classic example of how not to cover The Donald, look at Martha Raddatz’ interview with him today on George Stephanopoulos’ This Week morning show regarding his war hero comments. She repeatedly tries to publicly shame The Donald for his remarks and to insinuate that he is emotionally unfit to be president, but Trump adroitly uses the opportunity to double down on his earlier remarks and, not incidentally, to reach out to veterans. When the interview concludes Raddatz can barely prevent herself from rolling her eyes at The Donald’s remarks. However, I would not be surprised if Raddatz’ questions and demeanor actually bolstered Trump’s standing with a segment of Republican voters.

The problem with the media coverage, at root, is that its persistence in portraying The Donald as a cartoon figure is at odds with his undeniable accomplishments. While the media chases its tail in trying to hold the Donald accountable for his latest outrageous statement, he uses that coverage to cite his very real track record of getting things done, and to promise that he will reprise that record as President.

But it is in fact Donald’s private sector experience (and concomitant lack of political experience) that is potentially the real vulnerability of his candidacy, if only the media would take the time to examine it. Consider the following anecdote provided by the late, great political scientist James Q. Wilson in his classic book Bureaucracy, which is a study of how government works – or does not work, as the case might be. In the early 1980’s, as Wilson tells the story, the city of New York spent some $13 million dollars across a six-year period in an ultimately fruitless effort to renovate the Central Park skating rink. At this point The Donald stepped in and agreed to renovate the rink for $3 million, with any cost-overrun coming out of his own pocket. Mayor Ed Koch agreed to the deal. Trump completed the rink renovations a month ahead of schedule, and $750,000 under budget.

At first glance, this example seems to feed into The Donald’s argument that as president he would have the expertise and experience to get things accomplished. Indeed, that is precisely the mantra The Donald repeats at every campaign stop – his standard stump speech includes multiple statements that begin: “As President, I will” accomplish some objective, whether it means building a wall to keep out illegal immigrants, or negotiating a more favorable trade deal with the Chinese government, or any number of accomplishments.

But in reciting this story about the skating rink, Wilson is making a more subtle and important point, one that potentially undercuts the relevance of The Donald’s private sector experience as preparation to be President. Wilson is using the skating rink example to demonstrate how the very factors that made the Donald so effective in the private sector are rarely to be found in the political sphere. As Wilson acknowledges, The Donald proved far more efficient than did government in renovating the skating rink. But ultimately public policy is evaluated on more than narrow grounds of economic efficiency – instead, “government has many valued outputs, including a reputation for integrity, the confidence of the people, and the support of important interest groups.” When it comes to skating rinks (or any government program), Wilson argues, “A government that is slow to build rinks but is honest and accountable in its actions and properly responsive to worthy constituents may be a very efficient government, if we measure efficiency in the large by taking into account all its valued outputs.” I would add that governing in the public sphere at the national level requires an understanding of how to address the interests of those, such as members of Congress, whose support is required if the President is to accomplish his objectives.

By extension, Wilson is suggesting that the tactics that work so well for The Donald in the private sector are unlikely to be as effective when it comes to passing public policy. This is because other values – accountability, transparency, and equity – are embedded in our political process to a degree not seen in private sector transactions. As President, The Donald will find that he cannot run roughshod over the political constraints built into our national system of separated institutions sharing power. Building a wall to keep out illegal immigrants will be nothing like renovating the Central Park skating rink, and that is not simply due to the different scale of the projects. It is because the incentives facing political actors, including the President, do not reward them for maximizing efficiency alone, at least in the narrow economic sense. Instead, to achieve one’s goals in the political sphere means utilizing tactics that emphasize “we”, not “I”.  Based on his public statements to date, it is not clear how well The Donald understands this.

So how should the media cover The Donald? Not by ignoring him, or dismissing him as a “farce to be reckoned with”.  Instead, journalists should take his candidacy seriously by pressing him on the details of his policy pronouncements, and helping the public understand the differences between the public and private sector. The sooner the media begins evaluating The Donald on the details of his policies and his governing expertise, rather than on his deliberately provocative comments designed to mobilize a disaffected public, the sooner The Donald’s political bubble is likely to burst. Alas, I have little confidence that most journalists, in this era of dwindling audiences and shrinking profit margins, will be able to resist taking the easy road by dismissing The Donald as a serious candidate.  To date, it is a media strategy that has The Donald laughing all the way to the top of polls.

Why I’m Telling The Donald: You’re Hired!

My students (and their parents) as well as long-time readers of this blog know by now that I don’t vote in national elections. As I’ve explained (and as George Stephanopoulos recently reminded us) my reason for not voting is that I don’t want my readers to view me as simply another partisan pundit trumpeting the party line under the guise of “independent” analysis. (It’s also irrational at the individual level to vote, but that’s an argument for another day.)

But I’m here to tell you that I’m breaking my pledge this election cycle. I’m voting for The Donald. And I think if you watch his announcement, you’ll vote for him too.

 

If you can’t make it through the entire video, let me just point out the highlights as a way of justifying my decision. It was a sprawling presentation (much like The Donald’s real estate empire, or his marriages) and he covered an astonishing array of topics in just this one event, and did so with a degree of confidence and creativity that is hard to convey without watching the video. But I will give it my best shot.  You expect no less, I know.

Let me begin with his stances on the important issues of the day. Obviously, we want a president who knows what he’s doing. Well, it’s hard to exaggerate the number of policies on which he can speak knowledgeably and in depth, but let’s be clear – by the end of this speech The Donald left no doubt about how he would solve some of the most pressing problems facing the country today. He would do it The Donald way.

Take illegal immigration, especially from Mexico. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” The Donald would build a very big, inexpensive wall. And, guess who will pay for that wall? Not the American taxpayers! “I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively, I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.” You heard that right. Mexico will pay for the wall! And, by the way, The Donald will immediately “terminate President Obama’s illegal executive order on immigration.”

Gun control? The Donald will “fully support and back up the Second Amendment.” As he noted, if you live near the Clinton correction facility in upstate New York, the site of a recent breakout by two murderers, those area residents with guns are certainly sleeping better right now, particularly since law enforcement has no clue where the escapees are. Indeed, The Donald recently talked to a resident there who told him, “We now have a gun on every table. We’re ready to start shooting.” (Note also that the prison is named “Clinton” – I hadn’t realized the significance of this until The Donald pointed it out. Think about it.)

Obamacare? “You have to be hit by a tractor, literally, a tractor, to use it, because the deductibles are so high, it’s virtually useless.” The Donald would repeal it, along with its $5 billion, nonfunctional website. The Donald has many websites – “They are all over the place” – but he pays his people $3 – not $5 billion – to create one. Which would you rather have? A three-dollar website, or a $5 billion dollar one? And what would he replace Obamacare with? Something “much better and much less expensive for people and for the government.” How can you oppose that policy? I know I can’t.

Defeating ISIS? “Nobody would be tougher on ISIS than Donald Trump. Nobody. I will find — within our military, I will find the General Patton or I will find General MacArthur, I will find the right guy.”

Ending Iran’s nuclear program? “I will stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. And we won’t be using a man like Secretary Kerry that has absolutely no concept of negotiation, who’s making a horrible and laughable deal, who’s just being tapped along as they make weapons right now, and then goes into a bicycle race at 72 years old, and falls and breaks his leg. I won’t be doing that. And I promise I will never be in a bicycle race. That I can tell you.” I believe The Donald when he says he will end Iran’s nuclear program and that he won’t be in a bicycle race. After all, this is a man who wrote, “The Art of the Deal”.

Repairing the nation’s crumbling infrastructure? “Nobody can do that like me. Believe me. It will be done on time, on budget, way below cost, way below what anyone ever thought. I look at the roads being built all over the country, and I say I can build those things for one-third.” One-third the cost! Who could oppose that? Not me!

Reforming entitlement programs? The Donald would “Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts…Get rid of the fraud. Get rid of the waste and abuse, but save it.” Why haven’t our current politicians thought of this?

Free trade? The Donald is for free trade, but the key is who is doing the trading. “Free trade can be wonderful if you have smart people, but we have people that are stupid.” You can be sure The Donald will hire only smart people, and will get rid of the stupid ones. Stupid people, you’re fired!

Exporting jobs overseas? The Donald would bring the U.S. executives responsible for shipping jobs abroad into the Oval Office and make them an offer they couldn’t refuse. Consider the executive who recently set up a Ford plant in Mexico. Here is what The Donald would say to that unfortunate executive: “Congratulations. That’s the good news. Let me give you the bad news. Every car and every truck and every part manufactured in this plant that comes across the border, we’re going to charge you a 35-percent tax, and that tax is going to be paid simultaneously with the transaction, and that’s it.” How will the Ford executive respond? This is how: “‘Please, please, please.’ He’ll beg for a little while, and I’ll say, ‘No interest.’ Then he’ll call all sorts of political people, and I’ll say, ‘Sorry, fellas. No interest,’ because I don’t need anybody’s money. It’s nice. I don’t need anybody’s money. I’m using my own money. I’m not using the lobbyists. I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.”

That’s right. We all know that The Donald is a great man. But the key to his presidency will be that he is really rich. He has a net worth of $8,737,540,00. That’s billions of dollars. I know because he said so. This means that unlike other politicians, he’s not in it for the money. His campaign isn’t some gambit designed to boost the ratings of his television show, or to feed his own ego. No, The Donald can’t be bought and he is already a great man. He is doing this for us. That is why he will be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.” He told us that, and I believe him. After all, he is a man who has declared bankruptcy on multiple occasions! How many times have his opponents declared bankruptcy? What do they know about running up excessive debt and not being able to pay bills? How can they possibly understand the American experience like The Donald can?

But beyond his fabulous wealth, his golf courses, convention centers and magnificent hotels, The Donald is also a kind person. I know because he said so. “I think I am a nice person. People that know me, like me. Does my family like me? I think so, right…I give a lot of money away to charities and other things.” What are those “other things”?  I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter why people like The Donald – they just do.

And as a kind person, he loves other people – all types of people. Among them are:
• His family, who he introduced during the event. It was his lovely daughter Ivanka who hyped the crowd before The Donald’s magnificent entrance coming down from his board room above, using the escalator, to greet the “thousands” in the audience. Surely The Donald is blessed with multiple wives and loving children. “I love my life. I have a wonderful family.”
• Soldiers (especially wounded ones). “We have wounded soldiers, who I love, I love — they’re great — all over the place.”
• Republican presidential candidates. “…[T]hey’re wonderful people”.
• Lobbyists. “I have lobbyists that can produce anything for me. They’re great”.
• Cheerleaders. “And we also need a cheerleader…Obama wasn’t a cheerleader. He’s actually a negative force”.
• The Chinese. “I like China. I sell apartments for — I just sold an apartment for $15 million to somebody from China. Am I supposed to dislike them?”
• Tom Brady and the Patriots. “It’s like take the New England Patriots and Tom Brady and have them play your high school football team. That’s the difference between China’s leaders and our leaders.”
• The Saudis. “I love the Saudis. Many are in this building. They make a billion dollars a day.”

The Donald is truly a loving person.  A rich, loving person.

So, that’s why I’m voting for The Donald. He will solve our critical problems by using common sense and hiring good people and making deals and threatening opponents and doing it all for pennies on the dollar. I know because he said he will.

And he is a kind person, one who is also rich. Really rich.

Some of you might think I am trumpeting his candidacy to boost his polls so that he will be included in the debates. Do you really think I would support The Donald for his entertainment value? Have I ever been anything but a sober-minded, empirical-driven analyst? I didn’t think so.

This is an election about competence. The Donald said so. And who is more competent than he? Don’t take my word for it – here’s what the hyper-competent Gary Busey had to say about The Donald back in 2012:

So join me and Gary Busey and Terrell Owens and the thousands of others would-be apprentices who watched The Donald’s speech and came away thinking, “Donald, you’re hired!”