A friend works for a radio personalty who will go nameless. The radio personality has been, off air, a person of deep faith and a listener of problems. But as the personality’s radio career has grown and with it an on air personality that is best known for pointed, direct, and unvarnished advice to callers, so too has the off air personality grown that way.
The friend told me that now the mild mannered person of faith no longer really listens, but interjects advice into conversations and comes across off air like the on air personality. What had been a different person off the airwaves was now the caricature of the on air personality.
Donald Trump strikes me in the same way. Though I enjoyed the spectacle of his 2012 “campaign,” Donald Trump comes across as a personality, not a person. His negatives within the GOP are massive. Even people perceived as establishmentarians like Jeb Bush have higher positives with the base. His advisers and he directly did himself a disservice by playing for bombast and not statesman.
The truth is Donald Trump will not be a winner so much as a spoiler. And in so spoiling the chances of others, he might drag others to hyperbole to stand out in ways that might help them in the primary, but hurt them in the general. The goal of running for President is to get elected President, not to get nominated as a party’s Presidential candidate. The candidates have to keep that in mind.
There is also a reality about Donald Trump’s candidacy that you should not underestimate. People hate Washington, they hate politicians, and they are perfectly happy to champion a candidate who tells politicians to go to hell and provides creative directions on the path there. Donald Trump’s candidacy does not exist in a nation where people think the politicians actually care about making the country great again. It only exists in a nation of cynics who think the powers that be want to manage decline and profit from it.
Donald Trump is the disrespectful candidate for people who disrespect the process. He’ll be rude. He’ll be loud. He’ll be confrontational. And he won’t get the nomination. But along the way, he will speak to the fears and hopes of a lot of people who no longer connect with Washington or trust the government to get it right.
For a lot of people who hate politicians who go to Washington to get rich off the system like Harry Reid, they can trust that Donald Trump is already a billionaire so will not need to enrich himself off the treasury. Trump’s campaign, like Ben Carson’s, makes no sense in an age when people respect Washington. But it makes a hell of a lot of sense in an age when people no longer think their vote matters, but they sure want the crap kicked out of all the politicians they blame for making their vote meaningless.
The people who no longer think they can win in America will side with a guy even they don’t think can win, just to watch him strike the match and burn down all they feel betrayed them. And that, ironically, can give him staying power when coupled with his money.
We’ll see if he actually files a federal financial disclosure.
There is one more thing I want you to know about Donald Trump. I’ve met him and interviewed him before. When the camera was not on and the interview was not going, he was not The Donald. He was a guy who cared deeply for his staff and the people who merely walked in the front door of his building. I want you to know that the Donald Trump I’ve seen in private is not the Donald Trump you see on stage because I think we are not going to see that Trump. It’s our loss and it will be his own loss. The person, a separate entity from the personality, is a good man.
The reason I don’t much care for Rick Santorum is that I’ve seen him, off camera and behind the scenes when no one was supposed to be watching, behave like a spoiled and entitled rich kid snapping at people in a lower position than himself when he did not need to. It’s also why I have a soft spot for Trump. From the same vantage point, I’ve seen him behave kindly to people far lower on the rung of life than him when he did not have to. Character when the camera isn’t rolling counts in my book.
Unfortunately for Trump, The Donald does not come across in public the way Mr. Trump does behind the scenes.