What did Trump think and when did he think it?


There is a question on my mind that is something that can perhaps only be answered by Donald Trump when he writes his memoirs many years from now or by his closest confidantes and that is the following: When he decided to enter the race last June, did he really think he would do so well and get this far and throw the Republican party into chaos? Or did he just do it for the laughs, thinking that he would make a big splash initially by making outrageous statements and insulting others, grab some newspaper headlines, and then go back to his regular life when the effort fizzled?

If the second, at what point did he think, “Damn! I could really win this thing!”?

I know that Trump has a huge ego and that would argue for the first option but my feeling, based on no evidence whatsoever, is that the second is true, that he initially did not think he would get this far but that by the end of July when his polls numbers had shot up and stayed up, he realized that he had tapped into something that had been dormant.

Trump may act like a buffoon but he is not a fool and even he must have been surprised that people would lap up his incoherent, scattershot, xenophobic, message the way they have. Could his entire campaign have started out as an elaborate prank on the Republican party, the indulgence of a vain and wealthy man, that has ceased to be joke and turned into reality?

Anyone else want to engage in this mindless and totally useless speculation?

Comments

  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Wherever we might find the truth on this question, it won’t come from Trump’s memoirs.

  2. Dunc says

    even he must have been surprised that people would lap up his incoherent, scattershot, xenophobic, message the way they have

    Why? There’s a very significant constituency out there for exactly that sort of thing, and they’re not really getting it from anybody else. He spotted a gap in the market and went for it.

  3. Mano Singham says

    Dunc,

    You are crediting him with a level of political acumen that is very high, to spot something that others did not. If so, he should get out of the real estate business and go into political consulting. He’d be a lot better than Karl Rove.

  4. Dunc says

    I am no longer able to believe that Trump had come this far in the nomination race by sheer dumb luck. I now suspect that everybody has been drastically underestimating him, his ability to appeal to people disaffected with mainstream politics, and both the size and potential importance of that constituency. It’s long past time to start taking him (and them) seriously.

  5. kestrel says

    Mindless and totally useless speculation? OK. That’s what this is.

    I have been struck by how similar Trump’s behavior is to a family member who was diagnosed with NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). She constantly told us that everyone loved her. She would say one thing and in the very next breath say the opposite, and if you dared to contradict her she would simply claim she never made the first statement. It was as if, to her, life was a play all about her, starring her, and the rest of us were just props to be used or discarded at her will. I get the same sort of feeling from Trump.

    Absolutely useless and mindless speculation. No idea if the guy is actually NPD or not; I’m simply struck by the similarity in behavior. Of course many world leaders of the past are thought to have been NPD, but I doubt there is any way to actually know without a diagnosis and that will never occur. It will remain useless and mindless speculation, but since there’a a thread for it, what the heck.

  6. sonofrojblake says

    The level of cognitive dissonance on display here is hilarious.

    First:

    my feeling, based on no evidence whatsoever

    That, right there, should have been in bold italic block capitals. You’re explicitly stating that your reaction to Trump is non-intellectual, emotional, based on your feelings and not related to the evidence. THAT is how he gets you. That is how he gets everyone. He’s short-circuited your critical faculties, and you know it, yet you still can’t see past it.

    Trump may act like a buffoon but he is not a fool

    Trump acts like a buffoon BECAUSE he is not a fool. And he has you fooled. You KNOW he’s smart, and yet you are still scratching your chin and wondering if he’s joking.

    even he must have been surprised that people would lap up his incoherent, scattershot, xenophobic, message

    No, he wasn’t. I wasn’t. If you stick your fingers in your ears, squeeze your eyes tight shut and go “lalalala” it’s possible to fantasise a world where that message won’t be lapped up by the masses. Meanwhile, in the real world…

    Could his entire campaign have started out as an elaborate prank

    I can understand why people on the left want this to be true. You don’t like the alternative – that a rich, narcissistic and (crucially) highly skilled media manipulator decided to run for President again, seriously, and took the time in advance to work out a strategy that would result in victory. A strategy that consisted, in part, of systematically dismantling each of his Republican adversaries in turn. Think for a moment back to this time last year, when you would have reasonably assumed that Jeb Bush was basically unassailable. What do you think of Jeb Bush now? And why do you think that? Your impression of him as “low energy” and a bit sad is not an accident, and not a prank.

    It’s amazing to me that intelligent people are STILL thinking of Trump in terms of a “joke” candidate.

    he should get out of the real estate business and go into political consulting

    I confess myself baffled by this comment – I assume you mean in nine years’ time, after he’s finished being President?

    @Dunc, 5:

    I now suspect that everybody has been drastically underestimating him

    Now, in March, you finally reach this conclusion? No, you don’t. You “suspect”… so you still don’t want to believe it. Will you believe it when Trump is sworn in?

    To engage the original question: Trump entered knowing he could win the nomination and election. If you think anything else, you probably think David Blaine can levitate.

    He knew it because he has had a (short, test) run at this race before, and because his skills at media manipulation are unparalleled. He’s literally operating several levels beyond all his competition. Jeb Bush brought a (diamond-encrusted) knife to a gunfight. Trump had a flamethrower and a row of tactical nukes. He knew the rules, and he ignored them. He has repeatedly done things that would sink a less skilled manipulator, and every. Single. Time. The news media and the left have crowed that that’s it, he’s finished. And here we are. It’s entertaining, from four thousand miles away, to watch the left AND the Republican establishment splutter and run around like headless chickens going “You can’t DO that. You can’t SAY that!”, and then look at each other and go “He can’t, right?”.

    Speculating that he never meant to get this far, and is on any level surprised, is endearingly child-like.

  7. Dunc says

    Now, in March, you finally reach this conclusion? No, you don’t. You “suspect”… so you still don’t want to believe it. Will you believe it when Trump is sworn in?

    Actually, no – I’ve been mentally preparing myself for President Trump since some time in January. I was just phrasing it more diplomatically because I tend to find that shouting at people isn’t a very good way to get them to reconsider their positions. YMMV.

  8. sonofrojblake says

    …some time in January. I was just phrasing it more diplomatically

    Nevertheless, your choice of words is telling. And Trump has been the frontrunner for the nomination since mid-July. But let’s not get into an “I saw it coming first” contest – nobody here wins that.

    I tend to find that shouting at people isn’t a very good way to get them to reconsider their positions

    What’s interesting about Trump’s progress has been that pointing calmly to the evidence of reality hasn’t been a very good way to get people to reconsider there positions either. Even more interestingly it’s the self-declared rational people who are hardest to reach, railing angrily against the poll numbers for eight or nine months or so and never, it seems, stopping to ask themselves whether they might have missed something.

    My amateur speculation is that the reason for that is not that they’re being deliberately obtuse or selectively stupid or anything. Rather, they’re an audience to a magic trick, unaware that what they’re watching is an engineered performance – they’re reacting to the appearance of what they’re seeing, and giving no thought whatsoever to the machinery going on behind it. That’s not necessarily a reflection on them – the performance is specifically engineered to obscure the engineering. That’s a large part of how it’s supposed to work. My reference above to David Blaine was not flippant – Trump’s rise has been a performance, but not the kind of performance people are used to seeing in this context.

    Where Trump is concerned, there doesn’t seem to be a good way to get people to reconsider their positions… unless you’re Trump. I was in the “joke” camp until about September, when Bush’s meltdown was already well underway and the only person who was polling half Trump’s numbers was Carson. It was only then I started to see what I he was doing, and how. Once you see it, properly, you cannot even for a second entertain the idea that it’s accidental. That’s no more credible than the idea that a magician manages to extract your chosen card from the pack by luck. And once you see it, you (or I, at least – YMMV as you say) have to admire the elegant artifice of it, and the deftness and instinctiveness with which it is delivered. Even if you don’t like him or agree with him, you can’t with any integrity say he’s not very, very smart and good at what he’s doing. Where we may disagree is on what it is he’s doing…

    What’s going to be interesting is the next stage of the trick, the one where, having done his rabid dog act to secure the nomination, Trump tones it down and brings on board the people who were previously writing him off as too extreme. Obviously he doesn’t need to get everyone – just enough to win the election. But watch for a toning down of the rhetoric and a courting of the more reasonable elements of his potential audience. Watch for former “joke”rs coming round to believing he’s not so bad after all. Your card was the three of clubs, and it’s in your inside left jacket pocket.

  9. Cyninoregon says

    If you read about the Mercers and Bannon, you know that he was being pushed to the White House by people who had the end game in mind–destroy our govt. Trump may never have wanted to do the President’s job, but, apparently, they convinced him he’d never have to–and perhaps he is only in it until he passes his legislation destroying health care (stick it to Obama), and the EPA (Obama again) and the State Dept (Hillary this time). Then, he can pack-up and go home…..leave the place in shambles–a true libertarian dream. I don’t get what Russia has to do with it beyond getting him elected–and Comey did that, not Russia. Anyone who worked on Hillary’s campaign knows that. Perhaps it’s just his payback to them for all the cash they’ve given him.

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