I think I understand Trump

Who is Trump counting on in the elections - and why.

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Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer,

Republican National Convention in Cleveland
Republican National Convention in Cleveland
Reuters

Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican Convention was among the longest ever.  Perhaps his goal was to speak directly to people who never hear him directly, but only read what his opponents in the media write about him the next day. 

The three main commercial networks — CBS, NBC, and ABC — would give only one hour of coverage to the Convention each night. 

After a twenty-minute speech, they then tear it apart for half an hour.  However, by speaking long, Trump dominated that hour of commercial network coverage to speak directly to ABC, NBC, and CBS viewers who rarely watch cable news of any sort, and he left the networks with virtually no time to dissect his speech because, once the balloons dropped and the visual fireworks erupted, they had to race back to their regular programming to compensate for all their lost commercial time.  Thus, listeners were left with his message, virtually unscathed.

If that length was a deliberate strategy, it was brilliant.  If it was unintended that he go so long, it worked to his advantage.  Better too-long a speech to people who never hear you directly but only read about you from what Stephen Colbert, Katie Couric, Bill Maher, and Jon Stewart have to joke about, and what the extreme-doctrinaire-liberal pundits have to criticize, than a speech that leaves time for Scott Pelley, George Stephanopoulos, Tom Brokaw, and all the others to ramble on telling people that what they think they heard is not what they heard.

Ivanka’s introductory speech was wonderful.  Yes, Donald Trump’s speech was “too dark” — “Midnight in America,” as one liberal pundit put it, contrasting with Reagan’s “Morning in America.”  But I think I see what he is doing, the strategy.  It is a gamble, a risky but not unreasonable gamble.  I would not do it his way, exactly — but I think I understand Trump.

We no longer live in the Electoral College world in which we once lived.  In the past, for example, California reasonably could go GOP — governors Reagan, Deukmejian, and Wilson were all within the past half century.  Now, however, California is lost to Republicans, as the state’s radical Democrat legislature focuses more on denying Latino farmers in the San Joaquin Valley access to water because of some small bottom-feeding quasi-fish, and on denying the rest of us the right to have groceries bagged at the supermarket unless we are willing to pay a surcharge for plastic bags (and we will pay).  Similarly, New York is lost. 

That is a ton of abandoned Electoral College votes.  The Democrats, very wisely, have worked for three decades to change the electoral map by bringing in new voters — not by persuading voters to change affiliation, but literally by importing new voters.  (And Virginia is going the next step, legalizing felons to vote because felons tend to vote overwhelmingly Democrat.  Connect those dots.)

Republicans tried McCain.  Was he a “National Review”/”Weekly Standard”/George Will  Republican?  On immigration?  On taxes?  Instead, he was pathetically weak, unwilling to confront Obama at any debate.  Yes, he is a war hero.  But he was not heroic at the debates.  He was weak, a punching bag deflated perhaps by fearing to say things to or about Obama because of Obama’s historicity.  So he let Obama glide through without ever taking on Rev. Wright, Bill Ayres, or the criminal who gave Obama a huge property for peanuts.  Obama was riding a moment of history, and the foundations of America were crumbling at the end of the G.W. Bush years.  McCain led the Republicans to electoral disaster.

Then came Mitt Romney.  Was he a “National Review”/”Weekly Standard”/ George Will Republican?  In an election whose central issue was the despised Obamacare — the issue that catapulted Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy — whom did the GOP run?  Of all the possible Republicans in the world, they run the one guy who cannot attack Obamacare meaningfully — because he was the Architect of Obamacare.  Yes, Romney is a man of great character, great decency, great ethics and morals.  He was good on most issues — taxes, business, trade, foreign affairs.  He warned about the weakening military, the threat of a rising Putin.  But he also was too nice in the end, and he could not make a case against the Obamacare he fashioned before Obama. 

He clobbered Obama in the first debate, but he could not repeat.  Even without Candy Crowley's despicable meddling, he failed to take it to Obama in the second round, and then she nailed Romney with her lie and rule-violating interference, he lost his footing and was lost the rest of that second debate.  Republicans remember that.  Two consecutive elections with GOP Presidential candidates who melted and flummoxed in the crucial debates, unable to remain standing once punched.  In the end, after Romney lost the election, we learned that, if he only had drawn as many votes as did McCain, he would have won — but he did worse than McCain.  Republicans have been waiting for someone who can remain standing in the ring.

So back to Trump.  Trump seems to have figured out that a “kinder, gentler” Republican cannot win in the present constellation of Electoral College states.  I am an Orthodox rabbi of 30 years.  Unless you are an even more learned Orthodox rabbi of more years, don’t try convincing people you are more a Jew than I am.  In the same way, it seems, Trump has determined that, with Bush having lost the popular vote in his second try, and with McCain and Romney doing worse, the constellation now is not situated for a Republican to present himself or herself as more mushy and squishy and touchy-feely than a Democrat. 

Stop trying to be them.  So his gamble seems instead to be multi-pronged. First, he is gambling that he will carry most states that Romney carried, though Trump may manage to lose one or two, risking Virginia and North Carolina, for example.  And his gamble is that there is an old-time Reagan coalition waiting to be regrouped for a Thirty-Sixth Class Reunion.  That there are ethnic Catholic, blue collar Rust Belt working men — and their families — who are tired of the unions that let them down and watch out only for union leaders, the schools that let down their kids while protecting incompetent teachers, a world gone “P.C.” where every group has its place among “The Diverse” except for the working class, less educated people who actually build things that stand.

The wealthy elite in Hollywood and on Broadway and in the media are not concerned about inner-city crime and scoff at the suggestion to build walls.  Yet anyone who ever has gone on a tour of Beverly Hills celebrities’ homes knows they all live behind walls even bigger and more expensive than Trump contemplates. While demanding gun restrictions, many of them hire personal armed bodyguards.  While backing teachers’ unions and opposing school choice for inner city children, their children go to the best private schools their money can buy, where incompetent teachers rarely get hired and always get fired promptly.  The Hollywood class support higher taxes to pay for expanded social programs — but not for them to pay those increased taxes, as they actually move their Hollywood movie-making out of high-tax Southern California to shoot in tax-free and tax-abated states and countries and as they personally move their legal residences out of California to no-tax neighboring states.

Trump is gambling, it seems, that Republicans will vote for him even though many are disappointed with aspects of his comportment and dark message.  On that he is correct because Hillary will bring out that vote.  She is not qualified to be a commander-in-chief of our armed forces, as she has demonstrated repeatedly that she will lie shamelessly to families of the fallen, will lie to the American people about why our Libyan ambassador was murdered and our embassy set ablaze, cannot grasp "what difference does it make" to discern how we failed our servicemen who laid down their lives, and will risk the security of our intelligence personnel around the world and our national security secrets by her self-centered desire to hide her email communications from the public, from her boss, and from the impartial judgment of historians. 

A commander-in-chief who cannot pass a background check or obtain a security clearance?  Mainstream Republicans cannot have her as commander-in-chief, and, with the exception of the small group of front-line contenders who understandably feel they have been personally slighted too often by Trump, Republicans and conservatives will vote for Trump on Election Day.

Hillary is a liar.  She lies even when there is no gain to be sought. 

She lied about her name “Hillary,” claiming falsely that she was named for Sir Edmund Hillary who climbed Mt. Everest — but he climbed in May 1953, six years after she was born October 1947. 

She lied about arriving in Bosnia under threatening gunfire and life-risking danger when, in fact, she was treated to a warm floral welcome by schoolchildren. 

She lives a life of lies: cattle futures, Whitewater, Travelgate, claiming a “vast right-wing conspiracy” against her husband when she knew intimately that he had been sexually abusing and harassing one woman after another, and possibly raping at least one if we are to believe Juanita Broaddrick.  She denigrated and mocked Bill’s female victims.

As Secretary of State, she launched a “reset” with Vladimir Putin that resulted in his taking Crimea and part of the Ukraine.  She oversaw the fall of Qaddafi with no plan to assure a Libya that would be better and safer, not worse,  afterwards.  She was a key to pulling out of Iraq after we finally saw results from the Surge.  It was on her watch, guiding foreign policy, that ISIS or ISIL emerged from nothing, being mocked and disdained as “J.V.,” instead of being suppressed and defeated.  She regularly lambasted Israel during her tenure. 

So that is Trump’s apparent gamble.  First, that conservatives and the Republican base, deeply disappointed in aspects of his public character, which apparently differ from the warm and decent and charitable and kind private person his family and associates tell us he is, will vote for him anyway.  We just cannot have Hillary appointing three or five Supreme Court justices.  And, second, that enough voters in the Rust Belt — Pennsylvania, Ohio, maybe Michigan, maybe even Wisconsin — will come out to vote for him to turn some of those states red this time.

He is gambling that the people whom he believes are living in the dark side of America, on the front lines facing rising crime, present or imminent joblessness, globalism, the suppression of political correctness, and a world that welcomes everyone else in diversity except for them, are ready to cross party lines and vote for a Republican whom they believe will have their backs in a way that they could not believe Romney would nor that McCain capably could.

In the end, it may all come down to the three face-to-face debates.  This time the Republicans better make sure that the moderators all pass a fairness test that looks at how they moderated the Sanders-Clinton debates and the Republican debates.  If there is any doubt, they must not allow another Crowley deception.  Otherwise, they will have learned nothing and deserve to lose.

Rabbi Dov Fischer is author of General Sharon’s War Against Time Magazine (Steimatzky: 1985). His political commentaries have appeared on the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, National Review,  Los Angeles Times, and in other major American publications.  He formerly was Chief Articles Editor of UCLA Law Review, is an adjunct professor of law at two prominent American law schools, and is Rav of Young Israel of Orange County, California.  He is author of Jews for Nothing (Feldheim: 1983). His writings can be found at RabbiDov.com