It is evident that Donald Trump believes that he can no longer win the Presidential election. There are also strong indications that he has therefore adopted a strategy minimize his loss of public standing, at least with certain segments of the population, and to maximize his ability to make money in the post election environment. In other words since he no longer believes he can win, Trump is trying to ensure that the results of his failed campaign allows him to continue to feed his massive ego and to replace the revenue he has lost as a result of running for President.
In recent years most his company’s revenue has not come from developing real estate projects, he has essentially been renting out the Trump brand. Dozens of real estate developments around the world from commercial office buildings, to condo developments, to golf courses bear the Trump name though he neither owns them nor was he involved in their development. It is a no risk business for Trump since he is paid to put his name on a property even though he invests no money and loses nothing if the venture goes belly up. This business model has worked for him because for years the Trump name alone increased the value of properties.
However, the Trump name has taken a real battering during this past election year as the deeply flawed man behind the legend has been revealed. Understandably the Trump name on a real estate development no longer automatically results in a premium price for the property. Now the Trump brand on a building might well be as much of a negative as an asset. As a consequence his ability to market his brand in the future has taken a massive hit.
Trump’s ability to go back to his original business of developing huge, high end real estate properties appears to be hampered as well. After his massive bankruptcies, the big American banks will no longer lend him money for such projects. He owes German based Deutsche Bank, the one big bank that will still loan him money, over $350 million and that institution is itself in deep financial trouble. The US Justice Department is trying to collect $14 billion in fines levied on the bank for its toxic loans which contributed to the financial melt down (a potential conflict of interest if Trump becomes President).
A New York Times investigation found that the companies that Trump owns owe at least $650. Other lenders include the Bank of China and Goldman Sachs – both of which he railed against during his campaign. Donald Jr. is also on record saying that a disproportionate amount of investments in the Trump empire come from Russia (another potential conflict of interest should Trump become President
Even with the value of his brand diminished and his ability to borrow money reduced, I have no doubt that Donald Trump will continue to find ways to make money in real estate if he loses the election, even if it is on a reduced scale. The real question is how does continue to hog the spotlight if he doesn’t move into the White House?
During the last year his campaign antics have enabled him to control the news cycles almost continually. Thousands of adoring fans have packed his rallies. For a publicity hound like Donald Trump his Presidential run must be intoxicating. Unless find ways to keep himself in the public’s eye, he is sure to go through withdrawals. Trump’s current strategy indicates that he now expects to lose because it is all about his plan to maintain his place in the spotlight after the election.
To view Trump’s long term strategy in the proper light, let’s recap quickly. As you will recall he had been steadily closing in the polls since Hillary Clinton opened up a big lead after the Democratic convention. Trump had become a much more disciplined candidate under the tutelage of his new Kellyanne Conway. He was sticking to the issues and was effectively attacking Hillary Clinton. There was a real fear among Democrats that Trump could actually win.
Trump’s slide into political hell started with the first debate when he finally paid for his perpetual arrogance. Obviously believing could just “wing it” as he had done during the primary debates where he bested fifteen seasoned Republican politicians, Trump was woefully unprepared for his verbal battle with Hillary Clinton, and it showed. He spent most of the debate trying to defend him self instead of sticking to his message. Then he spent the next few days after the debate trying to defend him self against Hillary’s charge that he had “fat shamed” former Ms. Universe, Alicia Machado.
After a shaky start in the second debate, Trump was able to make some headway when he stayed on message and repeatedly attacked Clinton effectively. While polls showed that Hillary still won the debate, it appeared that Trump had temporally at least regained his footing. The next day the Trump campaign, while staggering from self inflicted blows, was hit by a vicious right hand shot that seemed to come out of nowhere. The Washington Post published an Access Hollywood out take from 2005 where Trump was heard bragging that he sexually assaults women and gets away with it because he is both a star and very rich.
After that near knockout there was a visible change in Trump’s strategy. Any pretense of discipline was hastily discarded as he reverted to his natural style of trying to punch back twice as hard as he is hit. After issuing a half hearted apology for the 2005 incident and claiming it was just “locker room talk”, against sound advice he tried to make Hillary accountable for Bill Clinton’s sexual exploits. When one woman after another came forward to accuse Trump of sexual improprieties, he called them all liars. He doubled down using scorched earth tactics right out of the Breitbart News playbook complete with conspiracy theories and repeated threats to put Hillary Clinton in jail if he is elected.
Trump has repeatedly stated the election, even the entire political system, is rigged against him. He has made repeated claims that the media has done everything possible to ensure that he is not elected President from the beginning. Now these claims have grown more shill as he tries to defend against the claims of numerous women (9 at this writing) accusing him of sexual assaults. According to Trump, the media as encouraging false, politically motivated attacks while not paying enough attention to Hillary’s email problems.
Unfortunately, Trump’s employment of conspiracy theories doesn’t end with his attacks on the media. He has insinuated in no uncertain terms that our election system is rigged and that there is a real potential for massive voter fraud. But Trump doesn’t stop there. He claims the establishment politicians in both parties are in league with the special interests of international corporations, not the American people. To anyone paying attention it is clear that he is setting up excuses he can use when he loses.
However, even Trump must realize that spouting conspiracy theories, providing a clearly disingenuous apologies, threatening to jail his opponent like a tinhorn dictator, and the rest of his slash and burn tactics is not a good strategy for winning the election. It does nothing to attract the voters which he desperately needs to win over – independents, blacks, Hispanics and college educated women, especially the Republican college educated women who are defecting out of disgust.
Of course Trump is preparing his followers, and his massive ego, for the election defeat he knows is coming. That is consistent with the narcissistic egotist we have come to know, but Trump is also a smart man. Why is he pursuing a losing strategy? Why is he no longer trying to win, or at least trying to make the election as close as possible.
One explanation is that Trump likes to do things his way. His scorched earth tactics allowed him to defeat 15 Republican candidates in the primaries, many of them seasoned politicians, so he is comfortable in that style. Some political analysts seem to believe that Trump is trying to drag the entire election process so far down in the gutter that Democrats will get disgusted and won’t vote, but he is not dumb enough to believe that will happen.
I believe that the key to understanding The Donald’s long term strategy is to note that in every thing he says and does he is concentrating on shoring up his base. He is telling his disaffected loyal followers exactly what they want to hear, conspiracy theories and all. Trump’s underlying strategy is apparently to continue to be their leader in the post election environment. But who are these people?
The majority of the Republican Party which made up primarily of former Democrats in the South plus working class and social conservatives elsewhere in the country who have never been fully aligned with the Republican establishment. These grass roots Republicans formed alliances with their establishment counterparts because establishment politicians paid lip services to the social issues which they hold dear. However, many observers like me have had difficulty understanding why everyday Republicans went along with establishment financial policies, such as concentrating on tax cuts for the rich and efforts to weaken unions, which have never been in their best interests.
Lately, however, a rebellion has been brewing against not only establishment Republicans, but also the entire political power structure in our country. One element of that rebellion is the Tea Party movement. Another has developed largely out of sight on the internet. Often labeled as the alternative right or “alt right” the members of that unofficial rebellion have cast aside many traditional Republican values and oppose multiculturalism, political correctness and trade treaties which they believe have lead to the loss of millions of American jobs. Trump has legitimized their causes.
Regular grass roots social conservatives have also grown disillusioned with establishment politicians’ intent on expanding the Republican Party by appealing to blacks, Hispanics, and young people. They know that this can only be accomplished by putting the social issues they hold dear – immigration, the pro life cause, the integration of church and state, etc. – on the back burner. They too have been supporting Trump.
The only reason why Trump has been concentrating on shoring up his base of supporters rather than reaching out to those demographics which he needs to win the election is because he believes that such an effort would be unsuccessful. He know he is too badly damaged as a candidate so he is concentrating on remaining the leader of grass roots Republicans and other disaffected groups of voters on the right. He also knows that an election defeat could possibly hurt his image with his followers; hence his never ending statements that “the fix is in” so he can claim that the election was stolen from him.
This is bad news for establishment Republican politicians who fervently pray that Donald Trump will go quietly into the night after the election. Trump’s candidacy has already subjected many of them to the no win dilemma of either forfeiting their integrity by continuing to support him or face the wrath of his supporters that they need to win future elections. Establishment politicians certainly don’t relish the thought of Donald Trump as the unofficial leader of the anti-establishment wing of the Republican Party and the alt right after the election.
However, Trump knows that to maintain that leadership position he needs to remain relevant and that means that he needs continued coverage by the media. He needs a mechanism to continue to reach his followers. Once the election is over Trump can no longer expect the media to continue to follow him around and report on his every word, no matter how controversy he tries to stir up. One way to resolve that issue is to create his own media outlet and he seems to be well position to do exactly that.
Trump recently made Steve Bannon his campaign CEO. Bannon is chairman of Breitbart News, a ultra conservative syndicated news and opinion website which is very popular with the alt right. Roger Ailes, the deposed Fox News chief who was responsible for much of that network’s success, serves an informal advisor to the Trump campaign. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a close advisor, owns The New York Observer.
It certainly looks like a Trump branded media outlet is in the cards. According to CNN, “Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has informally approached one of the media industry’s top dealmakers about the prospect of setting up a Trump television network after the presidential election in November,’ the Financial Times reported Monday.” However, I expect you will hear no more about this venture until after the election since its very discussion is a strong indication Trump expects to lose.
However, perhaps we shouldn’t consider Trump branded TV as a done deal. Setting up a new TV network or even an internet streaming service requires enormous amounts of upfront capital. It would probably be a bigger project than even the self proclaimed multi-billionaire would want to finance on his own. That’s probably why Jared was scouting around for investors. However, I still think that it will become a reality. It is too good an opportunity for Trump to pass up.
First it would give Donald Trump a platform to continue to address the followers he attracted during his Presidential campaign. It would keep him relative on the national stage. Those thousands of enthusiastic followers who pack his rallies in every venue where he speaks are a ready made audience for a Trump branded network or streaming service. He might be able to challenge FOX news effectively from day one. As a business man who is always looking for the next big deal, it allows him to monetize his popularity with a large segment of the population. And perhaps most important to Trump, it would allow him to claim a victory following his defeat; it would serve to soothe his massive ego. It would give him a venue to retaliate against those who rejected him.
Get ready for Trump TV.