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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Trump's likely post-November bust [updated]

A lot of interesting political stuff to read today, especially focused on prediction. First, there's this dark vision from Damon Linker: "After Trump loses: An ominous American future imagined." Excerpt:
President Clinton made clear that she intends to lift the nationwide curfew and withdraw the National Guard as soon as possible. But there is no evidence that the unrest is receding. Trump TV now mixes attacks on the rioters and defenses of the cops with equally venomous denunciations of "lawless Hillary." Donald Trump, Jr. speaks openly of running for president as the champion of "the people" against the "tyrants and thugs" who are ruining America. Though he also warns in ominous tones that the president will do anything and everything in her power to stop him — including calling off the election altogether. Which only stirs up the militias, which only prolongs the period of martial law.
Well, maybe. But there are some reasons to think the political and media influence of a post-defeat Trump is going to be rather limited. One is that right-wing media is already a pretty densely packed -- and just plain dense -- place, in which Trump TV or such would have a significant product differentiation problem. That point is made by this Brian Beutler piece in The New Republic: "Donald Trump’s Media Conglomerate Already Exists." Excerpt:
If and when Hillary Clinton becomes president, the right-wing media, which has brooked some dissent from a handful of anti-Trump conservatives, will reunite in opposition to Clinton’s agenda, her nominees, and perhaps even the idea that she should be impeached.
When she inevitably logs victories against Republicans in Congress—by reshaping the Supreme Court, for instance, or avoiding impeachment—it will be treated as capitulation by the conservative media, which will promote savior figures who, like Trump, promise to succeed where the Republican establishment failed. Those figures will become the Republican Party’s de facto future leaders—including, perhaps, its next presidential nominee—unless current ones figure out a way to break the cycle that spat out Trump for good. But between Drudge and Limbaugh and Breitbart and Fox News and their useful feeders like Gateway Pundit, they have their work cut out for them. The elbow room that existed for Trump within the party does not exist in its crowded market of media organs.
Next consider this piece, also at TNR, by Jeet Heer, who sketches out bleak prospects for Trump in various areas of life, post-election: "Citizen Pain." Excerpt:
In sum, post-election Trump is likely to become poorer and more socially isolated. Like Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2008, he might keep wading into current politics on social media, as a way to keep his name alive. But Palin’s star quickly faded after her ticket lost the election and, months later, she resigned from the governorship of Alaska. Guest appearances on Fox News, and a single season of the TLC reality show Sarah Palin’s Alaska, weren’t enough to keep her in the mainstream limelight. Similarly, Trump without a political movement will be a toothless loudmouth. The media will stop paying attention to him, and it will drive Trump to despair.
And finally there's this in Newsweek by Kurt Eichenwald: "A People's History of Donald Trump's Business Busts and Countless Victims." This piece makes no effort at prediction, but rather just traces Trump's history of failed ventures and abandoned partners. Extrapolate that forward and one can imagine a Trump political and media movement ending up on the garbage heap with Bonwit Teller's sculpture panels, noted in a telling anecdote from the very beginning of Trump's high-profile career. Excerpt:
The exterior they were destroying was an architectural masterpiece—bronze, platinum, hammered aluminum, glazed ceramic and tinted glass that shimmered like jewelry. Many New Yorkers had hoped the grandest portion would survive; curators from the Metropolitan Museum of Art had asked the developer to carefully remove the two bas-relief sculpture panels so they could be restored and put on public display. But that afternoon, the laborers, acting on orders from the developer, smashed the 50-year-old art deco panels into a rubble of stone, pebble and dirt.
The desecration horrified Manhattan’s art community, but the developer, a brash 34-year-old named Donald Trump, dismissed the criticism—pretending to be his own spokesman, “John Barron,” as he talked to reporters by phone. Saving the panels would have cost him $32,000 each, he said, and delayed work for a few days on his $100 million project, Trump Tower. Besides, he declared, he knew more than the curators—the panels had no artistic merit and little financial value.
I was worried Trump had a real shot at the nomination and even the presidency back in August 2015. Could be wrong but I'm less worried about his post-November capacity to further debase the political system. As for the Republican Party, he's done immense, even crippling, damage to that already, a legacy that won't fade away anytime soon.

UPDATE 7:11 PM: The alt-right, or at least Richard Spencer, is projecting an air of confidence in its own future (supposedly regardless of Trump's prospects). There may be some whistling in the dark there, though, in that the movement is intertwined with a candidate who's going to be a worldwide laughing stock. More on that some other time. Meanwhile, see this piece by Sarah Posner at Rolling Stone; and for background on the alt-right, see my posts here, here and here.

UPDATE 10/20: This article "Trump TV is definitely coming: Be afraid! But what the hell will it look like?" plays up the likelihood of Trump TV, only to conclude by saying it will be Web-based, which in my opinion underscores the idea that it will amount to little, especially given the older demographic of Trump's current audience.

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