After his recent series of disasters, you would think Donald Trump would consider toning down the crazy, but he told radio host Michael Savage on Monday that change is the last thing on his mind.
Observers will have noticed that candidates don’t stay the course, however much they talk about staying the course. The primaries are not the general election and, as Max Deveson noted for the BBC back in 2008, “In order to pass their political driving test, successful politicians need to be masters of one tricky manoeuvre in particular – the U-turn.”
Also called ‘flip-flopping,’ this is also called ‘post-primary moderation effect,’ and what it tells us is that candidates will take more extreme positions in the primaries – like Trump, pandering to the base and to activists – but for the general election, shift toward the center to make them more appealing to people beyond their base.
Again, according to Trump, this isn’t going to happen. Take a listen courtesy of Right Wing Watch:
Savage: “The reason you’re popular is because of borders, because of immigration, because of the flood of Muslims coming into the country. I would almost say, Donald, please don’t let the moderate influences in your campaign take you off-point, it’s what got you where you are. Are you going to modify your campaign and move a little bit more to the center now?”
Trump: “You know, you just said it better than anybody could. It’s what got me here. I mean I’m leading by a lot. I have millions of votes more. You know, they don’t even look at that they look at delegates but I have a lot of delegates more. But I have millions of votes more than Cruz. More than anybody. And millions of votes. But you see what’s happening. It’s the biggest story in politics is all these people coming out to vote for me, and the last thing I should be doing now is changing Michael, so I don’t think you have anything to worry about, okay?”
Trump has a point. Obama’s 2008 shift to the center did not go unremarked:
“Barack Obama has been performing a more traditional manoeuvre: running to the left during the primaries, when party activists need to be wooed, then shifting to the center once the nomination is clinched.”
And yes, there will always be those of the base who feel the ‘revolution’ has been betrayed by its leader.
Yet as Deveson observed, “Flip-flopping politicians will always attract charges of hypocrisy and opportunism: it may be worth it if it helps them win over undecided voters in the middle, but when the goal is to shore up their political base, the benefits are much less clear.”
Trump does have millions of people casting votes for him, but he should not let this go to his head: losing politicians frequently have millions of people casting votes for them. Like McCain in 2008, or Romney in 2012.
Obviously, his political base is what Trump is concerned about. They are certainly fanatical in their devotion to all things Trump. Perhaps he reasons there are enough of them to carry him through Election Day in November without adding to their number. Perhaps he really believes he speaks for a “silent majority” whatever the numbers actually tell us.
Trump is selling a campaign of outrage to an outraged base. This is what he has built his entire candidacy on from the very beginning. Never mind that the positions of his opponents have been just as extreme (nobody should be fooled by Kasich’s apparent ‘moderation’). Trump is different in that there is no polish: he gets up there and wings it, flying fast and loose with the facts as 9 out of 10 things that leave his mouth are lies.
But they are lies the base wants to hear. This is why I have compared Trump to a Christian apologist. He is reassuring the base that all their bigotries are justified, and that to say they’re not is simply a surrender to ‘political correctness.’ This sells. Just like Christian apologetics sell. It has made Trump a rock star, and the politics of the center have no appeal to him. That’s “establishment” territory in his worldview, even though it hasn’t been since 2008, at least.
And how can you let down a guy like former actor Scott Baio, who says “”DonaldTrump is the only guy, I think, that has the will & the nerve to attack & to fight.” Attack dogs don’t moderate. If his campaign began as a protest, it has become much more than that.
Conventional politics mean nothing to a man who has placed himself outside the mainstream, the ultimate political James Dean, though one who, at least pretends he has a cause somewhere in his campaign against an America that hasn’t existed since 2008 and against everyone who isn’t white or Christian. And because two guys got caught trying to sneak across at the end of March, Trump celebrated April 1 by calling again for a ‘great wall’ between real ‘Muricans and Mexicans.
How he expects to win over swing state voters and independents is anybody’s guess, as is just how serious Trump is about anything he says. All we can do is judge by the results, and there is nothing to suggest from anything Trump has said or done that he plans to moderate his message. This is one area where, until he shows us otherwise, we will have to take him at his word.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.