Ten Things We Learned from Trump’s Presidential Campaign

Barring a catastrophe Donald Trump will not become the 45th president of the United States.

At the risk of tempting fate Ms Soapbox would like to present a top 10 list of things we learned from Trump’s doomed presidential campaign.

The Top 10 List

TEN:  The Republican Party is in desperate need of an overhaul: In 1860 the GOP selected Abraham Lincoln to be its first presidential candidate. Mr Lincoln was a thoughtful man who worked hard to create consensus across party lines.

By 2016 the GOP had drifted so far from its principles that it selected a craven businessman to be its presidential candidate.  Not surprisingly Donald Trump was so ill-suited to the task that he eventually abandoned the GOP in all but name, opting to run as the candidate for the alt-right movement.

NINE:  Running a country is not the same a running a business: It turns out free market entrepreneurs are not the best candidates for public office. This isn’t surprising because businessmen use the system—tax loopholes, bankruptcy laws, Chinese steel illegally dumped in the country—to pump up the bottom line while good political leaders improve the system to better serve the public good.  This requires a change in focus from me, me, me to us.

EIGHT: Being glib and obnoxious might work in business but it’s no substitute for coherent policy: It’s not enough to say the economy, the military, Obamacare, Iraq, NAFTA, safety, immigration, is a disaster and only I can fix it.  A candidate needs to articulate how and why his policies will work.  Oh and saying the US would have defeated ISIS if it had simply “taken the oil” when it left Iraq is not what we mean by a well articulated policy.


SEVEN:  Having contempt for minorities is dangerous; having contempt for women is suicidal. Trump divided the country into “us” and “them” by attacking immigrants, African Americans, Muslims, and Latinos; he threw in people with disabilities and prisoners of war for good measure. And then he went after the women.  Soon there wasn’t anyone left in the “us” category except Trump and the alt-right.  This is hardly a winning strategy when a candidate needs more than the wing-nut vote to win.  On the upside, we can thank him for the “nasty woman” label…it’s emblazoned on everything from T-shirts to coffee cups.   

SIX:  Being inarticulate will sink you: The pundits say televised debates don’t influence voters.  They’re wrong.  It’s one of the few times we get to assess the candidate under pressure.

Trump’s pathetic grasp of the English language rolled through all three debates.  He responded to the assertion that he painted “a dire negative picture of black communities” with “ugh” and said “stop and frisk” was ruled unconstitutional because it came before a “very against police judge”.

We’ve been down the sloppy-speech-equals-a-sloppy-mind path with George W Bush, we don’t need to do it again

FIVE:  There’s only so much you can blame on a global conspiracy or demons: Trump says if he loses it will be because the election is rigged but this doesn’t square with the Russians hacking the Democrats emails to influence the outcome in his favour.

He says Bernie Sanders made a deal with the devil when he threw his support behind Hillary–an allusion to the allegation that Hillary is a demon.  Apparently her security team can smell sulphur wafting off her body and everyone knows demons have poor personal hygiene. *Head shake* 

FOUR:  When one’s temperament is at issue it doesn’t pay to be vicious and vengeful. In 2006 Rosie O’Donnell criticized Trump for not stripping a beauty contestant of her title for underage drinking (and mimicked his comb-over on TV).  Trump responded with a barrage of hateful comments.  In the first debate he said Rosie deserved his abuse and no one feels sorry for her.  Geez Donald, get over it already.  To paraphrase Hillary: a man who can’t back away from snarky comments made 10 years ago should not be allowed anywhere near the nuclear codes.

THREE:  When mainstream media screws up, it screws up big time. The mainstream media succumbed to the temptation to headline Trump at the expense of the other Republican candidates, this allowed Trump to build up a head of steam. By the time the media realized Trump might actually win the nomination other credible contenders like John Kasich were sidelined.

TWO:  Political satire can take anyone down…but it takes creative genius to parody Donald Trump. What can I say?  Alec Baldwin, Kate McKinnon and the entire SNL team deserve Emmys for their brilliant portrayal of the presidential candidates.  And Donald, please note, Kate was just as hard on Hillary as Alec was on you.

ONE:  Democracy, clunky though it may be, still works: Despite the fact that the GOP saddled the public with an egomaniac as the Republican presidential nominee, Americans found a way to look beyond party loyalty and reject him.

Given the expected outcome of this election the GOP will be forced to conduct a deep post-mortem.  One can only hope that they’ll review their history, starting with Abe Lincoln, and figure out how to do it right next time.

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32 Responses to Ten Things We Learned from Trump’s Presidential Campaign

  1. Roy Wright says:

    I would like to think that “Ten strikes and you are out” would apply for the residual impacts of a trash campaign. While the likelyhood of Trump being elected might be minimal, the colateral damage to American society is huge (including possible washing over other democratic nations such as ours). The Economist of October 15 had an interesting quote from Daniel Patrick Moynihan that stated “…that when many bad things happen at once, societies define deviancy down, until the list of what is unacceptable is short enough to be managed.” Can society pull back up after such layers of abuse on abuse? I hope this will not be the new “norm”. The notion of “how low can you go” only belongs in the limbo dance, not civil society.

    • Roy, thanks for the quote from The Economist. Seems to me Donald Trump tested the question of “how low can you go” and it appears there really is no bottom to the depths to which a politician and his followers will sink. The fact that his supporters justify his sexual assaults with (1) he’s now a born again Christian so it doesn’t count or (2) I don’t care as long as he takes out Hillary, tells you a lot about his supporters.

  2. Bill Malcolm says:

    All true, but I don’t find Clinton clears anything but a low bar herself. All I see is an overweening ambition to be president, almost to the exclusion of everything else.

    One thing’s for sure. All those nutbar Trump supporters will indeed bestir themselves to get out and vote. I fear a great many Democrats may give it a miss in general ennui at the whole situation. In that case, we may end up with a US prez who needs a daily dose of Ritalin for concentration if he’s to make decisions more complicated than how brown he wants his toast at breakfast.

    • Bill, your comment goes back to my point about the GOP selection process which allowed Trump to enter the race and the media’s shameless coverage of the reality TV star because it boosted their ratings. The combined result led to the elimination of a number of candidates who would have given Hillary a run for her money.
      PS I loved your Ritalin comment.

      • Jeff Menard says:

        Trump (a flawed candidate) did position himself as a change candidate /outsider and did not receive backing by RNC (and most establishment donors) but still won the primary election. I would consider this a positive aspect of the RNC primary process that provides opportunity for change. On the other hand, we now know (due to Wikileaks) that the DNC did create an unlevel playing field and along with the mainstream media and effectively crowned HRC before the primary process began.

  3. ABCanuck says:

    “All I see is an overweening ambition to be president, almost to the exclusion of everything else.”

    Running for POTUS is such a demanding task in itself that without such “an overweening ambition” no one would, or could, do it.

    Clinton has served her country well – though being human, not perfectly – is eminently qualified, and is a stable, intelligent, predictable, well-connected, and well-supported person.

    Five gold stars to Ms. Soapbox for another outstanding post.

    • ABCanuck, I agree with you, running for POTUS requires tremendous ambition. And being POTUS, wow! Recently I saw a clip where Donald Trump’s son said winning the election would be a “step down” for his father because Trump had achieved so much already by building his multi-billion dollar empire. Let’s see, being the leader of the most powerful country on the planet versus running a real estate company…? Yep, being a real estate mogul and a reality TV star is definitely more important.

  4. Jim Lees says:

    Good lessons Susan, thanks. With respect to the last lesson, the process appears to have worked in terms of vetting a fatally flawed candidate, however I’m one of those who believes the choice for voters is the lesser of two evils. There is something wrong with the process however – are Clinton and Trump really the two best candidates in the country for the Presidency? Politics favours good politicians, but they are not necessarily good leaders…..

    • Good point about the process Jim. Frankly I can’t understand how Trump made it through the vetting process at all. The process on the Democratic side seemed more open given how far Bernie Sanders got but there are indications that he was cut off at the pass by the old guard. It almost felt like the Democratic Party powers-that-be thought Hillary was entitled to be their candidate regardless of how well Sanders did in the primaries.

  5. Anon ABC says:

    The good news, if the polls are to be believed (the RealClearPolitics average of the current polls has Hillary leading by 3.8% in a 4 way) is that Trump is unlikely to win. The bad news is that it looks like Hillary is.

    Bob Woodward of Watergate fame and who had won almost every conceivable journalistic prize, and had been instrumental in winning 2 Pulitzer Prizes for his employer, Washington Post, had just publicly stated that the Clinton Foundation is corrupt and is a scandal. Here are his words: “But the mixing of speech fees, the Clinton Foundation, and actions by the State Department, which she ran, are all intertwined and it’s corrupt. You know, I mean, you can’t just say it’s unsavory. But there’s no formal investigation going on now, and there are outs that they have.” Here is the link: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2016/10/23/bob_woodward_on_clinton_foundation_it_is_corrupt_she_didnt_answer_the_question.html

    And then there is the issue of Hillary’s emails. Rasmussen had a poll out that 65% of Americans felt that Hillary had done something illegal with her private server, 53% believed that the FBI should have criminally indicted her and 70% felt that her mishandling of classified information was important: http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/elections/election_2016/most_still_say_clinton_should_have_been_indicted

    None of the MSM other than FOX (and it is questionable it is considered mainstream, at least according to non Republicans) carried Woodward’s opinion because they are too busy reporting on the latest allegation from an apparent porn star that Trump had done something offensive to her. In addition, we now know from the WikiLeaks revelations about the cozy relationships that Hillary campaign has with the MSM to the extent of even getting at least one debate question in secret in advance.

    Surely corruption, conflicts of interest and the use of public office for personal gain as well as integrity in handling the affairs of the state are much more important on the day after the election than the behavior, repugnant as it is, of her opponent?

    Thus perhaps the single most important thing, not mentioned in your list above, that we have learned from Trump’s Presidential campaign is that if one is challenging the establishment, be prepared to take on the elites from BOTH main parties.

    • Good point Anon ABC, a presidential candidate must be prepared to take on the elites from BOTH main parties. This brings the conversation back to the way unlimited campaign funding has undermined the democratic process at all levels. The NPR fact checkers say that while it’s good that Clinton wants the Supreme Court to strike down Citizens United which allows what Clinton calls “dark money” to go to politicians, another case McCutcheon v FEC should also be reviewed. In McCutcheon the Supreme Court agreed that it was a violation of an individual’s First Amendment rights to limit the amount he could contribute to a politician to $117,000 over a two year period. It’s interesting how the richer you are the more effective you can be at exercising your First Amendment rights.

      • Jeff Menard says:

        I agree that money in politics; superpacs, corp or billionaire donors has to be eliminated before representation goes back to the people.
        In terms of TRUMP voters, I wouldn’t be so quick to classify all of them as ignorant or bigots. Most of them understand their being left behind by the last 4-5 presidents and HRC, regardless of the Dems platform, doesn’t even try to speak to them. More of the same isn’t working for these people. Trump the opportunist / marketing man took advantage and showed up in the rust belt.
        In hindsight, HRC did not excite or inspire the electorate. Dems always lose when turnout is low.

      • Jeff you’re right that we shouldn’t be quick to classify all of Trump’s supporters as ignorant or bigots. I’m picking up two other threads on why voters may have supported him. The first is the one you outlined–many of his supporters felt like the Dems had abandoned them and they were left behind by a party no longer looking out for their interests. The second is they felt HRC was the epitome of a corrupt party, indeed a corrupt government, which was in bed with the big banks and big corporations, the 1%. In both of these cases Trump’s supporters were prepared to overlook his racist bigoted comments in order to elect an “outsider” who would change things. Now some of these supporters are worried that Trump will back-track. He’s said he won’t prosecute HRC, the wall may become a fence, and he’s putting a few members of the old guard into his cabinet. The fact he’s considering Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan as Treasury Secretary isn’t going down too well either.

  6. ronmac says:

    The GOP hasn’t been the “party of Lincoln” since Lncoln was assaissinaed

    • ronmac I’m reading Team of Rivals which describes how Lincoln secured the presidential nomination and all he went through leading the Union through the Civil War. If the GOP had 1/100th of Lincoln’s intelligence, empathy and political savvy it would be an amazing party.

    • carlosbeca says:

      You got that very right. Well we have evolved. Now the president can be a person with a criminal record but he/she has to be born in the US, that is the important part. Oh I was forgetting, they also have to be able to click the nuclear button.

  7. jerrymacgp says:

    “…We’ve been down the sloppy-speech-equals-a-sloppy-mind path with George W Bush, we don’t need to do it again…” True, up to a point, but Shrub was positively Churchillian in his oratorical skills when compared to The Hairpiece That Walks Like a Man …

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an inarticulate candidate for public office at any level.

    • Jerrymacgp you are SO right! I just watched a clip on Trump’s use of language. The Boston Globe put all 26 candidates presidential announcements through the Flesch-Kincaid readability test to determine their reading level–Trump’s announcement scored at the grade 4 level which was the absolute bottom. Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush scored at the grade 8 level and Bernie Sanders scored at grade 10. The clip said Trump has a huckster’s knack of selling a feeling and doesn’t care that his words will be analyzed, he just says what he has to say to hook his listeners. Sadly, this works on millions of Americans. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_aFo_BV-UzI
      PS I loved “The Hairpiece That Walks Like a Man”. Very witty!

      • jerrymacgp says:

        Thanks for your props, but I can’t claim total credit for this formulation: I stole it, with deep respect, from Allan Fotheringham’s description in his Maclean’s back page columns of former PM Brian Mulroney, whom he called “the Jaw That Walks Like a Man”. A more apt description of Mr Mulroney has not been created.

      • Jerry: “A more apt description of Mr Mulroney has not been created.” Indeed!

  8. Jane Walker says:

    Thanks again, Susan, for making some sense of the debacle we are watching here!! Nonetheless, this situation is terrifying!! I would like to disappear until Nov. 9th and wake to find things to be back to a decent ‘normal’ but I fear that the demographic that has been winding up here may be inflamed to a point where they cause ALL of us problems if they do not win. Poor Hillary!! Hope she and the rest of the world are ready for this possibly immense disruption.
    Thank you for all that YOU do! We are all blessed with your diligence in maintaining this top notch blog.

  9. GoinFawr says:

    On top of all these I learnt that Alec Baldwin has a helluva talent for physical humour!

    • I agree GoinFawr! The only upside of Trump’s miserable campaign is the humor it created. The twitter account #TrumpBookReport took off during the debates when someone tweeted that Trump’s foreign policy answers sounded like a teenager’s book report on a book he hadn’t read. Some tweets were very clever. For example: “Hated Charlotte’s Web. Wilbur was a disgusting pig and Charlotte manipulated the media. But Templeton: tremendous guy.”

  10. Carlos Beca says:

    What is happening in the US reminds me of my favorite movie with Peter Sellers titled ‘Being There’. Watch it If you have not yet.
    Of all of your points the most important one to me is number 9 ‘Running a Country like a business’ – until we back out of that idea we will never fix our political system. It is obvious why and you explain it very well.

    • GoinFawr says:

      “Being There” is indeed an excellent film; I would add this election cycle has elements of Sellers’ “Magic Christian” too.

      Spike Lee’s recommendation of “A Face in the Crowd” is right on the mark as well,

      “Rednecks, crackers, hillbillies, hausfraus, shut-ins, pea-pickers – everybody that’s got to jump when somebody else blows the whistle. They don’t know it yet, but … They’re mine! I own ’em! They think like I do. Only they’re even more stupid than I am, so I gotta think for ’em. “- Lonesome Rhodes

      There ya go folks, hours of fun and edification from me and Carlos!

      • GoinFawr your comment is timely. I just had lunch with a group of politically engaged friends. We were trying to figure out whether the public is stupid or too busy to engage in the democratic process. In either case, something has to change if we’re to avoid being dragged off into a pseudo democracy.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Susan I know I am a pain in the neck but I think that if the US was a democracy they would not be sliding into a pseudo Democracy. The problem is that we are not democracies. We are pseudo democracies sliding into oblivion due to our political class, our greed and our human incompetence.

        The Republican party is controlled by lunatics and our wealthiest elites and of course they lost the sense of reality. They chose the best of them, the rest to me is just fluff. Look at Gingrich, he is just jumping up and down in awe of Trump. He cannot wait to have a sit at the table and show the rest of the world the American Caligulas. 🙂
        GoinFawr I have not seen ‘A Face in the Crowd’. Coming from you I have to watch it 🙂

      • Jim Lees says:

        Trump is playing both sides – if he doesn’t win the election, he is hoping he will at least get his Emmy at last…..

    • Carlos, what a great comparison. How I wish it was Chance the simple minded gardener and not Trump the simple minded meglomaniac that we’ve been listening to these past 18 months.

  11. GoinFawr says:

    “незнаем как у вас в демократии, но у нас в тоталитарной России о победе сообщает Центральная избирательная комиссия.”

    I think that says something like: ” In totalitarian Russia glorious electoral commission chooses winner FOR you”… or something along those lines.

    Which I am assured is why as of today Putin is still not congratulating Joe Biden on becoming the US president elect (because: “not official nyet”) no matter how compelling other reasons for Mr.Putin’s reticence might be.

    Re: ‘Rigged’ US election, I agree. It was egregiously rigged.

    I mean isn’t tampering with the US mail a felony at the best of times, let alone deliberately impeding its services immediately prior to a federal election; in the middle of a pandemic, when it is oh-so-obviously much more likely vast numbers of people will be voting by mail in order to protect themselves? Especially when the incumbent is encouraging his base to ignore the dangers of the pandemic, knowing perfectly well that as a result they will be the largest group to vote ON election day, in person, rather than being responsibly cautious and mailing in their ballots.

    I suppose it all just seems a bit rich to me the suggestion that the people who have spent so much time closing polling sites, restricting early voting, delaying early vote counts, and sabotaging the postal system are worried about the election being rigged AGAINST them;

    hardcore Orwellian “doublethink” required to swallow that one, IMO

    • Jim Lees says:

      DT described his win as an overwhelming victory in 2016, apparently his definition has changed over the past 4 years. Don’t slam the door on the way out!

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