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Opinion: The Rise (and Fall) of Donald Trump

A bit off topic here, but since it’s the weekend and this is basically all anyone in the world talks about anymore, I figured I’d chime in with an update on Donald Trump.  If you recall my 10 “Useless” 2016 predictions, I said:

  1. Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States.  The American electorate will reluctantly vote for Donald Trump as he seizes on a world of instability and literally scares the American public into voting for anyone but a mainstream politician.  Rising terrorism and economic instability will create an environment in which Trump’s harsh rhetoric and “do something” attitude is embraced relative to what has become the persistent dysfunction of mainstream politicians.  He will nominate Marco Rubio as his running mate which will bolster his position in Florida and convince some Hispanics that he isn’t a racist. Trump will brilliantly pivot to the center after winning the GOP nomination and will peg Hillary Clinton as a dishonest Washington Insider.  He will not win a majority vote in the national election, despite enough clever manoeuvring to win the Electoral College. (This is a major outlier prediction.  I request the right to be publicly shamed if I am wrong).  

There’s been a lot of ink spilled over the rise of Donald Trump. My view is much simpler than most. I think the American public feels like Washington has become a big partisan mess that no longer works. And the only fix at this point is a huge shake-up. Trump was the perfect candidate to seize on that feeling in a race that didn’t have a standout candidate. So, Trump rose to the top by consistently pegging himself as the outsider candidate who would be able to get things done in a political world where people can’t seem to agree on much. In a field of relatively weak competitors Trump knocked them down one by one by pegging them as weak status quo Washington insiders. But something appears to be derailing Trump’s strategy along the way – “Trump”.

I thought Trump would win the nomination by moving a bit right of someone like Cruz or Rubio, but leave himself just enough room to pivot back to center for the general election. Trump has basically been a Democrat his whole life so it would have been easy to pivot back to center without relinquishing some of his newly acquired Conservative positions. He probably could have wooed a number of moderate Republicans, Independents and even some moderate Democrats with a platform of infrastructure spending, some liberalization on social issues, etc.

The problem is, he’s done more than pivot just right of center during the primaries. In an “all in” move to win the nomination, Trump has made a huge strategic error as he’s pivoted too far right for most Americans to support. Along the way he has gone overboard in almost every way possible making it impossible to pivot back to center without looking silly. As the ego has grown so too has the inflammatory commentary about his party, the media, women, Hispanics, African Americans, etc. It all lacks the Presidential qualities we expect in the “leader of the free world” and makes him increasingly difficult to support. It’s a rather sad state of affairs for Centrists like myself who were really looking forward to supporting a billionaire sometimes Democrat, sometimes Republican.  Too bad he dropped out of the race already.