Having studied Donald Trump’s behavior over the past 18 months very carefully, I have come to the conclusion that he possesses one extremely valuable skill. And that is his astonishing ability to thrive off of controversy and chaos.
The more chaos surrounding Trump, the better he ultimately does. Trump ran perhaps the most disorganized, shambolic and utterly incompetent presidential campaign in US history. From plagiarized speeches to breathless displays of ignorance and idiocy, Trump bumbled from one enormous fuck up to the next without batting an eyelid. Trump’s campaign was more like a never ending Jerry Springer episode than a political run for office, with each minute getting progressively crazier and crazier. The worse it got, the more vitriolic those of us with a sense of decency became — the repulsive misogyny, the attacks on Muslims, the overt racism, and the total disregard for the truth defied all social norms, and the only sane reaction seemed to be one of utter revulsion. How could someone so disgusting be running for office, and how dare he upend hundreds of years of decorum surrounding the presidential office?
But Trump didn’t give a damn, and he just kept on creating more and more chaos around him. Those of us who cover this game for a living saw what we thought was the writing on the wall — he was alienating himself from the majority of the nation and setting himself up for a spectacular defeat in November.
Sadly, the will of the majority doesn’t mean much in American politics, and through the archaic electoral system, Trump pulled out the most shocking victory in US history. By creating enough hatred and discontent in swing states, Trump pulled the rug out from underneath Clinton’s feet and took his form of predatory politics, racism and misogyny right the way to the White House. It turned out enough of the country hated liberals and bought into Trump’s bullshit to make a difference where it counted, and a man with no understanding of policy, no regard for truth, and no respect for the office he is about to run could indeed become the most powerful man on the planet.
Trump did not plan this — he simply trusted his ability to thrive in the midsts of madness. He correctly gambled that the enough Americans were so sick of the political system that they would vote for anyone with the balls to defy it. It didn’t matter who it was or what they were promising to do, as long as they went at the elites and insiders with enough bombast, Americans would vote for change. Trump simply owned his extreme dysfunction, and his supporters loved him for it.
The media and the left unwittingly aided all of this by focusing relentlessly on Trump’s personal failing. We played our part in that too. The more attention we gave him for this garishness, sexism and brazen idiocy, the more his supporters rallied around him. Trump could have been found with an underage girlfriend snorting cocaine at a KKK rally and it would have most likely helped drive the vote out on election day.
Trump understands this well, and is still using the media to his advantage by creating more chaos. Back on Twitter after a brief hiatus, Trump has been needling liberals and the media with jabs at The New York Times, actors who lectured Mike Pence at the play ‘Hamilton’, and Saturday Night Live.
I have recieved and taken calls from many foreign leaders despite what the failing @nytimes said. Russia, U.K., China, Saudi Arabia, Japan,
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2016
The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2016
I watched parts of @nbcsnl Saturday Night Live last night. It is a totally one-sided, biased show – nothing funny at all. Equal time for us?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2016
Trump’s pettiness is probably real — he genuinely does harbor deep resentment for those who make fun of him — but he also understands that the feuds he engages in creates more chaos. And the more chaos there is, the stronger Trump becomes.
If we spend too much time dissecting his tweets, lamenting his lack of dignity and mocking his pettiness, Trump will continue stacking his administration with the worst political creatures imaginable and enacting his preposterous plans to “Make America Great Again”. While we protest his divisive language and pledge to never call him President, Trump will get to work gutting medicare, medicaid, public education and destroying the EPA.
My prediction about Trump’s demise has not changed, although I believe I was wrong by about a year. He will undo himself in the coming months, because he is simply not capable of running the country. His lack of self control, short attention span and greed will get the better of him in the long run and we will be witness to the types of political scandal not seen since Roman times. But if we choose to focus on the superficial, Trump might last longer. As his administration descends into chaos, Trump will use it to garner popular support and hammer his opposition. Scandals will be media creations and conspiracies orchestrated by liberals, and Trump will continue laying waste to everything around him.
If we focus on the issues instead, Trump loses. Every serious economist regards his infrastructure plans as unworkable fiction. Trump’s cabinet is stuffed with incompetence from top to bottom, and their agenda is equally as stupid. His tax plans will massively favor the rich while hurting the majority of working Americans, and his health care policy is completely non-existent. Our job in the media should be to focus on this, and uncover the rampant corruption already present in his administration.
When Trump tweets, we must not react. When Trump attempts to create chaos, and we must respond with calm. We can no longer play his games, because it is not a game we can win.
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Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.