What makes Trump tick? Talk.
Pundits, to be more broad. Ann Coulter would let Trump perform abortions in the White House if it meant he would stick to his immigration rhetoric. Laura Ingraham and her fans believe that Trump must be elected for his immigration views, because all other issues are decided by it. Sean Hannity says Trump will save us from the “flood” of illegals. Rush Limbaugh never took Trump seriously on his immigration rhetoric (he says now) but still he’s better than Hillary.
Gang of 8. Amnesty. Those were the keywords of the primary. The topic. And it happens to be the favorite and most precious topic for talk radio and Breitbart dot com and Ann Coulter books and Fox News shows and … well, you get the picture.
Now Trump has changed his position on immigration. He has. And Wednesday he may change it back. Because as wrong as Rush was for never bringing it up until now, he was right to not take Trump seriously on the topic. There was never a reason to take him seriously. Rush didn’t say it but definitely knows that Donald Trump’s campaign and policy positions so far have been tailor-made for the talk radio audience. And why? Because they’ve been tailor-made by the talk radio hosts.
Golf buddies with Rush, Hannity advising him, Ingraham advising him, Coulter advising him, but this is all our fault if he loses.
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) August 27, 2016
Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Stephen Bannon … these are all people advising Trump, shaping him. Creating him.
There is this theory among the talk radio/conservative publishing/Fox opinion show set that if only a candidate would come along who dared to say what talk radio hosts say, he’d be wildly popular and win the presidency. They’ve said this many times. I mean, they don’t put it quite that way; they say someone who speaks the conservative message “unapologetically” would win. In fact, it is that firm belief in conservative talk as representative of the nation that is at the root of the “immigration is all things” idea. Which is to say, massive demographic change would change that dynamic.
So these pundits believe that if a candidate came along who took no crap and said what they say every day, that person would dominate. It seems that they’ve tried to create that candidate in Donald Trump. The problem, obviously, is that the talk radio/conservative publishing/Fox opinion show model isn’t about conservative policy and ideas, or good governance, or increasing our liberty, or social conservative values, or even really about the Constitution. To a great extent, it is essentially about getting the audience outraged. Outrage clicks on links. Outrage tunes in. Outrage buys books.
Political correctness is ruining America forever and will probably murder your family! Illegal aliens will definitely murder your family. That may be how to build an audience but it’s not a blueprint for being a successful chief executive. Unfortunately these pundits are so deep in their own world that they treat these daily outrages as the apotheosis of a conservative message.
Now, it’s not that these issues don’t matter. There is plenty to be outraged about. It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you, and Democrats really are out to do a whole lot of no good. They do want to take away your private gun ownership. They will say this out loud. They do want to redistribute wealth. They do believe in socialist policy. These are real things. And political correctness, in the sense that people and schools and entire states are pressured or legally forced into absurd situations because of the fear of offending someone, is also a real thing.
But that does not make it the sum total of conservative thinking or conservative policy or the key to a successful campaign or a successful presidency. There must be depth beyond what you say to get people stuck in traffic to wait through the commercial break. Only that depth does not exist in Trump. He doesn’t have it. That’s exactly why he turned his back on the Second Amendment after Orlando, and it’s why he has turned his back on his own deportation rhetoric. His pundit creators gave him a script that made him popular and liked and generally brought good media coverage during the primary. But that free ride is over and now he’s facing not only disapproval and outrage of a whole new level, but he’s not winning.
During the primary, Trump had the positive reinforcement of dominating polls and winning votes. Now he’s tanking and he knows it. So, like the slimy used car salesman he is, he has simply changed his opinion to suit the moment.
Now, facing reciprocal backlash from the flip, he may switch it back.
Donald Trump is the talk radio candidate, or the pundit candidate anyway. With so many of them advising him, acting as his confidantes and influencing his decisions, how can he be anything but a product of their influence. But they appear now to be in a tug of war with traditional campaign advisors about who he should be the general election. Should he pivot and tack left or should he double down and go further right? That tug of war is why he has done both of those things just in the last few weeks, right before our eyes.
Who will Trump be this week? Will he be Bannon’s Trump or Conway’s? Will he be Ingraham’s product or the RNC’s? If he doesn’t pick your preferred flavor, don’t worry. There’s always next week.
Just as long as you keep tuning in.