In the warfare of politics, there are often critical moments of both strategy and tactics. Strategy includes choosing the states you will contest, when you announce you are running, the central tenets of your campaign, etc. Tactics include setting up field offices, making media buys, and execution during debates, town halls, etc.
Hitler is famous for, among other reasons, managing to outmaneuver his enemies for over a decade and commencing a war with major victories gained without firing a single shot. He managed to gain Czechoslovakia and Austria through mere threats. At the outset of violence, he engaged in a campaign of disinformation and misdirection, resulting in his potential opponents being caught flat-footed. He even convinced future foe Stalin to work with him in the beginning.
Trump seized upon an issue very important to a sizable chunk of voters: fear and insecurity over both terrorism and also the domestic economy. He also did so in a manner of pointing an accusatory finger at “traitors”. This was a very important aspect of Hitler’s strategy in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, to point an accusatory finger at “traitors” who were responsible for Germany’s woes.
I have no intention of suggesting that the men themselves are similar in any way, but I am suggesting that there are some deep parallels in strategy and tactics. Hitler could never get a majority of the vote. He just managed to fight among irreconcilable factions and come out with roughly 44% on a platform of “Freedom and Bread”.
What Hitler did whenever one of his henchmen was caught red-handed, Trump is unwilling to do. Hitler would get rid of them, either figuratively or literally. He was not willing to let anyone in his inner or outer circle hurt his chances for power.
One Hitler started amassing major battlefield victories, he became convinced of his own ability to win. He sent in major forces into the USSR and would not allow them to retreat. Once it became clear they would lose, he sacrificed the military rather than admit a mistake.
In interviews, Trump attributes failure to the actions of others. He provides no direct quotes; rather, he retweets and quotes others. However, if someone appears even tangentially to attack his inner circle, he reflexively takes them on. Whatever else you want to call it, he is vulnerable to these types of attacks.
Hitler’s inner circle, when not eradicated by him, were very loyal. Whether fear or Stockholm Syndrome, they protected him against all manner of criticism. Trump’s inner circle is not demonstrating the same loyalty. When caught misbehaving, he has come to their defense. This is especially so where women are involved.
The core issue is not Trump’s core support group, all of whom have made their decision. The core issue is the 55-70% of Republican voters who are not within that group. Hitler made sure the general public was left in the dark about his personality and party members like Goebbels worked hard to carve an image. Trump does not have a Goebbels and instead insists that his “honesty” will carry him to victory, whether or not he files suits when he loses.
There has been so much speculation on motives and also on outcomes to date and many articles written about how Trump has withstood withering attacks and self-immolation by his own words. However, we now have Trump doubling down on defending Lewandowski, who has no benefit of charisma nor wealth as his benefactor. And since he is also not family and he is fighting his own war on women, he is indefensible.
Wisconsin will be the first sign. It is my belief he will lose in Wisconsin and it will mark the last time that Trump has a path to clear victory at the convention. While this does not mean he cannot come back, especially if he distances himself from Lewandowski very soon, it does mean that I am convinced this is one of his most fundamental strategic errors: attempting to shield a non-family member from harm when they engage in his own type of behavior.
I have several family members who are vociferous Trump supporters. They are angry and want to send a message. They take Trump at his word and want him to act. I understand their frustration. They don’t care about much other than his stances, as articulated in 2016, on most issues. Their enthusiasm is intense. I know they will indeed vote for him. I am not in that group and for me, I feel Edmund Burke stated it best: “hypocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises, for never intending to go beyond promise, it costs nothing.”
My palpable fear is that I am being told much that will simply not bear fruit. As Trump has stated, he had not planned to become a politician not so long ago and therefore his actions were those of a businessman going along to get along, to paraphrase. It is a blunt admission that pragmatism has greater value than principle. Given that, is it not a legitimate fear that stated principles will yield to pragmatism in all areas of a Trump presidency? And is this not the exact same concern Democrats have about Hillary Clinton?
Hillary Clinton would not, and has not, hesitated to throw her inner circle under the bus. This is what will result, most likely, in Clinton being the Democratic nominee, but Trump not being the Republican nominee. He believes that his own aura of invincibility may be loaned to associates. Yuuuuge mistake; in fact, it’s going to be the biggest mistake ever. Everyone will admit it’s the biggest mistake ever. And realizing it will allow America to become Great Again!