Live by the Poll, Die by the Poll

Early during the Republican primary contest – early enough that Scott Walker was still on the stage – Walker was busy touting one of his accomplishments in Wisconsin and contrasting them to Trump’s lack of experience in the government sector. I don’t remember specifically what Walker was touting or whether I agreed with it, but I do remember Trump’s response, which consisted entirely of alleging that he’d seen Walker’s approval rating in Wisconsin and it was not great. That was it.

It struck me then for the first time that Trump genuinely believes that the polls determine who is actually correct and incorrect. Sure, it’s not uncommon for political opponents to point out bad approval ratings (although Walker’s weren’t bad enough to bring up at the time), but usually in the context of substantive attack. “Walker’s program isn’t working because X and the people of Wisconsin know it, which is why his approval ratings are in the tank.” In Trump’s case, there was no substantive engagement on whether Walker’s programs were working or not working – just reference to the polls, the end.

Over and over again throughout the primary, Trump reinforced this point. Whenever anyone would raise a substantive objection to one of Trump’s plans or his rhetoric, his only response would be that he was leading in the polls so he must be right. Actual leaders know that right and wrong isn’t determined by polls, but Trump has been abundantly clear since the first day of his campaign that he never got that memo. To him, winning in the polls was the only validation he had or needed. And whenever anyone would point out that he polled poorly against Hillary, he always had at least one recent outlier poll that put him ahead of Hillary.

Corey Lewandowski found out the hard way yesterday that the volatile (and often incorrect) world of political polling can be a two-edged sword. While it provided all the ammo Trump needed to respond to his enemies, when Trump fell way behind Hillary in every poll, it became all the proof Trump needed that something was at last wrong with his campaign. Since Trump is incapable of even contemplating that the problem with his campaign might be Donald Trump himself, Lewandowski was the next logical scapegoat.

Watching this unfold, we all ought to give serious consideration to what sort of President Donald Trump will be, if elected. Set aside for a moment questions about his temperament, his experience, his willingness to hear difficult advice, his discernment, and his mental stability. The man has shown in every way that counts that, to him, correctness is determined by the immediate response of the polls. There is really no such thing as sticking by an unpopular decision to see how it plays out – if Trump suffers in the polls, he will change his mind and his course, and do so immediately.

Over the course of four years, there’s no telling how much damage such a man might do to the fabric of this country. If you ever thought Bill Clinton or John Kerry was an unprincipled flip flopper who would do anything to get elected and stay there, then baby you ain’t seen nothing yet.

We’ve already seen on the campaign trail that Trump is a serial flip flopper, but it’s one thing for Trump to change his positions because of the polls. It’s quite another for him to take an actual drastic action like firing his campaign manager over two bad weeks worth of polling. Nothing is stable, it seems. Nothing is so ironclad that Trump won’t undo it promptly if the polls dictate otherwise. He’s proven that this is the kind of “leader” he is.

And for Corey Lewandowski, that means he’s now looking for a job.