Donald Trump’s Fall from Grace: It wasn’t exactly from being Dumb

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Briar Woods High School, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016, in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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I had expected that when Donald Trump sewed up the Republican nomination, he would jettison some of his more non-Republican economic positions on trade, runaway shops, and government spending. I also expected that he would forego his incendiary anti-PC rhetoric on Mexicans, Muslims, and women. I was wrong on both counts. His economic stands might have made the election competitive, especially in the industrial Midwest, but his casual bigotry – typified by his remarks on the “Mexican” judge and by his recent attempt to defame the Khan family – have cut him off the from the 10-15 percent of the Republican and independent electorate who don’t share his economic positions, but would have been willing to vote for him out of distaste for Hillary Clinton and/or loyalty to the Republican party.

The question is why he did this: some people think it’s because he’s dumb. In a certain sense, yes, but in general sense no. I think Trump is or was a brilliant real estate developer — it’s a business he learned from his father and thoroughly understands. Look at the deal he got for his kids on that luxury hotel in DC. He also became a very skilled TV performer and mastered the art of being able to speak to an audience of millions — or in the case of his campaign, audiences of thousands — as if he were having a conversation with them. He has Reaganesque skills in that respect.

The problem was that like many successful businessmen, he thought his skills in one endeavor were transferrable to another. He should have learned that lesson when he went into the pro football and casino businesses, and ended up losing his shirt, but he didn’t. When, due to a crowded field and his own skills as a communicator and the fact that there is a third of the Republican primary electorate who dug him, he won the Republican nomination, he thought the skills and temperament and mentality and political positions that he had brought to bear in the primaries would gain him the presidency in a general election. And that included snapping back viciously at whoever criticized him or otherwise got in his way. And it’s not working at all — he’s probably already thrown away any chance to win. At some point, I suspect he’ll realize that he didn’t know what he was doing, but I think it took a long time with casinos and may take a long time — perhaps, one hopes, until well after November — with this presidential race.

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