Friday, May 13, 2016

TRUMP'S FLIP-FLOPPING ISN'T A SIGN OF AMATEURISM -- IT'S A STRATEGY, AND IT WORKS

Paul Krugman makes note of a Donald Trump flip-flop on his economic plan, followed by another flip-flop:
The story so far: Last fall Mr. Trump suggested that he would break with Republican orthodoxy by raising taxes on the wealthy. But then he unveiled a tax plan that would, in fact, lavish huge tax cuts on the rich. And it would also, according to nonpartisan analyses, cause deficits to explode, adding around $10 trillion to the national debt over a decade....

Having secured the nomination, however, Mr. Trump apparently feels the need to seem more respectable....

... what’s really interesting is whom, according to Politico, Mr. Trump has brought in to revise his plans: Larry Kudlow of CNBC and Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation.
In other words, Trump brought in right-wing Establishment supply-siders. But even as Krugman's column was being published, this news broke:
After days of confusion over Donald J. Trump’s hints that he would change his tax plan to reduce its budget-busting cost and make it less generous to the rich, his spokeswoman on Thursday sought to clear things up: He plans no changes, Hope Hicks said, and advisers who say otherwise do not speak for him.
Is this incompetence? It seems that way. Is it Romneyesque flip-flopping? It's worse than Romneyesque -- Romney rarely had more than two approaches to any subject, and his flip-flops tended to evolve slowly and stick once the flip had turned into a flop. Trump just changes with the prevailing winds.

But is that a bug? No, it's a feature. Mainstream pundits still get to say that Trump speaks for the same people Bernie Sanders speaks for, because the billionaire made offhand remarks about taxing the rich a while back. And yet the plan is a plutocrat-friendly one -- unless you're a deficit hawk, in which case Trump floats the idea that he might hire some Acela Corridor insiders to make it less of a budget-buster, even if the rumors that he's actually done so have been denied by the campaign.

Trump is whatever you want to believe he is.

On another subject -- the financing of his campaign -- Reuters notes that flip-flopping works for Trump:
Supporters of billionaire Donald Trump appear unfazed by his decision to accept money from outside donors, despite his earlier vow to self-fund his presidential campaign and his criticism of rivals as puppets of wealthy special interests.

... Trump has said he would no longer self-finance and would work with the party to raise more than $1 billion to help him fight his eventual Democratic Party challenger. Critics accused him of flip flopping, but some supporters don't agree.

Three dozen of the 40 pro-Trump voters Reuters interviewed said they were not concerned about his reversal. Only four indicated the switch made them uneasy, though all of them said they would still support him.

Most of those interviewed applauded the way the celebrity businessman billed himself as a "blue-collar billionaire" who didn't need other people's money, but said they understood Trump would need far more resources to compete in the general election.
If you're Trump, once you've said you're independent of special interests, everyone believes you, even if it's not true.

This is happening on a lot of issues. Yesterday we had this headline from CNN: "Trump: Muslim Ban 'Just a Suggestion.'" At the same time, Trump was telling Fox's Greta Van Susteren that the Muslim ban isn't a suggestion -- he intends to impose it, if only temporarily. But lots of people heard what they wanted to hear -- fans still expect the ban, while centrist journalists and GOP Establishment figures got to say that that was all a lot of overheated rhetoric we shouldn't think about anymore.



Trump is open about all this, as Politico reports:
Trump: Everything I say now is a suggestion

To hear Donald Trump explain his various proposals on Friday, including a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States -- with exceptions, the presumptive Republican nominee made one thing clear: As of right now, they are all just suggestions.

Calling into "Fox & Friends," ... Trump was asked by co-host Brian Kilmeade about the response to his comment that his Muslim ban was "just a suggestion."

"Yeah. It was a suggestion. Look, anything I say right now, I'm not the president," Trump said. "Everything is a suggestion, no matter what you say, it's a suggestion."
This is why an anti-Trump strategy being developed by Hillary Clinton's campaign might run into some difficulties. Here's Greg Sargent writing about that strategy:
Focus groups of swing voters have picked up some warning signs for Democrats about Donald Trump’s general election candidacy: While those swing voters are willing to see Trump as a risky, divisive figure, they are not yet prepared to believe the Dem argument that Trump’s policy proposals would benefit the rich, a senior Democratic strategist who has been directly involved in extensive focus groups tells me.

... The question is what swing voters will believe, and these focus groups suggest a good deal of uncertainty among swing voters about where Trump actually stands on the economy...

... the challenge for Democrats ... will be to persuade swing voters not just that Trump is wholly unfit for the job, but that he’s also running a massive economic con.
But Trump is very good at persuading gullible people that he really means whatever they want to hear. Whatever he says, he says with tremendous conviction, even if he said the exact opposite (also with tremendous conviction) an hour ago on another TV show.

I hope the Clinton campaign can persuade voters that they won't like what he'd really do. But he makes a lot of contrary pronouncements on a lot of issues. Voters (and GOP leaders, and the media) might decide that the pronouncements they like are the ones he really means.

6 comments:

AllieG said...

Contradicting oneself ia not generally considered a sign of cogent thinking, though of course everyone does once in awhile. But mostly in politics, the takeaways from frequent changes of position are 1. This will person will say anything for my approval. 2. One of the positions must be a lie.
tt's like what Mark Cuban said, Trump is the guy in the bar who'll anything to get laid.

Ernest Lamonica said...

"But Trump is very good at persuading gullible people that he really means whatever they want to hear." Is there enough gullible voters there to win an Election? NO way.

oc democrat said...

"But Trump is very good at persuading gullible people that he really means whatever they want to hear."

My favorite analogy from the 2012 Republican Clown Car race:

Newt Gingrich is what a STUPID person Thinks an intelligent(LOL)
politician sounds like!

D. Hussein said...

Steve, I know doom and gloom is your default mode, but the trees are blocking your view of the forest. As many stupid people as there are in this country, there aren't nearly enough of them to elect this authoritarian sociopathic gasbag, as long as the non-stupid people show up in November. And being non-stupid, they will show up.

Don't panic. Vote.

Blackstone said...

It works because..NOBODY expects the Trumpisition! Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Donald....

Carol Jim Peale said...

The DC media will be in the bag for Trump. They've already got their stories in the can about what a really nice guy he is and oh so moderate. Those assholes always remind me of Mort Sahl's description of the political media after Nixon's election. "They're just like a girl who's found out she's pregnant and is now desperately trying to fall in love."