December 17, 2018

Why Trump is soaring

The more outrageous Donald Trump gets in his noisy and obnoxious campaign for the Republican nomination, the more his front-running poll numbers seem to be soaring.

What's going on? Are people that shallow? Don't they get that his shtick is just that — a shtick? Can't they see he's an arrogant blowhard?

Well, here's one possibility: Maybe a lot of people flocking to Trump know darn well it's all a big show, and they're enjoying it. It tickles them. They don't trust politicians anyhow, so why not go with someone who will at least entertain them?

It's like professional wrestling. People know it's an act, but they can't take their eyes off. The drama never stops. It's honest in its dishonesty. You're sure to always get your money's worth.

But Trump's entertainment value alone wouldn't bring him these great results if there weren't something else to go along with the act – something more serious, more meaningful. After all, people don't like to think of themselves as stupid and shallow. They need to be given something that will flatter them and their choice of candidates.

This is where Trump's real secret sauce comes in: His American swagger.

Let's face it — there's still a significant segment of America that loves to win and feels superior to the rest of the world. The archetype of the American winner – from the early explorers to the swashbuckling cowboys to the army generals — is still part of the American consciousness.

Trump projects a cosmopolitan strain of that archetype straight from the Big Apple, the ultimate winner's town. He carefully manicures an image as the artist of the deal, the guy who never gets ripped off, the guy whose name is worth more than one of his skyscrapers.

Even when Trump loses, he makes it look like he's winning. How American!

This winning swagger can be so intoxicating that people will forgive you the worst excesses, like attacking war heroes. In a perverted way, these blunders can even reinforce the image of the daredevil candidate who's so confident in his shtick he doesn't mind offending half the world. Of course, he never apologizes. That's for wusses.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media gleefully runs after the serial blunderer to make him look like a modern-day Houdini who keeps getting out of jams. WHICH BLUNDER WILL FINALLY TAKE TRUMP DOWN? has become America's favorite new reality show.

Trump's timing couldn't be better. America has spent the past seven years with a president who might be the very antidote to Trump — cerebral, composed, refined.

In an image-obsessed world, it's easy to misjudge President Barack Obama's restrained style as a sign of weakness. Conversely, it's easy to misjudge Trump's boisterous swagger as a sign of strength.

Among his followers, though, there's a clear sense that America has lost its mojo, and that a straight shooter from New York may be just what the country needs. It's a sign of how much body language has become a substitute for substance.

Of course, when you negotiate, body language does count. Maybe that's another reason people are flocking to Trump– they think America got ripped off in the nuclear talks in Vienna, and they believe their man Trump would have driven a much tougher bargain with the wily mullahs. Who knows, on that one count, they may be right.

But whether it's true or not is beside the point. More than any candidate in recent memory, Trump's currency is not truth but perception.

Let's see how long the show lasts.