Friday, August 21, 2015

The Trump Exploit

It's The Biggest, Classiest Logo EVER
The Omnivore's parents asked him--joking--but only kinda joking--if it was possible that Trump was running to help Hillary. After all, he was saying outrageous things--potentially really damaging things--that were, in fact, shaping the election (such as the overturn the 14th Amendment plank of his immigration platform). To put this in perspective:
For instance, in this analysis by Latino Decisions, under even the most absurdly optimistic scenario for Republicans — “that white voters consolidate behind the Republican Party at levels that were observed in 2014; that black participation and Democratic support returns to pre-Obama levels; and the expected growth in the Latino vote does not fully materialize” — the Republican candidate would need 42 percent of the Hispanic vote to win. As a point of comparison, according to exit polls Mitt Romney got 27 percent of Hispanic votes in 2012, while John McCain got 31 percent in 2008. Under a more likely scenario, with an electorate that votes something like in 2012 but with African-American turnout reduced, the Republican would need 47 percent of the Hispanic vote. In their worst-case scenario for Republicans — an electorate that votes identically to the way it did in 2012, but adjusted for changes in population — the Republican would need a stunning 52 percent of Hispanic votes.
The Omnivore hasn't validated the above numbers (and suspects Latino Decisions may have some kind of ... internal bias, let's say--for example, blue collar whites stayed home in 2012. The GOP plan is to mobilize a deeper white male base--something that is entirely possible)--but even so, yes: totally pissing off Hispanics is a bad strategy.

Trump seems, you know, intent on it. When a Hispanic man was beaten, urinated on, and the perpetrators were caught ... and cited Donald Trump as their inspiration for the assault, this is what Trump said:  
Trump, told of the alleged assault, said “it would be a shame . . . I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.”
You'll notice a lack of other candidates falling over themselves to call out Trump on this? Yep. Indeed, while Trump wants to build a big, beautiful (at least on one side?) wall along the Mexican boarder that might even bear his name, Rick Santorum accused Scott Walker, whose immigration plan can be summed up as "Trump? Oh, yeah--I agree with him! Me too!" of being too soft on immigration

Presumably the Rick Santorum immigration plan includes a "repatriation catapult."

The facts here are stark: The Omnivore is pretty sure that Trump-Bluster(TM) aside, were The Donald not in the race, people would not be talking about the unconstitutionality of a particular amendment to the Constitution--even if this talking point was, yes, part of the GOP ideology cloud for some time. It takes someone with nothing to lose (and especially NO need for the Chamber of Commerce and the GOP Establishment) to make such an argument a centerpiece of their platform. In other words, yes: if the current state of the race is doing serious damage to the GOP's brand with Hispanics (not to mention black Americans . . .  and women) then Trump is directly to blame for a significant percent of that damage.

The Trump Conspiracy Theory

Allan Ginsberg--and this was covered very well by Gawker--asks the obvious question:
This is the right question because it doesn't ask for a smoking gun of proof about Donald Trump's intentions--but rather what evidence we might see that illuminates a different intent than stated. For example: Trump attacks the GOP on Twitter five times more than Democrats. Could that be evidence of a sinister plan? Maybe.

On the other hand, this is the pre-game primary season so anyone not jockeying for position in the actual primary is wasting some energy. It might just be good strategy. Who's to say. The Gawker article linked above both examines the evidence (yes, Trump at least was friends with the Clintons. Yes, he did kinda used to be a Democrat. Yes, he definitely has said he might run independent)--but concludes that that's not enough to convict (like Obama and the IRS scandal, one presumes).

Gawker also elegantly nails the underlying wrong assumption:
The lack of evidence is not the biggest problem with this conspiracy theory, though. The biggest problem is that the theory’s most important underlying assumption—that Trump is anomalous, a xenophobic buffoon posing as a Republican—is wildly ignorant of actual Republican policies. 
Boiled down, Trump’s appeal to the Republican Party’s base consists of his willingness to say nakedly racist statements and his promises to enact equally racist legislation. But why is that appeal surprising? In its contemporary manifestation, the GOP has repeatedly sought the support of voters who wish to disempower and intimidate racial minorities. This isn’t just about the party’s bizarre obsession with upholding the sanctity of the Confederate flag. To this day, for example, the party continues to advocate for Voter ID laws, which are ostensibly designed to combat in-person voter fraud—a virtually non-existent phenomenon—but in practice help prevent a disproportionate number of eligible non-white voters from actually voting. Its intellectual leaders have dismissed the ubiquitous threat of police violence towards black people as illusory.
Indeed, this is so--but Gawker doesn't quite look deep enough. There may actually be a conspiracy theory under this stuff after all.

Let's look.

The Trump Exploit 

In video gaming, an "exploit" is the use of bugs, glitches, speed, game mechanics, or other such elements in the way the designers did not intend to gain an advantage. When an exploit is discovered, it can lead to a complete disruption of the game as players either use it and win, don't use it and lose to those who do, or both try to use it and the game comes down to who can execute the exploit first/best. Here is a visual example of Capcom's Ultra Street Fighter 4 where if you use the right combo in a certain way you can do it forever with the opponent having no chance to fight back. The person posting the video says "Please update your game, Capcom."

In the case of the GOP Primary an exploit exists in that positions that had been thought to be too extreme for any mainstream candidate were sold to the base (or those who held them were courted) with the net effect being that potential candidates simply had to get 'close to the fire' without getting burned.

Romney, for example, was barely warmed. Tancredo got torched early.

The counter-balance was the RNC and GOP elite who would disavow anyone spouting clear racism or sexism or whatever. Without that backing and the millions of dollars it would cost, everyone had to pretty much stay in their lane.

In the case of Trump, though, as we know, that fail-safe doesn't apply--so he can use the exploit all he wants.

He's jamming those buttons hard.

This is forcing everyone else to either try some unusual counter-moves (like Perry's surprisingly progressive speech on race) or try to do Trump-but-better (Walker gamely signing on, Jeb doubling down on Anchor-Babies). The problem is Trump is the pinball wizard of appealing to the base. None of these guys can do Trump-but-better.

So is there a conspiracy? Well, perhaps. If there is, it would look like this:
  1. Trump legitimately likes the Clintons. He certainly used to. In this hypothetical, he still does.
  2. When Obama started beating Hillary, Trump turned on Obama. Remember the birth certificate thing in 2008? In this scenario that was done to help Hillary (not to help the Democrats).
  3. Throughout Obama's terms, Trump, a famous grudge-holder, still had it in for Obama and, as Hillary was Secretary of State, gave to Republicans rather than attacking Obama personally. He flirted with 2012 run--but decided that would be more likely to give Obama a 2nd term. When the party decided on Romney, Trump was annoyed--but did all he could to give Romney his boost (appearing on stage with him).
  4. As 2016 gears up, Trump surveys the field and can see that (a) he is quite popular with the GOP Base--still--and (b) that the exploit exists. Trump is attuned to game-mechanics / rules holes (he has exploited them over and over--just listen to his bankruptcy speech during the debates). He realizes that he has an almost unique opportunity to help his friend: he can run into the fire and not get "burned." He's fireproof.
  5. He launches his campaign aimed directly at the lowest common denominator of The Base. If he can peel off 2 to 4% in a general election, his friend Hillary is 90% likely to win. Donald Trump is a one-man "dark-money" SuperPAC for Hillary Clinton.
  6. The exploit works better than he could have anticipated--he finds he is suddenly positioned to win the nomination (maybe). He realizes that, although he doesn't want to be president really, the best way to ensure Hillary wins is to seize the nomination and then ... run for that 20-30% of the base, thus losing the general.  The kicker? His brand will never have been stronger and he'll even go down a hero for his hardest core supporters.
In this case, the conspiracy is not a multi-year plan for a Democrat to insinuate themselves into the GOP supply-chain (donor-class) and then launch a surprise ambush in 2016. It is, instead an opportunistic move seen when 2016 comes around and Trump realizes he has an exploit for which the RNC and other power-brokers have no defense.

All this takes is (a) him liking Hillary (a given), (b) him hating Obama (obvious), and (c) him being willing to buy Hillary a 500 million "President's Day" gift. Of course, Hillary being Hillary, Trump can be pretty sure . . . he'll get his money back.

The Other Perspective

Before you go anywhere with that conspiracy theory, though, let's keep something firmly in mind: The exploit wasn't Trump's doing. It already existed. In 2012 a lot of Republicans felt humiliated by the "clown car." In 2008 some Republicans felt humiliated by the choice--and clear unreadiness--of Sarah Palin. In every case the root was quickly traceable to the same thing: The GOP base is a humiliation to the head of the party and its more thoughtful pundits. 

There are various rationalizations ("Oh--the comments section--those comments are meaningless!" or "Oh--but the Party Platform sure isn't racist. That's a tiny number of assholes who the GOP doesn't actually tolerate!"). The heuristic that 'Three Times Is Enemy Action' should be starting to sink in though. Trump's success and the subsequent race-to-the-bottom (now everyone is discussing whether "Anchor Babies" is racist or not) is hugely predictable. 

In fact, it's predictable enough that Trump might even have planned it that way.


  1. Trump's role in the election is starting to strike me as a Sokal Affair for politics - play to the basest of the base and then expose them for what they are [racist, sexist, etc.]. Damn this just gets more interesting.

    1. Except that what Alan Sokal did was to put a burn on Duke University's Social Text by exposing pseudoscientific poseurs trying to cloak their inadequacies in so-called "fashionable nonsense". As Ommie has taken pains to point out, the Republican base isn't "hiding" anything, save perhaps for the transparently coded language they're fond of using. Rather, Donald Trump is a one-man political revenge effect for the GOP's years of shameless lying to their own base. He's the candidate of the incoherently angry people who know only that they've been screwed, though they're not sure how or by whom. They want to dynamite the status quo and start over, and Trump's tailor-made for that. He's basically the "dust off and nuke the site from orbit - it's the only way to be sure" candidate.

      At least Dr. Sokal had a point to make. Mr. Hell Toupée is little more than a bomb-thrower.

      -- Ω