The most underplayed story of the yearlong, wall-to-wall coverage of Donald Trump’s vanity campaign for the presidency broke back in March when a former Make America Great Again PAC official quit and announced that Trump never wanted to be president in the first place.
“Even Trump’s most trusted advisors didn’t expect him to fare this well,” Stephanie Cegielski wrote. “I’ll say it again: Trump never intended to be the candidate. But his pride is too out of control to stop him now,” she wrote.
“He doesn’t want the White House. He just wants to be able to say that he could have run the White House. He’s achieved that already and then some.”
Cegielski’s bombshell confirmed the suspicions of many who never took Trump’s candidacy seriously because he so clearly doesn’t want the job and is so thoroughly unqualified for it.
A man who courts African-American support, yet describes all black Americans as “living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs” and who initially refused to disavow David Duke’s endorsement. A man who visits Mexico in a faux attempt to woo Latino support yet has described Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and criminals. A man who said at the Republican National Convention that he would protect “LGBTQ” Americans yet has pledged to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn marriage equality. A man who has sought the votes of evangelical Christians yet operated casinos and has been married three times, most recently to a woman best known for her nude photo spreads. A man who ridiculed John McCain’s military service and POW experience yet himself dodged the draft. A man who picked a fight with a Gold Star mother, mocked a disabled reporter, praised anti-American dictators, demeaned female reporters who dared question him, called Pope Francis “disgraceful,” and the list goes on.
This is not the behavior of a credible candidate for commander in chief, yet a plurality of disaffected Republican primary voters put him over the top and he is now the face of the modern GOP, all by accident. He never meant for it to go this far. He wanted to be a protest candidate, an assertion confirmed by Cegielski in her piece. He wanted to get some free publicity for his TV show and business ventures. And even now, after winning the GOP nomination and running within a few points of rival Hillary Clinton despite all his reckless and racist behavior, Vanity Fair reports that Trump’s true endgame may be to launch his own media business and cable TV channel.
The fact that Clinton isn’t leading him by 50 points says a lot about her own candidacy and the state of the American electorate. A Washington Post/ABC News poll last month showed that 59 percent of likely voters don’t believe Clinton is honest or trustworthy, and that’s down since January. Of course there are sexist double standards at work. (Imagine if Hillary showed up to her campaign rallies wearing a cheesy baseball cap, shouting at and berating her audiences.) With all of Trump’s self-inflicted wounds, Clinton should be destroying him in the polls. If the Republicans had nominated anyone else, they would have easily retaken the White House this fall against the damaged Clinton.
And so with just two months until Election Day, one safe bet is that turnout will be at record lows with many independent and moderate Republican voters rightly horrified by Trump yet unwilling to pull the lever for Hillary and with many younger voters turned off by their options of crazy racist or establishment status quo.
Trump is the “punk’d” candidate, a man who tricked the world into taking him half seriously. If Clinton manages to squeak by and win, we’ll likely have four years to watch Trump assail her presidency from the platform of Trump TV, the greatest cable news outlet to ever grace the airwaves.
Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.