Op-ed: Trump’s for-profit campaign

  • By Rich Lowry
  • Sunday, October 30, 2016 9:42pm
  • Opinion

It’s as if Bob Dole began doing ads for Viagra before the 1996 election was over.

With less than two weeks before Election Day, Donald Trump evidently wants swing voters to know that the Trump National Doral Miami golf resort got recognized by Successful Meetings Magazine for its renovation, among many other honors and distinctions.

This is something genuinely new under the sun: Abraham Lincoln didn’t use the 1860 campaign to promote the fine legal representation available through the firm of Lincoln-Herndon. Mitt Romney in 2012 didn’t try to persuade investors to go with Bain Capital.

Fringe candidates have run in the Republican primaries before to promote themselves and their business interests (typically in book sales and speaker fees); no one has ever gotten so far that he could do it in the general election.

There has never been such a yawning mismatch in incentives between a party’s nominee and the party itself, with the nominee tending to his ego and his business as the party that is tethered to him holds on for dear life, hoping to preserve some vestiges of power in Washington if he loses.

Trump surely would rather win. He talks all the time of how it will all have been a wasted effort if he loses. But it hasn’t been that much of an effort. Trump has spent all of 17 months on his presidential campaign, much of it doing highly enjoyable things like speaking to adoring crowds.

And losing — especially an isolated, one-man-against-the-world loss — serves him just fine. If the reports of Trump’s interest in a post-election media property are true, he just needs an inflamed splinter of his supporters as his base audience, convinced that he was done in by a rigged system and that he went down fighting in fists-flying Trump style.

This is how he’s campaigned over the past month, to the chagrin of all the Republicans whose electoral chances are inevitably caught up in his. But what does Trump care? His investment in the broader Republican Party is nil. He didn’t come up within it. His latest bout as a registered Republican — his party registration has gone back and forth — dates from only April 2012. He hasn’t spent years endorsing and fighting for Republican candidates or building an extensive grassroots operation and donor network.

He showed up one day and said he wanted to be in charge, and Republican primary voters said OK. No one should be surprised that he has proved wholly self-interested — pursuing stupid vendettas that satisfy his personal sense of honor but put everyone else in the party in an impossible position, and taking precious time out of the final leg of the campaign to promote his properties.

It is true that almost every politician is selfish to some extent. But the usual dynamic is that personal ambition naturally aligns with the broader interest of the party. Members of the House and the Senate who covet leadership positions devote energy and resources to promoting their colleagues; would-be presidential candidates dole out favors to party officials and activists high and low in hopes of getting an advantage in an early caucus or primary state.

Because Trump’s ultimate ambition involves promotion of his brand, he is utterly free from these normal forces. If, say, Ted Cruz were losing to Hillary Clinton right now, in the back of his mind he’d be building for the next attempt in four years, not hedging his bets and promoting other ventures.

Republican voters supported Donald Trump in the primaries for many reasons, but one of them was to “burn it down,” a sentiment directed, in part, at the Republican Party and especially its establishment.

If the worst comes to pass, the people who care about the party and its traditional ideals will be left to sift through the ashes. While the arsonist will be back up at Trump Tower, looking out, as always, for his bottom line and the main chance.

Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.

More in Opinion

Nurse Sherra Pritchard gives Madyson Knudsen a bandage at the Kenai Public Health Center after the 10-year-old received her first COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska Voices: A mom’s and pediatrician’s perspective on COVID-19 vaccines for children

I want to see children and their parents who have yet to get vaccinated roll up their sleeves.

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: The foolish men claiming self-defense

It’s not just misguided teenagers carrying guns who find themselves in trouble with the law.

Larry Persily (Peninsula Clarion file)
Opinion: State defends its right to cut nonexistent taxes

This from a state that has no property tax on homes or businesses, only on the oil industry.

Dr. Jay Butler, former chief medical officer for the State of Alaska, is seen in this undated photo. (Courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Feeling grateful this Thanksgiving for the COVID vaccines

The COVID vaccines remain our strongest tool in combating the pandemic and helping us return to our lives and the things we love and cherish.

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Voices of the Peninsula: All votes matter

In the beginning, only property-holding white men could vote.

Cristen San Roman. (Photo provided)
Point of View: Is management of Cook Inlet catered to special interest groups?

If these fish are so at risk, why is BOEM able to move forward with lease sale 258?

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Grateful for the hidden ‘good’

Gratitude: Noun The state of being grateful; thankfulness. The state or quality… Continue reading

Homer High School Principal Douglas Waclawski. (Photo provided)
Point of View: What is Homer High School about?

What I consider Homer High’s strength is that we are a place for learning.

UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell. (courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Invent your future at UAA

At UAA we’re providing the tools to help students of all ages and skills chart a new course forward.

A registered nurse prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at the pop-up clinic on the Spit on May 27. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Alaska Voices: Vaccination is the still best protection from COVID-19

The Alaska State Medical Association encourages you to protect yourselves and your community from preventable illness by getting recommended vaccines.

(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
The sad diminishment of Rep. Don Young

Young seems afraid to demand his party leader defend the dignity of the institution he loves.

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Alaska Voices: Restore our strong campaign donation limits

Without campaign spending limits, the ideal of one person, one vote is no longer really true.