Trump was predictably Trump in the week after securing, for all intents and purposes, the Republican Party’s nomination. He was inconsistent, insulting, and more than a bit scary. He was also the big winner on the board in a clear gambit to pivot to the general election.
Let’s evaluate Donald Trump’s maneuvers on the political Chess and Go boards.
1. The Minimum Wage
Donald Trump infamously said last fall that “wages were too high.” I don’t think he actually believes this and that he said it in the heat of the moment of a debate, but it was a bad sound bite. Trump is running on the populist, anti-establishment wagon, and this is a big issue to a significant part of that market, as seen in Bernie Sanders’ “inexplicable” success against the most powerful political machine in America. To win, Trump knows that he’s going to need some of Bernie Sanders’ supporters, who naturally align with him in many ways (if you can cut through the bombast). Trump knows he needs to emphasize this commonality. Since the minimum wage is such a big issue with the more leftward leaning populists, Trump knows that this issue could be one that alienates them and therefore hurts his strategic-level planning. He needs to at least emphasize that he “gets them” on this, and isn’t a threat to it, but he’s in a bind because the GOP establishment (if not actual Republican voters) is deeply opposed to any minimum wage increase.
His response? An all-American classic. Get the federal government out of the way and leave the issue to the states. He also remarked that “it’s real hard to live on $7.25 an hour.”
What does this do? First, it lets Sanders supporters know that he’s not opposed to increasing the minimum wage in certain areas and wouldn’t act against it as president. The quip about it “being real hard” to live on the current minimum wage is an acknowledgement without an apology that undoes some of the damage of his “wages are too high” comment. Now, he has some deniability and can show that he’s on their team.
Second, by leaving the issue to the states, Donald Trump can claim to have, in fact, taken the conservative position. It aligns very naturally to conservative and libertarian ideals around small government that is as local as possible. Let New York do what’s best for New York and its unique conditions, and let Nebraska do the same. The GOP establishment can’t oppose that.
Donald Trump now appeared inconsistent on his tax plan, remarking that tax rates on the wealthy “may go up under the proposal,” as is natural in any negotiation, but that his main objective was to keep the rates low on the middle class and to reduce the corporate rate to 15%.
This displays two things. First, it shows that Trump is refreshingly non-ideological. A large part of the popular revolt in this election cycle is against gridlock and dysfunction in Washington, which partly stems from members of Congress clutching pearls to display their ideological purity rather than getting things done. Donald Trump can now claim that he wants to actually govern, not worry so much about being perfect according to some prevailing ideology.
Second, Donald Trump remained consistent as the political outsider, the guy who was going to champion the middle class against a corrupt establishment and bring money and jobs back into the country by lowering the corporate tax rate. If his plan needed a sacrifice, he had the perfect scapegoat in the wealthy, which most Americans want to raise taxes on (last I checked, anyway). He set up an in-group/out-group dynamic and championed the favorable in-group at the expense of the unfavorable out-group in a clear pitch to the voters he needs on the strategic level. The GOP establishment is whining, but nobody cares.
3. Appointing Chris Christie to head his transition team
This is something that could come straight from Scott Adams. Appointing heads of transition teams is not something that someone who loses the election does. So now you think past the sale and imagine Trump as president-elect. As an added bonus, Chris Christie is an experienced governor who could presumably help Donald Trump get up to speed. He’s sent the signal that he’s going to be surrounding himself with prominent people who know what they’re doing. This helps make you less afraid of him (his biggest obstacle to winning).
4. Doubling Down on the “woman’s card”
After his sweep on April 26th, the night Donald Trump basically became the presumptive nominee and which Indiana made official a week later, he dropped his best “linguistic kill shot,” as Scott Adams calls them, of the campaign. It was a gigaton bomb. It called Hillary Clinton out and shot holes through her only unique selling proposition in the race – that she was running on the fact that she was a woman (she’s even ridiculously used it to claim that she’s an outsider).
If Hillary Clinton were a man, she’d only get 5% of the vote, and women don’t like her.
That was about it. It was total annihilation. It forced the electorate to recall something everyone’s at least implicitly thought about her from the beginning – that if she wasn’t a woman who was lucky enough to marry Bill Clinton, she’d have been a total loser who’d have gotten nowhere. That would have been devastating enough, but as an added bonus, it called into question whether she was actually all that identifiable with most women.
Hillary Clinton this week tried to rile up the women’s card by saying that Trump “doesn’t think much about women.”
Donald Trump fired back by bringing up her husband’s shady history with women and the fact that Hillary Clinton was complicit in it, just as Roger Stone said he would be doing for months. Hillary Clinton immediately backed off. She’s been pretty quiet since.
Because of his gigaton bomb on the “woman’s card” and scorching the Earth with Bill Clinton’s history, of which only the very surface has been scratched so far, Donald Trump has completely pre-empted the “war on women” narrative. The Democrats will not be able to use it like they did in 2012 against Mitt Romney, who haplessly let it stick. In the past two weeks, Donald Trump has dominated all the space on gender politics. As a strategic vote-mover, “the war on women” is now off the table. If Hillary Clinton brings it up, Trump will just hit her with his gigaton bomb linguistic kill shot followed by scorching what’s left with Hillary Clinton’s history with the women in her husband’s life. Double KO.
Result: Decisive Victory
Donald Trump will still need to make women in particular less afraid of him, but that’s what his interview with Megyn Kelly will be the first stage in. The benefit is that he has now de-fanged his opponent on this issue, and it is now one on which he can act as he wills.
5. Pivoting to men
At a rally in the state of Washington over the weekend, Donald Trump claimed that “men are too afraid to talk to women.” It was, as Mike Cernovich said, a historic moment. No politician in recent memory, perhaps ever, has appealed specifically to men in this way before. He also brought the women along for the ride, saying that this fear in men affected them too, tying both sexes together, contrary to how feminism and political correctness divides.
It might also be the beginning of an entirely new strategic play. Political pundits are keen on saying that Donald Trump “has a woman problem.” That is indeed true. But Hillary Clinton has a man problem. Her performance with men, particularly white men, in the Democratic primaries has been dismal. She doesn’t help matters when she hands out “woman’s cards” to men at her rallies and seems to treat men as if they’re nothing more than necessary beasts of burden to her campaign, like they should all fall in to serve their ultimate feminist overlord.
Scott Adams has mentioned that Donald Trump is owning the identities of alpha males and women that like alpha males. That seems to be precisely what Trump implied in his speech. It also gives beta males something to aspire to, which is a far better calling than Hillary Clinton’s.
We’ll see how this goes, but for now…
The scariest thing Trump said was that the government would buy back debt at lower value – in effect, a default. While he quickly cleared this up with an interview with Maria Bartoromo, it was a bad battle/field action on the tactical level overall. Scott Adams has said, and I concur and have said so repeatedly, that the biggest factor against Trump is that he’s scary to so many people. If he can’t make himself seem less scary, I don’t believe he can win the general election. He has that hill to climb, though I’m confident he can climb it. Actions such as this, however, especially should they be allowed to grow out of control in the future, will hurt him.
Fortunately for Trump, tactics are the lowest level of the grand plan, not much attention was paid to it, and the debt issue is largely abstract on the strategic level – the voters he has to move. The only thing that most people know about it is that “it’s too high.” It’s not the visceral issue that will move his coalition overall, so he has time to patch this up just for the sake of it and not allowing himself to be seen as more scary than he has to be.
Did you like this analysis? It was made in a military fashion modeled on Alexander the Great and Sun Tzu, and it’s how Trump thinks and plans. If you want to know more about how he does this, and, more importantly, how you can implement for your own purposes Donald Trump’s amazing ability to plan so far ahead in order to get to his goal, you’ll like Stumped: How Trump Triumphed.