Why Donald Trump Is the Greatest Politician in American Electoral History

Photo by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 3.0

Photo by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 3.0

Donald Trump is the greatest politician in the history of United States electoral politics.

There may have been better machine Bosses. There may have been better “Masters of the Senate.” But in terms of getting elected in the face of overwhelming odds, no one comes close to Trump.

A little over a year ago I was in a meeting with a number of writers and was stunned that they seemed so clueless about Trump. Not because they hated him, but but because they didn’t take him seriously. They treated him as a simple buffoon. They said he wasn’t even a serious candidate and would probably drop out before Iowa. And many other things.

They just didn’t get it. So I recorded a podcast with my father about Trump where I tried pointing some of this out saying that people had “vastly underestimated the sophistication of Trump’s appeal.”  But nobody was interested in listening – not to me, nor to others who went into much more detail.

The result, both of a failure of imagination by Trump’s opponents and the incredible skill of Trump himself, is the amazing election we saw last night in which America chose Donald Trump to be its next President.

My take in City Journal examines the magnitude of Trump’s accomplishment, and credits him for the incredible political skill he brought to bear in this campaign. Here’s an excerpt:

Trump’s win was no fluke. He has been talking about running for president since at least 1988, but never pulled the trigger. This time around, he saw the opportunity and went for it. A shrewd entrepreneur, he saw a vast sea of unhappy voters who wanted fundamental change to the status quo—particularly on trade, immigration, and interminable foreign wars, and he was able to disrupt politics by re-segmenting the political market to serve it.

Trump also understood that his massive brand and social-media presence—particularly on Twitter, which he mastered and where he had built up a huge following years in advance—allowed him to be his own media platform and bypass the gatekeepers. He could go directly to the public. “I love Twitter,” he tweeted in 2012. “It’s like owning your own newspaper—without the losses.”

Having been in the tabloid spotlight since the 1970s, Trump also knew the media perhaps better than they knew themselves. Though aghast at Trump, they could not resist covering him and letting him dominate the airwaves. Under no illusion that he would get a fair shake from them, he refused to beg for their approval the way Republicans have traditionally done. Instead, he stood his ground and walked directly into places like Stephen Colbert’s Late Show, and emerged not just unscathed but strengthened.

It’s easy to rationalize this after the fact, but Trump’s skills were identified and broken down well in advance……In short, while facing some of the longest odds of any candidate, Trump rewrote the political playbook and reconfigured the political landscape.

This is not to say a Trump presidency will be favorable; that remains to be seen. But for today, at least, let’s acknowledge Donald Trump as a grandmaster of politics, in the aftermath of his delivering the most bravura performance in American electoral history.

Click through to read the whole thing.


from Aaron M. Renn


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