If you believe the polls, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is on the way to a relatively large loss on Election Day.
The RealClearPolitics average of polls showed Trump facing about a 3-point deficit heading into a disastrous weekend in which leaked hot mic tapes from a 2005 interview with "Access Hollywood" host Billy Bush caused mass defections from elected Republicans and numerous calls for Trump to withdraw from the race.
Trump followed this up with a debate performance on Sunday evening that was scored a loss by the scientific polls - albeit a much smaller loss than his first debate performance. Polling conducted since the bombshell revelation on Friday afternoon has confirmed that Trump's remarks may have been the final straw that mortally wounded his chances at the White House - with every national poll sample showing a sharp downturn in support for Trump among respondents who answered on October 9 or later.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally, Monday, Oct. 10, 2016, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Still, the only reasonable way to interpret the current trajectory of the United States presidential election is to say that Trump stands on the verge of obtaining his ultimate goal.
He's about to win.
Does this mean he's about to win the White House? Absolutely not, because that has never been his goal.
I do not mean to suggest that Trump has been an intentional stalking horse for Hillary Clinton since the first day of the race, as some conspiracy theorists have suggested. While I don't think Trump has actually wanted to win the White House, I don't think his entire campaign has been about helping Hillary. Trump has simply sunk too much of his time and money into this campaign without having some sort of self-serving motive for engaging in it.
I don't care how good a friend Trump might be to Hillary behind the scenes, he's not a good enough friend to spend tens of millions of dollars of his own money and a considerable amount of his time just for the purpose of getting her elected. If there's one thing Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold has pretty conclusively demonstrated throughout this election season, it is that Donald Trump does not really believe in spending his own money on charitable causes. He is, in fact, an incredibly tight-fisted person with his own money and is loathe to spend it unless it furthers some goal of his.
So why shouldn't we assume that Trump's actual goal this whole time has been the same as his stated goal - i.e., winning the presidency? Well, the simple explanation is that his actions on the campaign trail are flatly inconsistent with the actions of a man who actually wants the job of being the president of the United States.
Say what you will about Trump's command of the issues or his grasp of sensible policy, one thing Trump has demonstrated in the last 15 months is an uncanny ability to read the political mood of the country and react to it appropriately. He is perhaps the most effective demagogue we have ever seen in this country, and one of its most astounding natural political talents. Without any experience or training, he has weathered controversies and storms that would have torpedoed literally every other politician in American history. He has gotten away with this because he has an uncanny knack for reading the pulse of a huge segment of the country.
A person with Trump's inherent political talent cannot have failed to notice throughout this election that America's default instinct is to reject Hillary Clinton. Over and over again, ever since Trump effectively clinched the Republican nomination in May, every time he has kept his head down and read from the script that was placed before him for any length of time at all, he has crept back up in the polls to either a tie with Clinton or an outright lead. Inevitably, Trump responded to this political good fortune with a sudden, unforced involvement in pointless controversy, from his verbal brawl with Ted Cruz after the Republican convention, to his ill-advised and wildly unpopular fight with the Khan family, to his refusal to prepare for the first debate or stick to script once it began, Trump has almost masterfully kept himself within striking reach, but slightly behind, Hillary Clinton.
If we grant that Donald Trump is not an ignoramus who has come incredibly close to the presidency through sheer luck, then it becomes obvious that Trump's script throughout this election has been to increase his personal profile and brand for post-election business opportunities. However much Trump has enjoyed being a wealthy businessman, it is clear that what Trump really enjoys the most is being a television celebrity. You can even hear it during the course of his now-infamous conversation with Billy Bush: he did not say women let you forcibly grope them if you're rich, he said they let you forcibly grope them if you're a star.
Somewhere along the line, Trump came to understand that there was an incredibly sizable audience that he could bend to his will and make permanently loyal to him and to his brand. He found that there were millions of people who hate the Republican party and who also tend to believe in conspiracy theories, no matter how outlandish. These people have spent significant portions of their lives being singled out, looked-down upon, and treated with disgust by anyone in positions of authority in this country. He realized they would be unlikely to believe that he was not actually in it to win, and that he could sell them on the idea that he (alone) was actually going to save them - stop droughts, save soldiers, restore labor-intensive manufacturing - all of it.
Except, of course, for the globalist stooges who had to defeat him.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump reacts to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Trump is going to walk away from this election without entering the White House - which it seems apparent that he never wanted in the first place. However, he is going to have a huge segment of the population in his corner who are going to go on fervently believing that Trump really would have won if he had not been stabbed in the back by the Republican party. And he's going to use them for whatever his next venture is - probably something television related; think Fox News but way more schlock-y - and have a successful career for as long as he lives pointing this angry mass at his enemies like Paul Ryan or Hillary Clinton or whoever. And he will have tremendous, classy, overwhelming success doing it.
Trump might not understand the first thing about the nuclear triad, but one thing he has proven that he understands very well is television ratings. Imagine the power of a Trump-branded television network run by Roger Ailes. Imagine, if you can, how such a network would immediately dwarf even Fox News in both audience and influence. Even if it's not television, Trump now has a virtually inexhaustible supply of people who will buy hats, steaks, vodka, whatever he wants to sell them, as long as it has the name Trump attached. Trump has, during the course of this campaign, attached the magical selling power to his name that he always pretended he had.
After Trump finishes his ruination of the Republican party and the conservative movement, who will possibly be able to compete for this space, and have a megaphone large enough to convince his following that it was a sham all along?
Of course, the answer is "no one."
Which is why Trump's ultimate victory is at hand.
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