Donald Trump is racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, egotistical, and crude, and he’s proud of it, and he’s aimed at the Republican nomination and closing at a solid clip. It is mind-boggling. It’s mind-boggling unless you’re one of the alarming number of supporters who are looking for those qualities in a president, or unless you’ve recently resigned from his campaign staff because you finally realized that your candidate is an expensive suit and a windproof coif covering a growing pile of loose turd.
At xojane (yeah, I know), Trump’s now-former communications director Stephanie Cegielski writes an open letter to his supporters explaining why she’s resigned from his campaign in protest.
Even Trump’s most trusted advisors didn’t expect him to fare this well.
Almost a year ago, recruited for my public relations and public policy expertise, I sat in Trump Tower being told that the goal was to get The Donald to poll in double digits and come in second in delegate count. That was it.
The Trump camp would have been satisfied to see him polling at 12% and taking second place to a candidate who might hold 50%. His candidacy was a protest candidacy.
It pains me to say, but he is the presidential equivalent of Sanjaya on American Idol. President Trump would be President Sanjaya in terms of legitimacy and authority.
And I am now taking full responsibility for helping create this monster — and reaching out directly to those voters who, like me, wanted Trump to be the real deal.
My support for Trump began probably like yours did. Similar to so many other Americans, I was tired of the rhetoric in Washington. Negativity and stubbornness were at an all-time high, and the presidential prospects didn’t look promising.
In 2015, I fell in love with the idea of the protest candidate who was not bought by corporations. A man who sat in a Manhattan high-rise he had built, making waves as a straight talker with a business background, full of successes and failures, who wanted America to return to greatness.
I was sold.
Her letter articulates something that Trump’s supporters will never accept and that his detractors are increasingly forced to acknowledge: that his plain-speaking, saying-what-others-are-afraid-to-say rhetoric may or may not express his actual prejudices and positions, but ultimately it’s strategy. Trump is a businessman and a performer. His messaging is carefully targeted to set him apart from the other candidates who may say objectionable things, but are still politically driven to stay at least marginally within the bounds of etiquette, if nothing else. Not Trump, though — he stands against all of that P.C. bullshit and speaks from the gut. He’s a real American who’s going to stand up for America.
(You’re being played.)
Purely from a strategic messaging standpoint, momentarily setting aside the part of me that has a soul, I have to acknowledge that it’s a smart position. His brand sets him far, far apart from his competitors, and while it’s reprehensible to anyone who actually listens to his words, it’s catnip to anyone who has been frustrated by politicians’ reluctance to come out and go full-on horrendous. That’s a unique selling proposition to end all.
From the standpoint of a person with a soul, I have to be terrified that a brand that includes labelling Mexican immigrants as rapists and wants to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. is being so gleefully devoured by such a significant percentage of the voting public. Just consider the possibility that what he’s saying really is what his supporters are thinking.
It wasn’t long before every day I awoke to a buzzing phone and a shaking head because Trump had said something politically incorrect the night before. I have been around politics long enough to know that the other side will pounce on any and every opportunity to smear a candidate.
But something surprising and absolutely unexpected happened. Every other candidate misestimated the anger and outrage of the “silent majority” of Americans who are not a part of the liberal elite. So with each statement came a jump in the polls. Just when I thought we were finished, The Donald gained more popularity.
I don’t think even Trump thought he would get this far. And I don’t even know that he wanted to, which is perhaps the scariest prospect of all.
He certainly was never prepared or equipped to go all the way to the White House, but his ego has now taken over the driver’s seat, and nothing else matters. The Donald does not fail. The Donald does not have any weakness. The Donald is his own biggest enemy.
Bizarrely, it was a tweet from Trump in response to the terrorist attack in Pakistan on Easter Sunday that jarred Cegielski to reality — when he wrote that “[he] alone can solve.” But better late than never.
What was once Trump’s desire to rank second place to send a message to America and to increase his power as a businessman has nightmarishly morphed into a charade that is poised to do irreparable damage to this country if we do not stop this campaign in its tracks.
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 goes on to explain that Trump has never been about the policy, or the opportunity for leadership, or actually Making America Great Again — he’s always been about Trump the Ego and Trump the Brand. This should surprise no one who’s been paying attention to, well, anything, but about 48 percent of Republicans are either falling for it or just don’t care. Frankly, I don’t know which is scarier.
And that’s why railing against his policies and positions isn’t as effective as it should, in theory, be: because it’s all part of his brand, and no one can sell a brand like Donald Trump. If anyone comes at him with something he’s said, he flat-out lies, and if anyone attacks him on policy, he stands up in front of his fans and says, “See how they’re attacking me? It’s because I’m powerful, and they’re just jelly,” and his fans shout, “Yes! You’re powerful, and they’re just jelly!” and the steamroller keeps rolling.
A solid attack on his brand might be the only thing that could take some steam out of the roller. And not a “Drumpf”-style attack — name-calling may be satisfying (Trump certainly enjoys it), but it’s childish (see above in re: Trump enjoys it) and only paints his detractors as jelly-bellies with no substantive criticism to give. The way to attack his brand is to have insiders like Stephanie Cegielski come forward and say, He’s full of shit. He doesn’t want to make America great again. He isn’t saying what you’re thinking. I’ve been there and seen it — he has nothing but contempt for you. Everything he shows you is a character. He has no idea what he’s doing, he’s driven by nothing but what makes him look good and feel big, and if you put that ignorant, narcissistic, reactionary egomaniac in charge of domestic and foreign policy the country could never recover. Now when I snap my fingers, you’re going to awaken.
Of course, that leaves us with a Cruz presidency, which is possibly even more terrifying because all of this time Trump has made Cruz look like the reasonable one. But that’s another revelation from another disillusioned communications director for another time.
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