Now that Donald Trump has won the New Hampshire primary and is leading in polls in South Carolina and many of the SEC primary states, political pundits are stepping up their predictions he will stumble before winning the GOP nomination.
That is hardly surprising for a political party that five out of six times had Richard Nixon on its national ballot, six out of seven times had a Bush on its national ballot, and which considers Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitch Romney to be outside-of-the-box candidates.
The reason pundits can’t read the tea leaves is that Trump continues to prove he has mastered the media through his decades of exposure as a high-profile businessman. He markets himself with a brand that virtually every voter – let alone every citizen of this nation – knows by name.
From social media to sit down interviews with a variety of television reporters, Trump employs his marketing skills and name ID to speak his mind.
A candidate usually prepares for an interview with the press. Instead, the press prepares for an interview with Trump.
He is a master of messaging all due to a ferocity that resembles General Patton going into battle.
With Trump’s numbers continuing to hold strong despite his quips that President George W. Bush failed to protect the homeland from a Sept. 11 attack and a call to temporarily ban Muslims into the country, his refusal to embrace political correctness has garnered him 24/7 media coverage.
But while the political pundits and other GOP candidates continue to scratch their heads wondering, “How can Trump continue to tower in the polls?” we need only look to history to see that other major figures in American history also managed the media to a similar advantage.
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison used the newspaper as a party organ to route the Federalists. Abraham Lincoln used the telegraph and his power to influence New York newspaper editors to get into the White House and run the nation during the Civil War. Woodrow Wilson was the candidate of the muck-raking magazine industry in his race for the Presidency. FDR utilized radio with his fireside chats. Reagan became the Teflon president with his ability to convey his messages with television.
Trump is doing nothing more than creating an echo or feedback loop with new social media technology. Barack Obama may have used the Internet and search engines to propel himself to the White House, but Trump is taking new media to an entirely different level.
Trump is creating a feedback loop by garnering millions of followers on Twitter, Facebook and other social media, where he tests his stands and phrases against voter sentiment. As a result, he continues to leave the field in the dust.
These historical figures who mastered the press and played outside the “rules of engagement” also likely offended the political establishment with a host of actions:
- In 1799 and 1800, John Adams locked up the editors and journalists of the Federalist newspapers under the Alien and Sedition Act when they criticized his efforts to stop impressment of American sailors by the French and British.
- Lincoln seized newspapers and telegraph offices, disobeyed Supreme Court decisions on habeas corpus and ignored the powers of Congress to declare war and appropriate funds. He is regarded by many historians as America’s greatest president.
- President Woodrow Wilson conducted a dragnet in World War I, taking in tens of thousands of war opponents and violators of the draft law. After one of the worst terrorist attacks in American history in the aftermath of the war, the Red Scare, his Attorney General conducted massive raids and a wholesale deportation of people to Russia.
Compared to these measures, Trump has not proposed anything that is that radical or that could be called fascist or out of the mainstream of American history.
Trump has been successful because of the failure of the war against ISIS and a generation of decline in the middle class fueled by a series of bad government deals on energy, immigration, technology, Japan trade, European defense, and Chinese access to world markets. America’s middle class has come to believe it would rather have someone who knows the Art of the Deal than another politician who would continue to make any old deal that meets the test of political correctness.
Faced with an unprecedented situation, the Republican establishment has experienced a meltdown, failing to get behind any one of its candidates, finding itself unable to react to the earthquake, and thus will be wiped out by the Trump tsunami.
Bill Loughrey of Atlanta, a former director of the Federal Election Commission, is the author of Political Will: Dominating Force in American History