I can’t find convincing evidence of anything that might be called political principles behind Donald Trump’s campaign for President. It looks to me like he understands both politics and business as individualistic competitions for dominance. For Trump, political interests and principles are just variables in a market analysis. He jumped into the presidential politics this year because he saw very friendly market conditions. He recognized the timing was good for responding to the pent up political demands of a certain type of voter, and that in 2016 at least he is more well positioned to exploit that demand in the short run than are the professional pols on the national stage.
Trump saw that millions of low information working class white voters have been primed by GOP pols and right wing media for decades to respond to political appeals based on racial resentment and economic insecurity. Terrorism, illegal immigration, and the collateral damage of increasingly globalized markets have long been key to Trump’s decades-long flirtation with presidential politics. The end of America’s first black president’s tenure made an 2016 excellent time for Trump’s pitch to low information white voters, a combination of racial resentment and tangible (i.e. physical and economic) fear and insecurity. He recognized that his target voters’ reliance on rightwing media (and social media) made them prime targets for a direct marketing campaign, and that the hyper-competitiveness of the commercial news media marketplace made it possible to do that direct marketing on the cheap by giving journalists what they needed most in return for unfiltered access to his audience… Ratings.
The Donald has brought the tactics of predatory capitalism to electoral politics more forcefully than anyone has before, and while he won’t make it to the Oval Office, he already has secured enough political capital to earn a seat at the national politics poker table for the foreseeable future. For a deeply narcissistic and insecure billionaire who has spent his entire adult life craving and pursuing the respect of America’s elites, that’s no small accomplishment.
The national GOP may not survive Trump’s hostile takeover bid, but our politics will. The reaction to Trumpism may have been slow, but it is gaining steam, and maybe more importantly, currency. Eventually Trump will do what he’s always done in his business ventures, pullout with a personal profit and declare victory while his investors lose their shirts.