The four keys to a possible Trump victory

Summary: What might be the consequences of wins by Trump in early GOP primaries? How will journalists and other opinion-makers react? What will our ruling elites do? What might he do in the White House? I believe the conventional wisdom is wrong about all of these questions. Here are better answers, showing the four keys to a Trump victory.

Trump: Make America Great Again

How will opinion-makers react should Trump win GOP primaries?

Events make opinions, as seen by looking at extreme examples from the past. In 1815 Napoleon broke his exile on Elba and marched to Paris. See the headlines in Le Moniteur Universel reporting his progress.

  • The cannibal has left his lair. — March 9.
  • The Corsican ogre has just landed at the Juan Gulf. — March 10.
  • The tiger has arrived at Gap. — March 11.
  • The monster slept at Grenoble. — March 12.
  • The tyrant has crossed Lyons. — March 13.
  • The usurper was seen sixty leagues from the capital. — March 18.
  • Bonaparte has advanced with great strides, but he will never enter Paris. — March 19.
  • Tomorrow, Napoleon will be under our ramparts. — March 20.
  • The Emperor has arrived at Fontainbleau. — March 21.
  • His Imperial and Royal Majesty entered his palace at the Tuileries last night in the midst of his faithful subjects. — March 22.

This is what I expect to see if Trump wins in the early primaries. Americans love a winner (doubly so for our journalists and other opinion-makers). Trump the outcast will become Trump the star.

Donald Trump: Art of the Deal
Available at Amazon.

How might Trump win?

A Trump victory probably requires four things. First, a deal with powerful elements of America’s ruling elites. Now most of them see Trump as a disruptor of a political game that they control. But Trump is both one of them (second generation wealth) and a consummate deal-maker (his book is, after all, The Art of the Deal). If he demonstrates real political power — getting votes — the necessary alliances will come easily.

The second requirement is luck. To win Trump probably needs favorable circumstances. A new and ugly Clinton scandal might do it. A recession in mid-2016 would do it, and could easily happen (see the details here).

Third, Trump must build a political organization that converts strength in the polls into votes. We will not know if he has done so until the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries.

Fourth, Trump needs a message that appeals to majority of Americans. His critics — both Democrats and Republicans — suggest he eats babies. His rhetoric gives the impression of a wildman. But much of FDR’s and Churchill’s rhetoric was extreme. Looking at past leaders, we see speeches that would terrify people n our quiet age (for example, Calvin and Luther talking about the Jews, and the fate of people sent to Hell). And I suspect many Americans find Trump’s brash honesty refreshing after years of listening to the Romney-bot, the Hillary-bot, and the other manufactured candidates.

What is Trump’s message?

Look at Trump’s platform: extremist or mainstream?

Fortunately Trump has a website to help us evaluate the appeal of his platform. What do we see first? Make America Great Again! — vintage mainstream America thinking. What about his key proposals? Click on each to see the details.

Trump platform: relations with China

Very populist. Probably very popular with voters. As with the previous Presidents elected promising to get tough with China, probably nothing will happen. We are symbiotic.

Trump's platform: reform the VA

Very populist. Very popular, too. Both parties will advocate VA reform. Without more money for the VA these promises mean little. Which is what vets will get. They will not find a boss for the VA capable of spinning straw into gold.

Trump platform: Tax reform

“Reform” sounds great. It’s mainstream conservative. All the major GOP candidates promise to reform the tax system — quite honestly. America’s plutocrats consider “reform” to mean “shift taxes to the middle class”. And that’s what they’ll do if elected, causing massive deficits. Just like Reagan and Bush Jr. We fell for this scam twice, and our ruling elites expect us to do so a third time. Eventually we will, I suspect. If not now, there is always 2020.

Trump's platform: guns

Very populist. Very mainstream conservative. All the major GOP candidates pledge fealty to the NRA.

Trump platform: immigration

This has been the mainstream of Trump’s popularity. This is very populist, a defining characteristic of late 19th and early 20th C populism (i.e., when it was a vital force) — as immigration grew and the economy slowed. As a result we got the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, the Gentlemen’s Agreement in 1907 to limit immigration from Japan, the Immigration Act of 1917, the Emergency Quota Act in 1921, and the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924. The Great Depression brought even sterner measures by administrative decree: a drastic reduction of immigration and the forced repatriation of Mexican workers. These allowed the formation of the middle class in America, now being washed away by (among other things) massive immigration and slow growth.

Immigration policy has been captured by elites on the Right (cheap labor!) and the Left (votes!). Trump has broken that stranglehold, giving voice to the large numbers of citizens who want immigration restricted. Let’s look at his proposals. I predict these will prove quite popular.

  1. A nation without borders is not a nation. There must be a wall across the southern border.
  2. A nation without laws is not a nation. Laws passed in accordance with our Constitutional system of government must be enforced.
  3. A nation that does not serve its own citizens is not a nation. Any immigration plan must improve jobs, wages and security for all Americans.

What does he want done? I suspect these measures will have large public support.

  1. Triple the number of ICE officers. Nationwide e-verify {for employment}.
  2. Mandatory return of all criminal aliens.
  3. Detention (not catch-and-release) of illegal aliens apprehended crossing the border.
  4. Defund sanctuary cities.
  5. Enhanced penalties for overstaying a visa.
  6. Have ICE agents cooperate with local gang task forces.
  7. End birthright citizenship.

What does the rise of Trump mean for America?

If Trump is lucky and skillful, we might elect another wild card in 2016, even odder than the bizarre McCain-Palin pair that 60 million people voted for in 2008.

What might a President Trump do? History suggests that such predictions are difficult to get right. Truman was a mediocre machine politician, but a good President. Kennedy gave few signs of skill or greatness before 1960. Nixon accomplished much; a great liberal President by his record. We might get lucky again.

President Donald Trump


Trump has tapped the long-dormant power of populism in America, popping the cork from the bottle America’s elites constructed to contain this wild force. Often ugly — racist and anti-intellectual — populism provides the power for progressive reform, The possibilities are fantastic if they ally. Together they could reshape America. However, that alliance seems unlikely. Many populists on the Right hate the Left. Many progressives on the Left prefers glorious defeat to the usual questionable deals that produce change (such as FDR’s alliance with Southern Democrats). Many on both sides are alienated from what the majority think of as America.

Trump is an odd bearer of that standard, but no more so than the rich blue blood FDR. But I doubt Trump will be another FDR.

I expect that Right and Left will show their common nature by using their favorite tactic to control public debate: attempt to delegitimize Trump. Call him nasty names. Exaggerate or outright lie about his positions. Catch every outrageous or foolish utterance (every candidate makes them as they talk before microphones several hours per day, 6 or 7 days per week, for over a year).

While Trump will probably lose, I doubt either Left or Right can contain the populist forces he has unleashed. The party that successfully harnesses them might recreate the first ruling national coalition since the New Deal coalition broke in the 1960s. For good or ill.

It is too late for complacency, but it is not too soon to worry.

Other posts about the new populism

  1. From August: The Donald Trump revolution, dismissed as all revolts are in the beginning.
  2. Background: Scary lessons for America from pre-revolutionary France.
  3. Donald Trump leads us back to the future, to the dark days of US history.
  4. A New America arises, perhaps with Trump as its first leader.
  5. Two scary graphs about the rise of Donald. Fear fascism. Act now.
  6. Look to the Left to see the force powering Trump and Carson.
  7. The numbers about immigration that fuel Trump’s campaign.
  8. New York shows how Democrat-run cities & states contribute to the rise of Trump.
  9. Good news: we begin to see that we are sliding towards fascism.
  10. Next phase of the Trump revolution: rise of the new populism.
  11. Important: Trump’s hope: a recession might put him in the White House.
  12. The four keys to a possible Trump victory.

For More Information

See my Jan 6 article at Seeking Alpha about the odds of a recession in 2016 — which might put Trump in the White House.

A rare mention (quickly dropped) in the major media that Trump is a populist candidate: “The Great Republican Revolt” by David Frum in The Atlantic — “The GOP planned a dynastic restoration in 2016. Instead, it triggered an internal class war. Can the party reconcile the demands of its donors with the interests of its rank and file?”

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7 thoughts on “The four keys to a possible Trump victory”

  1. Ah Trump.
    Why does he need to build his own organization though? His name recognition is already as good as it gets. If he comes out first in the primary process, barring backroom deals to exclude him from the convention, wouldn’t he gain access to the full Republican party machinery?

    1. Pete,

      That’s not how elections work in the US. Without local staff to mobilize voters, name recognition gets a candidate only a fraction of his or her potential votes. This applies with double force in primaries, with their low voter turnout rates.

      1. I’ve volunteered to do “get out the vote” in a few elections, mostly for Democrats. I was personally most motivated in primaries, but of course I don’t represent the “mainstream”, and this is something I had to actively work to explain in my brief experiences. I don’t think that’s the case now.

        Setting aside how repulsed I am by Trump’s nonsense, my impression is that most of what one tries to accomplish when reaching out to voters is already done for him.

        Everyone knows who he is, that he is running, that he is different from the others. Trump has this weird protective teflon coating that nothing sticks to, so he is free to run as ridiculous a negative campaign as he wants. Enough voters are pre-fired-up, at the moment, and his opposition is in disarray (for now).

        Just get some volunteers, no training, no talking points, no strategy, no nothing. Wait until the last minute, have them then hand out yard signs and say whatever they feel like, the more inflammatory the better, and he’s good to go.

  2. Some very interesting insights and historical perspectives. Trump is sure confusing the standard plans for the Repub machine. He has confounded the use of large sums of money for TV Ads, where he relies on relatively free airtime on Networks and the WWW. I am no longer so certain that he can be derailed. Perhaps he can be coopted as you outline, that is fascinating in and of itself.
    In polite company I now offer to friends that it would be best to pay attention to Mr. Trump, he may have longer legs than we imagine!

    Keep it coming……thanks


  3. I am happy to see that my prediction that this article would be inundated by crazy people comments did not come true.

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