Monday, February 22, 2016

To Bring Down Trump Remember Acton and Focus on His Power

"…that soul [Kurtz] satiated with primitive emotions, avid of lying fame, of sham distinction, of all the appearances of success and power."

"He could get himself to believe anything—anything. He would have been a splendid leader of an extreme party. ‘What party?’ I asked. ‘Any party’, answered the other."

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

If you follow twitter and other media sites you will notice that the emphasis in the anti-Trump camp is that he is not a conservative, is woefully uninformed about politics, and is too erratic to be trusted with nuclear weapons. They will highlight his absurd, innacurate boasts about having warned against the invasion of Iraq and the oddity of a thrice married casino owner being supported by evangelicals.

To understand why Trump has thrived despite these weaknesses and to gain a better sense of how to actually take him down, it is better to think of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness and to recall Lord Acton's observation that "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." And here it is important to understand that Acton the historian was speaking not of the actor, the person in a position of power, but the observer or how people respond and evaluate people in power.

Trump is invulnerable to normal political attacks because he occupies a position of perceived personal power, like Kurtz as demi-god, that is unlike the normal politician. This is the key to all of the free media that he has been able to garner. It isn't just the exposure, it is the constant reinforcement of the idea that this a man to whom attention must be paid.

If the above is correct then the point of vulnerability isn't the incoherence of his political pronouncements, his personal behavior or even his business tactics such as his use of eminent domain. All of these can be ignored, pace Acton, of the powerful wielding and benefiting from their power. To truly damage Trump you have to take down the perception of Trump as wildly successful businessman. That's the source of his power.

And a good place to start would be to focus on Trump's involvement in the USFL as related by Joe Nocera. The USFL was set up as a professional football league that would operate in the NFL's offseason. It had a very successful first season. Trump came in as an owner of the New Jersey Generals and characteristically, in thinking only of Trump, disrupted the salary discipline by signing stars like Herschel Walker and Brian Sipe. Then he got the League's games moved to the fall--only losers play spring football?--where they would compete directly against the NFL. And that was the end of the USFL.

The beauty and utility of Trump's destruction of the USFL is that it is so easily communicable. This isn't a Hillary cattle futures trade or Whitewater. This is professional football. The ONE business that every american understands. And one thing they will all be able to grasp is that for a new league to face off directly against the NFL is lunacy. Start there and then go on to his bankruptcies and other business failures. Bring down Trump the successful businessman and you will bring down Trump the putative political leader.

Addendum: Note the Trump searches

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