Understanding Trump

One of the most clear-eyed examinations I’ve seen:

Trump has already managed to take Pence the governor of a major state and recast him as a ridiculous figure, the guy who managed to bag the vice presidential pick only to have the guy at the top of the ticket broadcast to the world that he’d rather not have him. This will hang over Pence regardless of how the ticket fares. He’s also now publicly renouncing various past statements about Trump and his policies. Almost every vice presidential candidate has to do some version of this. But Trump’s positions are far more extreme and the criticisms of them are too. So Trump’s Muslim ban goes from being “offensive and unconstitutional” to … well, awesome.

This may all seem like no more than riffing on a handful of entertainingly pitiful figures. But it’s more than that. As we discussed in the early Spring, the entirety of Trump’s political message is dominance politics. To paraphrase McLuhan it is both the messenger and the message. Trump attacks, others comply and submit. Whether or not that is always true it is the story and the promise he has sold his supporters. Trump’s handling of his vice presidential pick casts him in an extremely unflattering light. And yet the heaviest weight undoubtedly falls on Pence. It is simply no accident that those who come into his orbit, who join with him, are rapidly visited with a string of indignities that stand in a bracing contrast to the power and status they earlier enjoyed. On the field of other political actors, other would-be ‘alpha males’, for Trump you are either his enemy or his property. The only exceptions are those – think of Cruz and Rubio – who remain far enough from Trump’s event horizon not to get pulled in.

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