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Machismo, Bravado, Tornado: How Trump Won the GOP

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 2/03/2016 Ben Krimmel
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At first I thought Donald J. Trump would be the GOP weather vane.
Trump would settle into the Republican field with a campaign shifting with the news cycle, always heading for the juiciest of the conservative red meat: immigration, terrorism, taxes, guns, Iran, and maybe even a little birtherism for old time's sake.
After a rambling July announcement at Trump Tower, expectations for his campaign were GOP middleweight, pulling in support while taking shots at Hillary Clinton and President Obama. Trump running a self-indulgent campaign that was more sideshow than serious.
But we underestimated Trump. Fell into the trap that Trump's level of braggadocio, bluster, arrogance or any other word to describe his aggressive, in your face, unapologetic style would be a downfall to a presidential campaign. A trap that Fox News and the Republican establishment failed to see or avoid. Not realizing that Trump has tapped into the mindset of the Republican base.
Many conservative voters wanted a tough guy president, one who spoke off the cuff, wasn't interested in pleasing the elites in Washington, and angry. Put another way, somebody who would be everything that Obama isn't.
Offering a rebranding of America with an explosion of machismo, the gumption to tell it like it is, and a kick ass first figure things out later style of leadership, Trump waltzed into the race as just that person. Angry, simplistic, and promising to make everything great, he's batted back all challengers thus far. Stealing the best real estate from Ted Cruz.
Everything that the establishment GOP candidates of Jeb Bush and Macro Rubio lacked in energy and zeal, Trump has in abundance. Trump is all for creating a big spectacle. His brand is grandeur. The juxtaposition between Trump and Bush made the infamous "!" all the more peculiar. (How can you exclaim such a whimper?)
As the antithesis of the establishment, Trump could fully unleash another selling point to angry, conservative voters: his inner bully.
Bullies like Trump see two kinds of people in the world: other bullies and victims in need of defending. Bullies inhabit a world that places a premium on respect, loyalty, strength, and power. Machismo is the motto in their zero-sum game.
Trump sees America in need of a bully. In need of somebody who will make 'others' bend to his will or be crushed. And Trump promises to crush them, but crush them in such a way, with such bravado that all will be impressed with him and in fact, they will see him as merciful because they know that he has such power and that Trump actually restrained himself in such a way, that really they will see him as being rather peaceful, even when he didn't have to be peaceful. Even the 'others' will love him.
And now, he is the presumptive Republican nominee. Proving that Trump is no political weather vane. He is the weather.
We all underestimated the ability of the man who made "You're fired" the catchphrase of reality televisions early years to hold, control, and refuse to relinquish the news cycle. No journalist goes home without a shocking quote, no cable show (bar certain ones on Fox News) is without an "exclusive" interview. The focus stays on him.
The walking epitome of America's cable news culture, Trump focuses little on policy, ideals, and specifics because his campaign is based only on persona and brand. Realizing that the only thing that could hurt his ratings or poll numbers was to be like the other candidates: boring, wonky, or reasonable. Never stop attacking. Never get pinned down on any issue.
Despite Trump's xenophobia, Islamophobia, and nativism, the candidate acts utterly impervious to criticism, rebuke, or shame. The Trump machine marches on from "Super Tuesday." Marches on from the weak, yet repeated 'disavowing' of former KKK grand wizard David Duke.
For all those in the GOP who hoped Trump would fizzle out, the time to batten down the hatches was last month. Will Trump eventually dissipate into the atmosphere in a scattering of clouds, leaving the establishment thankful as clear skies and normal order returns? Doesn't seem likely.
The winds are shifting for the party of Lincoln.

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