Tuesday night Donald Trump gave a low-key, Telepromptered “victory” speech. Yeah, that’s news. And it got Josh Marshall worried.
The first approach was a sure loser. The second was implausible. But the third might create a GOP coalition that would combine the traditional red states with the industrial Midwest. In the last month, he mostly followed alternative number one. There was the Mexican-American judge, the intermingling of his campaign with the fraud charges against Trump University, the forays into Bill and Hillary Clinton’s sex life. Trump probably did enough the last month to doom his chances. But in his “victory speech” on June 7 in Westchester, which the pundits pronounced as “boring,” Trump took the third path. If he can maintain it, and make people forget Trump #1, he could be formidable. Some highlights:
*He framed the election in classic populist terms: “I’m going to be America’s champion because you see this election isn’t about Republican or Democrat; it’s about who runs this country – the special interests or the people and I mean the American people.”
*Instead of the usual Republican bromides against government spending, he bemoaned crumbling public infrastructure: “I visited the crumbling cities and the struggling schools. I’ve seen our dilapidated airports, highways, bridges and I’ve compared them to other countries where we see facilities so far superior to ours it’s really not to be believed, hard to imagine what’s happened to our country.”
*He cited the loss of manufacturing jobs: “I’ve visited communities in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Indiana and Ohio whose manufacturing jobs, they literally, these jobs have virtually disappeared, an embarrassment to our country and it’s horrible.”
*He used the slogan of “America First” (most Americans are unaware of the slogan’s origins) to highlight his opposition to foreign intervention that wasn’t directly linked to America’s security. Citing Clinton’s intervention in Iraq, Libya and Syria, he described his own foreign policy: “It means on foreign policy we will never enter into any kind conflict unless it makes us safer as a nation. It has to make us safer as a nation.”
*He also used the slogan of “America First” to link his opposition to illegal immigration, but on economic rather than cultural rounds: “America First means protecting the jobs, wages and security of American workers, whether first or tenth generation.” Then he segued to a universal appeal: “No matter who you are, we’re going to protect your job because let me tell you our jobs are being stripped from our country like we’re babies…Every American worker of every background is entitled to the same benefits, protections and rights and privileges; it’s got to be that way.”
In other words, Mr. Trump sounded like your standard-issue presidential candidate from just about every campaign since William McKinley. And that has Josh Marshall worried: if Donald Trump sounds like this for the rest of the campaign, he might actually win this thing.
I respect the hell out of Josh Marshall, but the reason that Donald Trump got to where he is today is because he didn’t sound like every other standard-issue candidate. His shtick is being the outrageous outlier who says out loud what the other candidates only dog-whistle and who gets the base riled up and chanting because he’s not afraid to let his freak fly. If he was in control, he’d be Steve Forbes. Remember him?
I’m not a betting man, but if I were I’d give this subdued and “reasonable” Trump about a week before he does or tweets something that blows it all up. He can’t stay out of the spotlight; it’s the reason he got in the race in the first place, and the only way to keep it on him is to be the Donald Trump we’ve known for last twenty years.